One of the things I like about Michael Mann is that I don’t understand a lot of his decisions. I don’t mean that I see his choice and its aim and that I disagree. I don’t mean I see his choice and think he has missed his aim. I mean I don’t see the choice he made. For example, I have no idea why the opening shot has a train in it, why there is smoke blowing across the screen, why it is night time, or why the camera is on the railway tracks.
There is something interesting about the way the man adjusts his glasses that feels so real, even though you are unnaturally close to his face.
Note in the background the portentous painting of the girl.
So much of Heat is shot panoramically. Even the little domestic scene where Hanna comes home late and hasn’t called and his wife has been waiting is shot in these great wide vistas. There are yards of space either side of him as he furtively looks up the stairs to see if it is safe to turn on the TV. These yards are used for informative things like the end of the dining table with candle and places for two, and also uninformative things like the great gap between Hanna and the TV and the part of a book shelf.
One could say this decision is about distancing the characters from each other, or showing a home that is mostly empty, or making the street environment spill into Hanna’s home life. Any which way, it makes the Hitchcockian front-on shots all the more arresting. It makes these moments almost the only times when two people actually focus on each other, rather than being drowned in the sea of space between them. Even if that focus or moment of interaction is between a man and the man he is about to kill.
Despite the fact that the men in this shot are moving about all over the place, they are laid out as well as a painting.
It would be trite to call Mann’s landscapes barren or desolate or real, though they are sometimes all these things. I think the overarching feeling is of existence. That there are places like these everywhere, and some of them are the stages for fantastical events like the ones depicted in the film you are watching. They are places where you are alone and, and though nothing is happening at this moment, attention is focused on you.
Mann is famous for shots like this:
The cold, blue light appears in Manhunter relatively frequently. But, in his other films, it’s quite rare. Since Collateral, it has almost completely disappeared, replaced by the sodium yellow of street lights that show up on his new, digital cameras. The yellow is far more interesting, because it is a colour we all inhabit. This realism is echoed in the new way he does the sound effects for guns. In Heat and earlier films, the guns made KABLAOWW type sounds that were designed to sound as powerful as possible. From Miami Vice on, the guns made that muffled, low-down-to-the-ground staccato you hear on news coverage of urban wars.
Mann sometimes brazenly disregards authenticity. In the scene at the end of The Last of the Mohicans, when the English girl throws herself off the cliff top after her dead beloved, the light upon the valley is completely different from the light on the characters’ faces when they are talking. In this scene in Heat, the light on Eady’s face makes the whole scene seem unreal, like the thank you letter in Taxi Driver.
Sometimes, shots in Heat seem messy, because there is so much stuff being shown. Cars parked in the street. Books on a table. But it’s all deliberate. Look at how acetic this shot is:
I love this shot so much:
Another straight-on shot showing a tender moment of human connection: McCauley telling Van Zant he is going to kill him.
Another straight-on shot. This time, the background is distant and Hanna is completely alone in the green cold.
The straight-on shots, though often about impending death, are also about recognition. I find great meaning in fact that Hanna and McCauley are the only characters who really understand each other. These two shots are where it begins:
The robbers watching the cops
When McCauley walks into the bank, that click click click music sets the pace for the final part of the film. Though it doesn’t feel like it. Part of the reason the shoot-out is so wonderful is that is happens in what feels like the middle of the film. But this is where an unstoppable series of events happen over a few days that feel like a line of dominoes going over.
I love the change of Val Kilmer’s face when he sees the police.
And the final straight-on shots.
Strangely, not mirrored from Hanna’s perspective.
The final frame. Aeroplanes landing to mirror the trains arriving in the first scene.
1500 one-bit speakers, each playing a different pitch. Moving around in front of the exhibit produced a great variety of auditory hallucinations.
A documentary about Lella and Massimo Vignelli. Mostly fawning interviews with colleagues and unenlightening interviews with the subjects about their working relationship. These moments stood out:
An examination of how Massimo chooses typefaces. “He thinks about it carefully, then chooses Helvetica.” He listed a few serif typefaces as worthwhile: Times New Roman, Garamond, Bodini. And a few sans serif typefaces: Helvetica, Futura.
The examples of him using a grid system for layout.
The cup and saucer he designed for Heller. Users complained about the original version, saying that the half-moon cut out for the U-shape of the handle let the contents spill out. The version in wide use had that hole plugged by a piece of plastic. See the picture below. Massimo complained that the complainers were unsophisticated: the cup was designed for drinking demi-tasse, and should not be filled to the brim.
I saw [this](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronicle_(film)) on an aeroplane seat TV screen, and I was still completely entranced. It takes a premise and follows it logically, soberly and ruthlessly to a conclusion.
Two and a half hours of interviews with ordinary Parisians. Spoilt by its tendencies towards funny moments, abstract narration and partisan ideas.
I saw this at Film Forum tonight. It was an unending fountain of ideas.
Kill for Love, the record from which this song comes, is the soundtrack to winter 2013, just like Beach House’s Teen Dream was the soundtrack to summer 2010 in Berlin. Both are synthy pop, which is not normally my sort of thing. But both records are deep and versatile. They work when walking through the street at four p.m. or seven a.m. They work when writing code. They can conjure romantic associations.
Reminds me of my second year at university.
I feel like in a year I will look back and be embarrassed I posted this. Or maybe I will be a huge softie by then and love it. Any which way, right now, it is pretty great.
“I want to be your abacus, baby. You can count on me.”
“I less than three you.”
I cried several times. I particularly enjoyed the passage where you switch back and forth between Ellie and Joel.
Abstraction - pure form - became the touchstone of the work of art and the main criterion by which works of art were judged in the twentieth century.
The film completely falls apart in the second half. But there are some wonderful bits. The gravity-powered ceiling fan that has to be periodically cranked. The man-made ice that melts away in the jungle. The regularisation of nature by sheer will.
No still from the film is appropriate. I could have put up a clip of Ford pacing around as he talks about his building plans, the camera barely able to keep up with him. I could have put in the clip where Ford realises the people are taking the ice for granted. But the poster is the best still. The way Ford looks puzzled, and wistful, and like he is looking at a glorious future he can just make out in the distance.
The air with which Lea Massari moves through the hours before her disappearance in L'Avventura is like the way the girls walk up the stone formation before disappearing in Picnic at Hanging Rock . Even before they go, they’re already gone.
Another very truthy film from Lynn Shelton. Though the plot is fantastical, the sober writing and acting keep it feeling real.
On Sunday, I went to the Frick, which knocked me sideways. It was like being in the Wallace, except even more intimate. Seeing those paintings in a (relatively) every day environment made them much more moving.
There was Adoration of the Magi by Bastini. Everyone looking at Jesus but bad-tempered Joseph, and Jesus looking at Mary. That wonderful circle of red from smock to armour to blouse to hat.
One of my faves was Lippi’s Annunciation. I like the fact that he decided to make both Mary and Gabriel deferential to each other. I like the great pillar between them. And I found it so interesting that, like so many medieval and early Renaissance paintings, the events take place in a weird, barren, classical room with a wall missing that reveals nothingness.
My favourite Gainsborough was of Frances Duncombe. Her expression seems the exact image of a newly married woman.
There was a terrible one of St James’s Park. The landscape was bad (as always), but the little people were indefinite and bad, too.
There are a number of Vermeers. This one left me rather cold, but for the iridescent window that the reproduction below completely fails to convey.
I much preferred this Vermeer, Mistress and Maid. I liked how the expressions of the mistress and maid matched so well that they looked like they were actually at a particular moment in their conversation, perhaps a discussion of some accounts. I liked the fineness of the painting of the mistress’s curls and the folds of her cloak.
I discovered Ingres, who I had never heard of before. I was surprised to discover he lived in the nineteenth century. Comtesse d'Haussonville. Good chair with yellow drape. Good folds of dress. I liked how the Comtesse is being watched in the mirror. It’s a shame Ingres didn’t get the reflection quite right.
There was a good Veronese, the Choice of Hercules. A wonderfully classical face on the woman in green.
What was funny was that all these fantastic paintings lived in the same house as miles and miles of horrendous, drossy, sentimental frescoes. There were whole rooms of floor to ceiling wall paintings of young girls and boys with rosy cheeks leaping in gardens and handing each other roses.
Finally, there was Whistler, who has always left me rather cold. But, Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink was oddly moving.
They had Canaletto’s painting of Piazza San Marco, which my mum would have liked, but which leaves me rather cold. All those precise people.
They had some Caravaggio.
A wonderful picture of a lute player whose sardonic, superior expression recalls ‘60s era Bob Dylan.
And The Denial of St Peter, with the woman being discreetly persuasive.
They had a whole room of Rembrandt. My favourite was Herman Doomer. The way his eyes crinkled at the corners. The way they shone with fluid and looked so human. The wispiness of his beard.
I found Danae by Gentileschi, who I had not heard of. A facsimile of an outstretched hand. A relentlessly well painted tucked in sheet.
We have no AC in our apartment.
I posted this a few years ago. I still love it: that song, that rendition of that song, that explanation, that heat, that closeness of the crowd.
Reviewed code, arrived at the Eli Keszler gig after it had finished, went to The Bell House in Park Slope.
“I’m looking for the place the spirit meets the skin.”
Des Ark are one of my favourite bands. Their studio records are pretty good. But, the three live recordings made on the radio station WXDU are incredible: Aimée Argote singing and playing acoustic guitar, ruthlessly honest. You can get the first two from Bandcamp. The third is about to be rereleased on Lovitt.
“Making a game and a baby.”
My dad took me to see La Dolce Vita. It was glorious:
the scene in the chapel where Marcello and Maddalena talk via the fountain
(an echo of the romantic pursuit of the unattainable movie star),
the starlet romping around the press conference,
the woman lying on the bed,
the conversation with the innocent girl who rattles Marcello,
the argument in the floodlit car that twins with the suicide as a hopeless, brutal light of reality.
A documentary by Michael Glawogger . It features people who live in Mumbai, New York, Moscow or Mexico City. It has some very beautiful pictures in it. It has some very moving scenes: the hustler trailing off as he goes on the nod, the dye sifter becoming covered in red, then blue, then yellow. A number of scenes are ultra-documentary-but-fake reenactments of things that allegedly happened before the camera was switched on. This fabrication undermines one’s empathy with the subjects and appreciation of the beauty.
This is one of my favourites in Penrose’s Four Themes book. I can’t even say why.
He realises that it is not his role to copy nature but rather to be acutely aware of it and to interpret the many ways in which he is affected by the world he lives in and the human beings he sees around him. They will affect him by their external appearance and by their influence over him. The first can be described by skilful representation in line, colour and form, but the second can only be communicated in a symbolic way, and it is the degree in which the artist can successfully transfer these intangible influences into a symbolic image which convinces us of his power. “I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them.”
[Fish Tank (film) - Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fish_Tank_(film))
Some very interesting moments.
A documentary by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. Notionally, it shows a series of things that happen at night: monitoring of borders, conventions of EU sub-committees, care for the elderly and prematurely born, parties, news broadcasting, pornographic broadcasting, food production, policing, counselling for the suicidal. Reviewers have noted different themes. Surveillance. Protection. The service industry. But these notes tell you more about the commentator than the theme of the film.
My own conclusions on the theme changed as I watched: being on or off stage, activities that happen at night, people who are working surrounded by people who are not, the services people provide to others.
By the end, I had arrived at: jobs that must be done at night. But distilling it down to that is a trivialisation. It is more worthwhile to think, “There are jobs that can’t wait until morning”, and take that as a jumping off point. Some general questions arise. What do these jobs entail? Why can’t they wait? Who does them? How? Then, more specific questions arise. Why does the night nurse clean the hand rails in the care home as well as attending to the patients? How does one talk to a stranger who is suicidal? Why are parcels sorted separately from letters?
In the film, there are many moments of distance and alienation. But, there are moments of human connection, too - a nurse tenderly feeding an old woman from a beaker, two people taking turns to shower after having sex, the film’s poster showing a network of street lights strung through the darkness of Europe.
Unsleeping people connected in the night.
Here, according to Last.fm , are the bands I have listened to the most over the last seven years. I have put asterisks next to the bands that feel like a part of my identity. When I think about these bands, I get a warm glow. When I talk about them, I say “I fucking love”.
Des Ark *
[The Paper Chase](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paper_Chase_(band)) *
[The Blood Brothers](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blood_Brothers_(band))
These identity bands have some common traits.
One. I love at least two of their records. Dear and the Headlights: both of their albums. Sunset Rubdown: all of their albums. Women: both of their albums. Des Ark: all of their live acoustic records. The Paper Chase: Now You Are One of Us and God Bless Your Black Heart . A Silver Mt. Zion is the exception, here. Horses in the Sky is one of my top ten records, ever. The rest of their albums probably aren’t even in my top fifty.
Two. I admire the aesthetic they achieve. Dear and the Headlights. The most beautiful melodies by anyone, ever. Bob Dylan. The deeper you go into his lyrics, the more you find. Women. The Beach Boys as a noise rock band. The Paper Chase. Find the most beautiful melody, then destroy it with how hard you feel it. Des Ark. Equate the art with the artist. Aimée Argote puts no distance between her manifestation in real life and her manifestation in her art. She makes music that, when heard, might be detrimental to her actual life.
Three. I find pieces of their music very meaningful. It is hard for me to cite examples, because music is so far from words. Not only is it impossible for me to explain why I love Bob Dylan’s line, “Let me dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free”, but it’s precisely because of its wordless meaning that I like it, and it was Dylan who taught me that alogical emotion is worthy of trust.
Four. I admire (my conception of) the song-writer as a person. Sunset Rubdown’s Spencer Krug has a solo project, Moonface . The Pitchfork review of the Moonface record, Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped, said Sunset Rubdown’s [Dragonslayer](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragonslayer_(Sunset_Rubdown_album)) is “A personal record about the toll that the worlds inside someone’s head takes on his relationships.” Des Ark. Aimée Argote sings about being a broken, high-functioning person. She sings about immovable, incidental, unpolitical queerness. Bob Dylan. He constantly moves on from his previous successes. As seen in the documentaries, Dont Look Back , and No Direction Home : he lives this life on the road half in love with Joan Baez, half in love with his own head.
I can’t identify with The Mars Volta’s music. Cedric Bixler-Zavala’s lyrics mean nothing. He chooses words that are one, impressionist remove from their actual meaning, rather than assembling a rich, internally consistent network from a few versatile base operators. Omar Rodríguez-López’s approach to arrangement is to chuck everything in. By saying everything, you say nothing.
I really like the Tony Scott film, [Enemy of the State](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enemy_of_the_State_(film)) . It is a thriller that is brilliantly thrilling. In the same way, The Mars Volta’s music cuts in on a primal level and makes me want to sing and dance, which is kind of what music is supposed to be all about.
I have a weakness for prog.
I don’t really get Deantoni Parks’s drumming on the newest Mars Volta record. In this video, I think I get it.
[Margaret (2011 film) - Wikipedia](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_(2011_film))
I tried to find a still to illustrate this post. A still to illustrate the film. This is impossible. It can’t be the shot of Lisa shouting at her mum. It can’t be the shot of the bus driver bluffing his way through his interview with Lisa. It can’t be the shot of Darren crying. It can’t be the shot of the class debate blowing up. Margaret is just people talking. The shots are designed to show these conversations. As stills, they convey no information. There is little artistic observation in the locations, the colours, the montage, the framing. All there is are the words and the characters’ tones and expressions as they say them.
The most appropriate frame would come from the opening credits. These show New York crowds crossing streets in slow motion. They show the people lit up who are on stage and the people in darkness who are not. They make the ordinary lives of ordinary people as fascinating as those of fictional characters.
Margaret is a mess. It has too many side plots. It overdoes its crescendos. It has a strange mix of oblique emotional observation that is almost as good as Anna Karenina and characters that foghorn the director’s thoughts for him. Some characters feel like real people, others made up.
But it’s a very good film.
More and more people are writing more and more things about the intersection of videogames with everything else.
“Because I’m having a hard time deciding something about Dyad. I want to say "it might be good, but I don’t like it” or “I might like it, in spite of the fact it isn’t good,” and I can’t decide which of these is true.“
"That’s part of the reason I’m picking your brain about why you like it. Because it’s so absurd it makes you laugh? That’s what you said about music. You also said that about sex.”
Blow says that a designer can create a system that exhibits behaviours more complex than the rules that govern it. He says that, in all systems, there are places that reflect our corporeal universe. These places are truths in our real lives. He says that a designer can design by creating and exploring systems and then isolating and presenting the truths he finds.
A while ago, I saw another talk by Blow that is a development of these themes. It is also very good, but less focused and a less pure expression of the central idea.
Enthralling talk by Jonathan Blow about how he prototypes game ideas. To him, a prototype is a one or two week project that answers one question: should I make this into a full game? As illustration, he shows an array of interesting prototypes he has made.