One of the world’s greatest living directors has retired from feature filmmaking. Miyazaki Hayao has been circling retirement for several years already (I had been under the impression that Ponyo would be his last film until I heard about The Wind Rises). As both ANN and Guardian Enzo note, he may still participate in other projects in various capacities — I suspect that such a restless muse as Miyazaki’s isn’t quite done yet — but it looks like we won’t get any more films directed by the man himself. The finality of this announcement strikes a chord of bittersweet triumph. It’s sad that we can’t expect any more masterpieces from the single biggest artist in Japanese animation, yet it’s a testament to the size of his achievements that he’s retiring at the top of his game at the age of 72. Most artists fade away; they may retain some cultural stature, but few choose to abdicate the throne while their reign remains virtually unchallenged. Fewer still are in a position to step down after a reign of decades. To see a giant gracefully lay himself to rest, rather than fall, is a privilege, if a poignant one. Arigatou gozaimasu, sensei. Here’s hoping we haven’t quite seen the last. ☕ Continue reading
I was pretty disappointed when I heard that Matt Smith is leaving Doctor Who in this year’s Christmas special. Not upset — he’s given us what I consider to be the definitive New Who Doctor, and if he wants to take a bow while he’s still in peak form, I can’t blame him. Not to mention that it’s always exciting to anticipate what fresh face we’ll get to see next. But I’m still disappointed. Smith is such a joy to watch, and he’s done such a great job bridging the feel of classic and new Who in his performance that I had been hoping to see him grow with the role for a few more years, especially since he started so young. Though he might pop in here and there in the future, his era is coming to an end, and it’s a bit of a shame that we won’t get another year or two out of him.
But this news, if true, could very well make up for it. I’ve tried listening to the audio recordings of some of those missing episodes. It’s just not the same. Half the reason (possibly the biggest reason) to watch the classic episodes, apart from the imagination and wit of their better scripts, is to relish the performances. The core cast members especially are often doing quite a lot with their roles, and nobody more so than the people playing the Doctors. Finally getting to see such ballyhooed stories as “Evil of the Daleks” would be a real treat. I’ll definitely be keeping an ear to the ground on this rumor. Via io9. ☕
Morality tales aren’t really about nuance; they’re about getting across a point clearly and forcefully. I’m willing to forgive Sinister its one-dimensionality because it achieves two modest goals requisite for most great horror films: 1) it’s creepy, and 2) it is about evil. The first goal ought not be much of a stretch for someone as well traveled in horror filmmaking as Derrickson or the producers of Blumhouse, which has recently rolled in the dough with other morally-inflected shockers like Insidious and the Paranormal Activity franchise. Sinister is of a piece with those films, relying primarily on atmosphere, suspenseful build-up, and cheap-but-effective jump scares. Continue reading
Commander Strax at a kids’ Q&A session. Sample quote: “I serve a penance to restore the honor of my clone batch. As a result, The Doctor chose the most fearsome punishment a Sontaran can endure: helping the weak, and sick, and feeble… or humans, as I like to call them.” Via io9. ☕
The critical demystification has indeed to continue, but always in association with practice: regular practice, as part of a normal education, in this transforming labour process itself: practice in the production of alternative ‘images’ of the ‘same event’; practice in processes of basic editing and the making of sequences; practice, following this in direct autonomous composition.
We shall already have entered a new social world when we have brought the means and systems of the most direct communication under our own direct and general control. We shall have transformed them from their normal contemporary functions as commodities or as elements of a power structure. We shall have recovered these central elements of our social production from the many kinds of expropriator. But socialism is not only about the theoretical and practical ‘recovery’ of those means of production, including the means of communicative production, which has been expropriated by capitalism. In the case of communications, especially, it is not only, though it may certainly include, the recovery of a ‘primitive’ directness and community. Even in the direct modes, it should be institution much more than recovery, for it will have to include the transforming elements of access and extension over an unprecedentedly wide social and inter-cultural range. — Raymond Williams, from “Means of Communication as Means of Production”
If I were ever to teach a class on film, this would probably be a required text. Williams goes a long way toward clarifying the social importance to every level of society of understanding media. ☕
Apart from my reading schedule, the most media I’ve consumed in the last few months has mainly been anime. Since anime has comprised most of my entertainment diet, and since the 2013 winter season ended just a few weeks ago, here’s a set of capsule reviews of the stuff I’ve been consuming… Continue reading
The last time I ranted peremptorily about Star Trek Into Darkness, the conversation in the comments reminded me that not everyone agrees what Star Trek was or should be. Yet the opening lines in this early review only reinforces my curmudgeonly stance toward the rebooted franchise. See if you can spot where the problem lies:
How quickly a steady starship can veer off-course. JJ Abrams’ brainy, ballsy 2009 reboot of Trek has given way to a shallow, shrill, all-action sequel that reduces the characters to parodies. The camaraderie between Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) now makes no sense: one is a risk-taking, rule-breaking rascal, the other’s a whiny geek; their dynamic brings to mind a socially inept schoolkid who thinks his bully is his friend. Scotty, Chekov and McCoy are just silly voices in uniforms, and beyond demonstrating her fluent Klingon, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura gets little to do except wonder why her pointy-eared boyfriend is bad at discussing his feelings (d’uh!).
If Nick Dent didn’t specifically mention in the second sentence that this is a review of the 2013 sequel, I would’ve thought this to be a near-perfect encapsulation of the first reboot. The fact that he regards Star Trek 2009 as “brainy” and “ballsy” compared to Into Darkness suggests that film critics have had to hire the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a ladder down to Hell to find a place low enough to set the bar for what counts as brainy and ballsy. Perhaps that’s another reason why the love for ST09 pisses me off so much. It’s not that I’m against enjoying big, dumb summer blockbusters. But when a big, dumb summer blockbuster rolls off the Tinseltown assembly line and it’s directed by Michael Bay, it is what it is, and is recognized (and most often derided) as such. When it’s directed by J.J. Abrams, it’s brainy and ballsy, though no smarter or technically more proficient. Apparently J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek is now a golden standard by which we measure summer blockbusters, so much so that even his own sequel can’t measure up. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the sliding scale to movie hell. I’m not, by the way, using this review to confirm whether or not Star Trek Into Darkness is really as bad as I’d feared; it may, contra whatever this critic says, be a very good film. That’s the not the point. The point is that I don’t think Dent is alone in his perspective on Abrams’s Star Trek. The point is that we’ve lost our cultural moorings where it comes to establishing benchmarks for taste and accomplishment. When the first film — which itself was a shallow, shrill, all-action reboot of a franchise that was initially intended by its creator to be the opposite — now towers above its successor as a model of depth, restraint, and thrills, it’s pretty clear to me that we expect nothing from our entertainment, and we therefore get nothing in return. Except we call it an embarrassment of riches when the next-worst thing comes out a few years later. No wonder Purgatory looks so enticing if you see it from a subjacent angle.
Via Opus. ☕