A collection of essays and aphorisms about the undead in recent fiction.
Trump Era Noir
A collection of mini reviews of neo-noir pictures and shows released within the last year.
The Gump Effect: Deep Fakes and the Last Ethics of The Real
In the late 1990s I remember coming across an article in a film magazine, I’ve forgotten which, about the special effects in Forrest Gump. The movie, as you will recall, is noteworthy for the realistic integration of special effect shots. The landmark Oscar-winning effects were perhaps most famous for the scenes which integrated Tom Hanks’s titular character into a kind of Baby Boomer cultural scrapbook, including archival footage of presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. Those scenes were not perfect, however, as the effects directors acknowledged, and lag behind the more clever effects of the film like erasing Lt. Dan’s legs. The tiny imperfections when the mismatching voiceovers don’t quite match the lips of JFK and LBJ draw attention to the effect itself as a gag. Back in 1994 we thought it was a flaw and gave effect a pass because this was, after all, both a gag and something novel.
But the truth, as the article explained, was much stranger. It reported that there was a conscious decision to not make those scenes too realistic. There was something of a ethical choice on the part of the film makers. They wanted to think of the scenes as a special effect, to draw attention to the forgery itself, and not in some way as altering the historical record. Was it Jean-Luc Goddard who said it was a moral dilemma deciding where to put the camera? It’s a remarkable statement and rare to hear about such ethical considerations from a special effects department, because the object of the dilemma is the concern about tinkering with reality itself. The deep irony, of course, is that motion pictures themselves are technologies of illusion, so what was the significance of their hesitation?
Elvis Holograms in the Desert
What strikes me about this is that mass media society has total domination of our cultural memory. We scarcely have any cultural memory from before film or television.
The Clean Carnage of the Killer Elite
In Pentagon language, the grotesqueries are obviated, decisions of violence taking on an official bureaucratic banalities steeped in Orwellian doublespeak. Likewise, the construction of the myth/ideology of the clean and righteous precision kill continues in the Pentagon’s construction of the narrative of war.
Revisiting “Dead Man”: Jim Jarmusch’s Frontier Underworld and the Nightshade of the American Self
I revisited this film a little while ago, Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 Johnny Depp starring black and white western Dead Man. It’s something of a minor cult classic and is loaded with great character actors […]
Future Hotel Civilization: The Starship Eden of “Passengers”
It’s a futuristic Titanic with some features of Robinson Crusoe with a dash of The Shining. It’s a fun movie, but begins to unravel at the slightest scrutiny. But it is one of those rare cases where the film’s criticism, instead of wilting under this kind of picking of nits, begins to make the film more interesting. In other words, the reason the film doesn’t work is the reason that it works. I read Passengers as an exemplary demonstration of the American Self that reveals something about the tradition of the myth of the American hero, its vulnerabilities, and its projection into a future space to indulge the American settler mythology that is an ideological cornerstone of American society.
Krampus on Wall Street
Basically, people are paradoxically engaging in a consumer take ethic in order to be great in a give ethic, which is, of course, the gift giving virtue represented by the largess of Santa Claus. It’s this precise ironic dualism that our sudden contemporary fascination with the lesser known tradition of Krampuslauf finds its proper and welcome home.