Darren Barefoot
Darren Barefoot


Thinking Chaos, Thinking Fences

All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, March 09, 2003

This guy stuck a digital camera on top of a remote control car (a Mini, no less) and used it to chase pigeons. The results are hilarious, if slightly cruel (though, I think, no pigeons were harmed in the creation of this motion picture).

As far as I can tell, there's no relation to the Tragically Hip song of the same name.

6:45:05 PM    comment []

I've been thinking recently about the increase in hour-long shows that, by virtue of a large cast and Byzantine plot, create surprisingly high barriers to entry for new viewers. The TV show that popularized this trend (perhaps unintentionally) was The X-Files. Being a casual viewer, I eventually gave up on this show when I couldn't keep track of who'd betrayed whom for whom and whether or not Mulder and Scully had actually snogged.

More recently, however, these shows have been coming out of the woodwork. I read recently that because of the emergence of reality TV shows and the re-emergence of hour-long dramas, new sitcoms are down 50%. These shows--I'm talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Alias, 24, and so on--are willing to forego one-off episodes and regular back-story reminders. Instead, they pile in the plot twists. In fact, they're more plot moebius strips than twists. But why? Doesn't this just antagonize viewers who try to start watching a show mid-season? I tried watching 24, but after I missed a couple of episodes I gave up. Doesn't this nullify word-of-mouth?

I've got a theory. It's the result of too much choice. Because we're now faced with a four hundred (or whatever) channel universe, we can't channel-surf effectively. The spider-sense that there may be something better on another channel increases in direct proportion to the number of channels. So, we cave in. We relinquish our channel-surfing thumb and look in the TV guide. We choose programs (with the help of millions of marketing dollars) and stick to them. We are rewarded by new depth to characters and plots. We enjoy getting the clever references to previous episodes. If there are enough of us, we ensure the program gets a lasting run.


6:36:55 PM    comment []

Yesterday I suffered through the appalling, juvenile Adaptation. I really wanted to like this film--I think the Jonze's (the director) and Kaufman's (the screenwriter) Being John Malkovich is a fantastic movie; a insightful examination of celebrity. However, they suffer the sophomore jinx with their follow-up. Without spoiling anything, Adaptation is about a screenwriter's struggle to adapt a novel into a viable screenplay. Its lead character is Charlie Kaufman, who also happens to be the actual guy who wrote the script. To quote Roger Ebert, who apparently liked the film:

There are real people in this film who are really real, like Malkovich, Jonze, John Cusack and Catherine Keener, playing themselves. People who are real but are played by actors, like Susan Orlean, Robert McKee, John Laroche and Charlie Kaufman. People who are apparently not real, like Donald Kaufman, despite the fact that he shares the screenplay credit.

While I was vaguely aware of the premise, I was far more aware of the praise the film had received from film criticism community. I can only assume critics like the film because it's about the film industry and flatters their intellects with pseudo-original ideas and in-jokes.

The film is the sprawling, idiotic work of a failing undergraduate film student. It is utterly predictable, unoriginal tripe. It's a pity that Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper turn in such fine performances, and that Spike Jonze has seen fit to direct this project. Their efforts are wasted.

Just how insulting is this film? During one scene the protagonist attends a screen workshop where-in a loud-mouthed lecturer admonishes the students "not to use a deus ex machina." Predictably, the film ends with a classic deus ex machina. There's plenty of other equally simplistic private jokes for audiences who fancy themselves erudite. Robert Wilonsky (no relation to the aforementioned screenwriter) of the Dallas Observer puts it best:

Adaptation is the most overrated movie of the year (of all time?) by people who should know better. Film critics have been suckered in by its gimmick (Being John Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman can't adapt a book for the big screen and winds up writing himself into his screenplay, genius!), or they're too afraid to look stupid for hating a Spike Jonze-directed movie that aspires to brilliance and ends up obvious and not a little oblivious. (Never has a movie so willfully quirky also been so hackneyed and dull...pardon, so absolutely goddamned brilliant. My mistake.)

6:12:07 PM    comment []

© Copyright 2003 Darren Barefoot.



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