Ok, so, here we are nearing the end of the first month of 2015, a wild month politically, and certainly, personally.
One thing that I promised myself, and I've made that socially clear as well is that I am going to commit to consistent communication. And Youtube is one of those streams I want to cultivate.
The only challenge now, is that while we at ANIMALS have been developing super material for the web, we have not figured out how to engage on a more simplistic, communicative level on channels like YOUTUBE.
So, here and now, I keep to my word, while at the same time searching for ways to build the puzzle. Bear with me for awhile, since its not going to be pretty, but, soon enough we'll get into a flow .
For now, if you haven't, please subscribe. Do it. SUBSCRIBE NOW, not later. See, I'm not putting it off, and neither should you.
Enjoy this train wreck of a first attempt while it lasts.
I've been on a Japanese kick of late. I happen to return to this culture, frequently, for a vast bouquet of inspiration. Simply, the well is never dry.
The last five films I've watched this week were Japanese. One observation I've made is that the Western Cinematic tradition has lifted heavily from this world, and Akira Kurosawa ( i feel silly leaving a link here, but I'm going to assume that a good percentage of people are not that familiar with him, and do not give the same unwavering adulation to say, Stanley Kubrick) being on the receiving end of this homage ripping, while also being the most universally influential. But aside from the good type of artistic stealing which is mostly an "influential" lifting, there has been a much more malignant form of culture appropriation, which comprises of the more serious form of perjury. And yes, this bad form of stealing is rampant in cinema.
In the prior decades, distribution was the real barrier to familiarity with international cinema. The world, before NETFLIX and the web was a localized arena. So localized in fact, that believe it or not, you'd have to go to a movie theater to see a movie (perhaps a film festival, or art-house theater, school, etc). And, if you didn't catch it, then you'd have to hope for some form of taped distribution. It wasn't till the late 70's whereby people were actually renting and buying movies. At this juncture in the space time continuum, the selection was incredible limited.
With the explosion of VHS and the video store, more titles could be discovered. But, media was not ubiquitous, and our reference points were limited to stuff we heard about, or actually saw; which again, had serious limitations in breath, scope, and in memory. Image those days, in which Wikipedia, Google and Youtube were not at your beckon call, and did not serve as your assistant brain (soon to be, First Brain). Yes, scary indeed.
Say you saw something really interesting in an obscure Japanese movie from the early 70's, and were a filmmaker in the 80's and even early 90's, and you happened to steal heavily from it. In fact, even go so far as to purge it's images, its style, its flow. People would hardly know. Only a relative few. And surprisingly, unlike music and other types of arts, this type of heavy lifting would not even be frowned upon critically, and certainly not by the general movie going audience. For the most part.
The idea of originality in Western Cinema has long been a secondary by-product; a term Hollywood tried to bury (and successfully) in the 50's (purely conjecture here). It's worked. This is one of the only arts where familiarity gets a pass almost every-time. And as the post-modern infiltrated movie making in the early nineties, it was even considered cool.
But on a personal level, I always felt a more kindred liking to original works (herein I'm referring to a more direct style of moviemaking) then post modern assemblies of those styles. But that was then, and now is now.
But, "now" now, is not like the 90's now. People dream up movement phrases like, "The New Sincerity", and while this might last for "now", it can never congeal into anything resembling the classical arts movements of a prior century. Because we have moved past time oriented "movements". We are in a post-movement world; better yet, post-mechanical-watch. Human time doesn't neatly pack itself into bubbles anymore, because it's umbilical cord to our evolutionary clock has been cut.
And "now" is like the scene from the Mel Brooks film SPACEBALLS: Now "Now", Not "Then" Now. This sentence above, however is not my own, i'll gladly admit. In fact, I lifted it from a wonderful conversation between media theorist David Ryan Polgar and Douglas Rushoff. If only cinema were so nice to attribute.
I'll leave you with this apropos image from Kinji Fukasaku's BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY
I got into a discussion with my father yesterday about Downtown Los Angeles. I happened to be watching some television with him while on one of my little retreats to Orange County. I go there often to get away from among other things, the parking hassle in LA. The stress of Trader Joe's I hear is soul crushing. I'm immune because I don't step into grocery stores. But, getting coffee at a Coffee Bean is a fucking ordeal.
Anyways, we were watching a movie staring the most underrated actor in American Cinema, Keanu Reeves (who just happened to turn 50 in an ode to Dorian Grey, and is by all accounts the nicest son of a bitch in Hollywood) and a tracking helicopter shot a moving car racing through a completely empty Time Square. The next cut showed our hero (Keanu) with a few passengers including the beautifully eyebrowed Jennifer Connelly (is my memory eluding me) and my mothers favorite leading man, Jon Hamm racing through fake New York, which was in fact real Downtown Los Angeles. Movies and commercials often do this. Shoot exteriors of NY, film in dtla. They look somewhat similar in what is called the Historic Core, but, with any scrutiny, the deceit becomes obvious. Alright, here is the title of the film; THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL. And a confession, this was my third time seeing it.
So, the discussion wasn't about the validity of using the two spaces. When I made the observation of the two spaces being used in the cut, to my father, he replied that it wasn't possible because palm trees litter LA. I argued that palm trees don't exist in downtown. And we went back and fourth. My argument was superior because, "I live and work in downtown". And that was the end, he conceded.
Now, cut to today; here I am looking at some shots I developed from my trustee Nikon One Touch, and lo and behold, a shot of the art's district in downtown LA. What we can see in the back is a lovely group of palm trees. I've passed by this area many times, and in a moment of argument, palm tree's where wiped from my memory. As if all the palms in downtown where wiped off the landscape, in favor of a more urban LA, best used to create car commercials or Hollywood films that were meant to be NY.
Memory is an illusion. Enjoy the rest of your day. Never argue from a source of fantasy.
Hello friends -
This is a transmission from Prince Amir of Animals. We are gearing for the release of two new works this month.
The other project is for the first single of the new MIRS EP, "Meat on Your Lonely Bones".
Best to you, my friends.
Available in just a few weeks, for your snacking pleasure. Produced by ANIMALS.
I'm pretty sure everybody that has had, at the very least, a sliver of interest in the movies and the language of cinema has a story to share about Roger Ebert.
Whether it was about influence, or insight, or passion, or disagreement, Roger Ebert was big time.
He loved movies so much, that it's inconceivable to think of any figure in these modern times, to exhibit the same anti-cynicism and commitment to cinema. Almost all of us are in a sort of ambivalent love affair with movies these days. For all the never ending enthusiasm and commitment to reach higher, there is always the death knell, the Holy Motors sign off. Which was quite convincing by the way (btw ya’lls).
Somehow, both views fit. But, it is fitting and sad, that Ebert, along with the rest of the classicist have now passed. These were figures of what can be now called, "the good old days". And we can cherish that, because its history has been written. A place exists for the past. It has happened, and it was witnessed. The future however, is always a place of uncertainty. Anxiety is birthed from the unknown. And humans, given a dose of evolutionary psychology, always feel mixed about that which cannot be controlled.
The beauty of Ebert was that the man always committed to passionate thinking. He was not afraid. Nor was he afraid to change his mind.
At his older age, he became a king of new media. With twitter, he could troll with the best of them. His stance against video games as art was legendary. Here was a man, not afraid of the consequences of thought, nor its expression. Nor was he scared of being bullied for thinking.
Bombarded by children angered by an opinion, he pressed forward with what I can only assume was a grin. Remember is beef with Vincent Gallo. The man didn't back down from insults. A classic game of "yo momma". And he did this with a smile. That's respectable. That’s heart.
And no other critic could circumnavigate the mainstream all the while, championing the independent quite like Ebert. Who will ever have that leverage? Who will ever care enough?
What a sincere love of something. It was poetic to witness. RIP Roger Ebert and thank you. My mother thanks you. She loved you.
See you at the movies; home theater actually, because we all know that's where this is all leading, right?
After watching a recent Hollywood film lauded as one of the great achievements of the year (the year would be last), I did what I do when I can't seem to figure out the hype from the fact. At the very least, my facts against mediocrity.
So, I turned into some reviews to hear the voice of the critic. Now, I only do this after the movie. Mostly, just to gauge the critical zeitgeist and maybe to pick up on points that I neglected, or tuned out possibly due to bias. In fact, often, I want to be proved wrong. I want to be moved to believe that the movie was a masterpiece and I was just being an asshole, or plainly, ignorant.
So, after flipping through a couple of these eloquent reviews, one phrase stood out from the rest, breathing fire into the cultural void of existence. "Gritty handheld style" was this very phrase.
Everytime I read something so asinine, I want to stop and call out to my maker. But the fact that this was repeated in no less then 5 reviews in back to back succession makes me think, that sometimes, people are in a haze of automation, devoid of anything critical, analytical, or imaginative.
Gritty handheld style in this particular case was nothing at all gritty. What the fuck does this describe? Realism? Well, in this particular case, not at all. Does it describe fortitude or determination. No. 50 million dollars with the best technical minds around making fiction never ever fucking equates to GRITTY. Ever. (well, actually, there are a couple cases historically. this is not one. and I'm assuming, the budget never crossed the 25million mark)
What it does describe however, is that all these clowns picked up the same description from wherever the hell, like 10 years ago, and decided to use it again, and again, and again, and thus removing any descriptive quality about it, in favor of press releasing a review. In today's language, this just fucking blows.
I call for an indefinite ban, and personal banishment for any hee-haw that uses the phrase, "gritty handheld style" to describe anything related to a film. They can however, use it to describe their latest iphone video of there cat licking its nuts. As long as the phone is not locked down on a tripod, and that it is in fact, gritty by definition.
What drives us forward? In our younger development, we were propelled towards things in large part, because of a little thing called curiosity. The shapes, the sounds, the textures, the possibilities of the world elicited a feeling of amazement, and a need to find out. It was a world of endless wonder. Limitless in scope and full of options. A simple turn of the head informed of new opportunities.
Then we grew up. John Cassavetes has an interesting quote about MAN when he turns of age, and in his time, it was around 23. I can't recall it of the top of my head, and instead of accuracy, I will paraphrase for affect instead. Basically, he says that people lose interest in discovery around their early twenties. All that music that got you moving, or art, or literature, or movies that challenged you, or where worthy of further investigation, all gone. You grew up. You put on your 3 piece, and got on with life. The pattern, set in stone.
But what happened to life? Curiosity was exchanged for order. It was sold to dogma. In our time, this process happens a little later. Maybe in your late twenties, but possibly into you're early thirties. We give up our search, usually by blaming the lack of time.
Now, of course priorities change. You have a baby, we get married, we have a multitude of responsibilities. Shit, you have to provide for yourself. Something that our 16 year old, first world self’s usually didn’t bother with, nor fathom its complexity. But, what happened to the search for wonder, amazement? Where does it go?
Do we just crawl to our evolutionary predisposition? Does biology dictate that curiosity is not of value anymore. “I AM WHAT I AM”, we love to say, as if, cemented from the beginning of time.
Isn't that a counterintuitive remnant of our past human life? And here, I inject blatant commercialism that might resinate, since millions of dollars where spent to get you to buy something, by first associating two very different things. "Stay thirsty my friends."
Does size and scale matter in how we perceive works of art?
How about in cinema?
It seems that a certain threshold is subjective, but that in the majority, a standard must be reached before subjects are comfortable enough to identify said object.
In the case of cinema, this is the budget threshold, which most often refers to production value.
Although we have seen a large influx and adherence to lo-fi in almost all areas of media (music, video, design) it seems that its consumption is temporary and best served on short segments.
The feature film is altogether a different animal. When we think of scale, does the medium of film in this day and age, have any rights to claim itself to art.
I'm sure this might get your blood boiling. but give it a good swirl in the noggin.
Movies are, and always will be a business masquerading as pop-art. Once this distinction is made, our reaction to it is clearer. After all, is Tarkovsky any more arty than The Cosby show?
The answer of course is yes, but it becomes incredibly difficult to define properly. And if so, to what degree and who gets the rights to final assessment?
-Does a new model exist?
-Does it have gatekeepers, and if so, who are they?
-Does an audience exist?
-If so, do you create the audience or do you find them?
-Why do you do what you do? (be specific)
-Do you hold the same heroes in your "calling" as you did 1/3/5/10 years ago?
-Is your "calling" going to exist in 3/5/10 years?
-What's your great fear(s)? (don't be shy, this might be helpful if your not too cynical yet)
-What's your favorite color and why?
After going underground for a little bit of time, about to come up to the surface. We are putting together an incredible slate of projects that will be the talk of the town. Are you ready for the future?