Archive for July, 2013

The superhero fetish and why Hollywood cinema sucks ass

Friday, July 26th, 2013

In many respects, the 1980s can be referred to as the “olden days.” Odd, for sure, but also, oddly true. For instance, in the olden days, I remember me and my friends rushing to any of the megacinema big house movie theaters around Los Angeles or Orange County in order to see the latest big budget, special effects-laden release. These movie events were truly events in every sense of the word. We stood in line for hours in anticipation of a movie which would be awesomely stupid and bland but which always delivered on the promise of projected over-stimulation. This also provided us an opportunity to congregate with similar fanboys and spot occasional noteworthy morsels of curiosity. For instance, while waiting in a very long line in Westwood to see that glorious piece of crap, Ghostbusters, we oohed and aahed over the entrance of a balding Phil Collins onto the scene with his entourage in tow. It was all community-minded crap and the movie was never as great as the clamor. But it was always a memorable experience of the sort that seems to have lost its footing over the last 20 years.

The same kind of concentrated excitement and lavish lines don’t seem to attend newly released potential blockbusters any more. There are so many theaters and most people relish the thought of not standing in a line to see a movie which will probably not be very good anyway. The sense of naive community is no longer there. Movie openings are not the geeky spectacle they once were. To be sure, many movies still open to much fanfare, but the intensely frantic curiosity doesn’t figure into the mix now. It’s as if modern culture is a just a little too blase to show such sincere wonderment. We are too cool for this!

Television has been better suited to absorb the paradigm shift triggered by the new digital age. Having previously sprouted many channels of broadcast programming, the digital age has enabled almost every channel to produce its own product and the only parties squeezed have been the major television networks. This has been no big loss. Cable or satellite television are only a phone call away, or a specific series or episode is only a download away. Due to the living room-sized limitations of the television screen, the visual spectacle has never been at the forefront of the appeal of the broadcast product. High def and 4K televisions render the viewing experience clearer, but nevertheless, television offerings are not hampered by screen size because they compensate in other artistic manners. Lately, I have seen some fabulous television series that consistently dwarf the infantile garbage Hollywood scoops into its lengthy and time-consuming features.

The Guardian published an interesting examination of the faltering Hollywood movie industry today. The article refers to the lackluster performance of several overhyped and overfunded Hollywood releases.

Industry insiders are referring to this season as “the summer of doom” – an overcrowded huddle of big-budget spectaculars, without the audience to sustain them. US box office takings are down 19% on the same period last year, while the studios are smarting from such high-profile casualties as The Lone Ranger, After Earth and the supernatural action-thriller RIPD. While the runaway success of Iron Man 3 and Despicable Me 2 helped soften the blow, major figures claim that the industry needs to adapt quickly or die.

Speaking on a panel at the University of Southern California last month, the film-makers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg suggested that the era of the $300m movie dinosaur may well have run its course. “There’s eventually going to be a big meltdown,” Spielberg said. “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground – and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Under Hollywood’s current business model, nothing succeeds like excess. Prevailing wisdom stipulates that action movies or established franchises – such as Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean or superhero movies – come with a pre-sold fanbase and vast potential for spinoff merchandise.

The Hollywood cinema industry is a gussied up whore that seeks to make the most money possible while exerting the least effort. This is very obvious when witnessing the flood of garbage that perpetually splats across our big screens. There is no story. There is not thought, no intelligence, just a visually florid conglomeration of technological marvels. It’s garbage. Hollywood movies are a victim of their own success. Movies, and their display at the local theater, overshadows any imagery we can ever sieve out of the televisions in our living room. Hollywood evolved to rely purely on spectacle, which was occasionally interspersed with the thoughtful movies that those of us who appreciate “story” flocked to. But as Hollywood movies have declined in story, so has television increased in the same. Television has become the refuge of the thoughtful and intelligent, while cinema has become the lair of the child and the fanboy.

Steven Gaydos, the executive editor at Variety magazine, had much to say here. His words ring dreadfully true for Hollywood, the creative outlet, but wonderfully true for Hollywood, the merchandising commercialist mass of trash.

Gaydos cautioned that the situation was complicated by the opaque nature of studio accounting, in which the US box office tally is just the tip of the iceberg. “Take a film like Pixar’s Cars. It made so much money from bedsheets, towels and coffee mugs that the movie is essentially a commercial for the toys.” Action blockbusters such as Pacific Rim, which have merchandise potential and a decent overseas audience, may not turn out to be the box-office disaster that they first appear.

“Look at Comic-Con and then tell me if you think Hollywood is going to cut back on its comic-book dependency,” said Gaydos. “Look at how that event was covered by the critical establishment and you’ll see how everything still validates the conglomerates’ bottom line. By and large, people are not looking for intelligent, edgy, mid-range movies. They’re looking for superheroes and special effects. They’re looking for amusement rides. They’re like the kids in Pinocchio who still want to go to Pleasure Island. They’re voting to be donkeys.”

I’d like to think that Gaydon’s last quote about Comic-Con was uttered with a contemptuous sneer because that is how I read it.

Hollywood cinema is shit. Pure shit.

I find more enjoyment in television’s offerings. “Rectify” is one of the grandest shows to hit the small screen in a long time. It’s a spiritual marginal form of entertainment that never would have been allowed to hit the movie screens, and which was surprisingly picked up for a second season by the Sundance Channel. The television field was expanding well before the digital age, and this expansion couldn’t have happened at a more auspicious moment. The variety and caliber of broadcast offerings available us in our home is vast while the variety offered at the local movie house is nil. It is all explosions and comic books and hollow garbage. Hollywood cinema has nothing to say, so it markets its product at those who have nothing to think. What we are witnessing is one big feast of marketing superhero gimmicks. This is the garbage Hollywood fanboys love and insist on making and financing. The Hollywood Jew execs eat that superhero crap up. They love the idea of the meek, 90-pound weakling transforming into a thudding mass of sinew and Nordic might. It’s a fetish and it makes lots of money from the equally meek-minded audiences, so we’re stuck with it.

Television has down-amplified its product to be viable and fantastic on our computer screen. Hollywood cinema continues to inflate juvenile expectations.

Ultimately, Hollywood cinema is the victim of technological and social evolution. Collectively, we have a tendency to “trite-ize” the past. Each generation laughs at the previous for no good reason and seeks to usurp its hold. Books gave way to e-readers without a fight. Music gave way to digital renditions, with a fight, but a meaningless one. Television traded in the TV Guide for the digital rewards of high-speed internet to deliver its product to anyone who chose across all span of existing channels. But movies…well, they just keep choosing to direct their product at the lowest common denominator. Movies have nowhere to go. No one cares about the big blockbuster one-mile-long lines now. In fact, that all seems rather quaint, looking back. Movies can’t move into our living room because the effect is not great since their product is dependent on size.

Music by which to run 90-year-old Koreans over

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Awful little dash cam action here in L.A.’s Koreatown from the early morning of April 27.

According to KTLA, a 90-year-old man, Joo Yoon, was out for a very early morning bike ride (we should all be so blessed) and was crossing at the intersection of 6th and Virgil at 5:10am when he was struck by a Nissan GT-R, of all cars. Witnesses describe the driver “as an Asian man, 25-years-old with black hair and brown eyes.
He was about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed about 190 pounds.”

Almost 3 months later, LAPD is now publicizing this incident and asking for the public’s help. Sounds like their investigation has been hitting some dead ends. Even though the perp is driving a very rare car, even for Los Angeles.

The Asian part of the description does not distinguish the suspect in Koreatown. But the car, the car! It was described “as dark grey or gun-metal, with a 3 inch white racing strip from front fender to tail light section, on both sides.”

Frankly, I don’t know what is more galling about this video. The completely reckless disregard for life displayed by the driver of the Nissan, or the horrific 1980’s vintage heavy metal music that the driver of the car with the dash cam was listening to at such an ungodly hour.

**Edit**
That terrible song is “Calling On You” by the religious freak metalheads, Stryper.

The lyrics,

Inside of me there is a lonely place
Sometimes I just don’t know it’s there
But when I’m all alone
That’s when I have to face…

[Bridge]
The part of me that needs someone
To be by my side that’s when I call on…

[Chorus]
You, You make my life complete
You give me all I need
You help me through and through
I’m calling on you

I can’t explain just what You do to me
My love grows stronger everyday
You give me love, You give me company
And when I have to face the rain
You bring sunshine into my life

The video.

Ah, the humor does not ever get darker, does it?

I think I just might be…a Mexican Cracka

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

The most amusing thing about this Zimmerman/Martin fiasco is the mainstream attention that has been spent on the “White Hispanic” formula.

I actually read a mainstream article the other day that touched on the much-ignored distinction between race and ethnicity, and which attempted to lightly touch upon the subject of race as it exists in Mexico. I’ve even tried explaining to people (including Mexicans) that there is no Mexican race. This draws some harsh looks because a lot of Mexican people view themselves as a lofty sort of “race” of the Sun, a race of Solar Gods. They aren’t sure how to process such information, but many don’t seem particularly fond of the concept. Mexico is like the United States, I preach. There is no “American” race but what invariably happens (human nature, in fact), is that nationalism truncates racial identity and the most common racial representatives of a nation thus define its faux “race.” Americans are White. Mexicans are Mestizo.

I hoped the Zimmerman episode would illuminate such tired facts. This, despite the fact he harks from South America, which is decidedly not Mexico, thus lending credence to the common “American” refrain that they all look alike.

Mexicans, and Hispanics in general, come in a vast international cornucopia of gray scale spanning all colors and racial fragments. It’s odd for some people to see a “George Zimmerman” who looks more like Chuy from East LA than a Midwestern shoe salesman.

What the hell is a “White Hispanic” anyways? Is this something we define with phenotype or socio-cultural behavior? From personal experience, and by virtue of standardized genetic screening, it is safe to say there are very few purely European specimens in Mexico, and just as few purely Amerindian ones either. Mexico is one big intermingling pool of European/Amerindian genes. At what ratio does someone become “White?”

As for myself, I feel I have a similar outward palate to that of George Zimmerman. I have black hair, brown eyes, large facial features, but I’m Mestizo through and through. I’ve never subjected myself to DNA testing, so I can’t begin to throw out percentages, but it’s obvious.

Yet…in many ways, I am a total Mexican Cracka! I am. It’s my behavior, my thinking, my outlook. When I used to hang in predominantly Mexican circles, I was always called a “coconut” and one group even thought I was White because of my non-Spanglish, pure California, accent. When you hang with Mexicans and you act White, you are an automatic nerd who gets tossed to the end of the line. Even the hot chicas can spot you and they shrug dismissively.

I always identified, socially, with Anglo American culture because I shared more in common with them. Because of this, I’ve always felt I was the penultimate ultimate pocho. My spoken Spanish sucks. I understand it, but couldn’t even begin to utter a complete Spanish sentence. I wouldn’t know where to start.

I’m concerned with punctuality and I’m a tad OCD about lots of really innocuous and stupid everyday crap and I’m overly concerned with how my behavior affects others. I like alternative music and hate action movies. In fact, I love art-house movies. It’s true.

I am a Mexican Cracka.

One giant leap forward but a big one back; mankind is lost in a technological reverie

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind

Who says?

Great line, empty execution.

There has been no meaningful leap for mankind, not in the way Neil Armstrong meant it when he took his baby steps on the moon 44 years ago today.

Still, that’s a great scripted line. I have heard some cite it as evidence the moon landing was faked, but I don’t understand how one can conclude such a thing. Armstrong, knowing he would be the first person in the history of mankind to walk on a celestial body that was not Earth, probably spent many days formulating those famous words, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a communal effort.

The words meant nothing, in retrospect. They were empty and sullied. Hollow sentiments, which is all that mankind seems capable.

Great leap? Where?

Implicit in this grandiose statement is that mankind is embarking on the next stage of evolution, one of technological and moral progress, one in which he takes another step closer to “godliness.” It’s a joke. There has been no leap.

The only leap has been in technology and doodads. This is all man is capable of because his intellect will always surpass (and supersede) his collective maturity. When Neil Armstrong uttered these words, he was apparently alluding to mankind’s exceeding ability to manipulate nature in awesome manners that astound even previous generations. This is what mankind has excelled at. Nothing more. Despite what Stephen Spielberg or Tom Hanks choose to glorify on their big scientifetishist screen.

Mankind is still rotten to the core in spite of physics applied to spectacle.

Dazzled by inflated accomplishments that speak volumes of our one-dimensional sense of excellence, we become lost in inhuman leaps. There was no leap forward in man’s character. Perhaps Armstrong’s unspoken assertion was a “leap backwards” in the sense of human nature. In which case, he was a great lunar sage.

The more effort mankind exerts on perfecting and projecting technology forward, the more depraved his base nature becomes.

We leapt to the moon and got…this?

I feel so cheated.

Welcome to the new American cult(ure),

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Welcome to the new American cult(ure).

The new American cult(ure) is built on a bedrock of subconscious repression.

It is passively dictatorial and enshrouded in sensibilities that are as delicate as a baby’s pink ass. American cult(ure) nurtures the loins of a barren intellectual and emotional landscape upon which we can overlay our scene in the most bland and innocuous representation possible. American cult(ure) weaves out life amid platitudes of weakness and moral cowardice.

The new American cult(ure) speaks for you and assumes your role. It overpowers and dilutes your opinions and values. What you believe is a mere afterthought to the cult(ure)’s priorities. If you deviate in thought, in motive or in perspective, you will be ostracized and face sour scowls, or worse, criminalized, cast to the discarded depths of undersociety where the refuse can enjoy its own lonely anti-cult(ure).

The new American cult(ure) is powered by technology and social media. The shrinking planet coalesces opinions into a large morass of gross acceptability. As a mass of humanity, we are also tossed into this featureless ideological elixir and become an equally featureless part of it. Our souls and individuality are diluted by the massive pool of common average ideology; further, it assumes our nature as its own. If we refuse to abide by this medium’s recipe, we will be expunged from this foul potion of humanity.

What is the new American cult(ure) if not a global pond of Groupthink that rewards individuality with disapproval and conformity and inconspicuousness with social prosperity?

In the new American cult(ure), we hesitantly whisper that of which we are unsure while bellowing that which meets the script guidelines laid out by the gatekeepers of proper behavior and thought.