Scout Tafoya on Martin Scorsese and “Late” Movies

Posted on November 24, 2019 at 8:00 am

My friend and fellow critic Scout Tafoya has written my favorite piece of movie criticism I’ve read in a long time. I have mixed feelings about Martin Scorsese’s new epic film, “The Irishman,” but the part I liked best is exactly what he describes here.

Fear of death and refusal of old age in movie-making are as old as the moving image itself. Movie stars date appallingly young, and directors sew bone-deep terror of mortality into their images. Film critic André Bazin famously defined the ontology of cinema according to its “mummy complex,” its embalming of time and space. And true to form, something uniquely bizarre occurs when film directors near the death at which they’ve been thumbing their nose by preserving slices of life for one and all to experience. The “late film” has become a class unto itself: what happens to your work if you know this will be one of the last times you point a camera at someone and yell, “Action!”?

It’s a pleasure to read, so wise about movies and about life.

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Critics Film History Movie History Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Netflix Thinks You can Speed-Read a Movie — Filmmakers Do Not Agree

Posted on October 29, 2019 at 10:59 am

Podcast listeners sometimes use the option to speed up the audio to get the information more quickly. Now Netflix is trying the same thing with video. Entertainment Weekly reports:

What if you could watch every episode of Breaking Bad and Stranger Things 50 percent faster?

That’s a feature that Netflix is quietly testing, and it’s quickly drawn a big backlash from Hollywood creatives.
First noted by Android Police, savvy mobile users of the streaming service spotted a new feature on the Netflix Android app that allowed subscribers to speed up (or slow down) playback without muting the volume (to playback speeds 0.5x, 0.75x, 1.0x, 1.25x or 1.5x, respectively). The feature is not unlike what most podcast and audiobook apps already have and is used by some listeners to consume content more quickly (or, in some cases, to slow it down if they have a difficult time understanding it).

The first-blush response from industry creatives, however, was not good. Turns out filmmakers don’t like the idea of viewers watching their painstakingly crafted work on Chimpmunks mode.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture VOD and Streaming

The Women Behind Hustlers and Unbelievable

Posted on September 21, 2019 at 7:43 pm

A top movie at the box office and a top limited series on Netflix, both based on true stories about women, have something else in common. Both were also made by women, with female writers, producers, and directors.

The Washington Post’s Sonia Rao writes about “Hustlers,” based on the story of a group of strippers who drugged and stole from Wall Street financiers:

None of this is to say that a male director couldn’t have achieved something similar, but it’s worth noting that Scafaria and other female producers had to fight to keep their vision for the film intact. Producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas told New York magazine that while some male studio executives were fine with how men treated women in, say, “The Wolf of Wall Street” — directed by Martin Scorsese, who passed on “Hustlers” — they were “a little uncomfortable” with a flipped premise.

For Vulture, my friend and fellow critic Jen Chaney writes that the limited series, written by Susannah Grant, Michael Chabon, andAyelet Waldman and directed by Grant, Jill Soloway, and Michael Dinner, “Unbelievable” on Netflix is the “most feminist crime show I’ve ever seen.”

Contrasting moments like distinguish Unbelievable as the most feminist crime show in recent memory, but one that is not feminist in the typical, “look at women being badasses” way that Hollywood often does feminism. As created by Susannah Grant, this series, which is ostensibly about the attempt to track down a serial rapist after his initial victim is deemed unreliable, is really about how women move through the world, not only as victims or detectives but as employees and bosses, mothers and partners, colleagues and friends. It’s a show about what happens when women use their voices, and how challenging it can be to figure out how to speak up and when.

The fact that Unbelievable is all of these things while still working within the traditional structure of the detective genre makes it quite remarkable.

Rao concludes:

If its opening weekend is any indication, “Hustlers” might become the latest female-led film to soar at the box office. That wouldn’t make it an exception to any rule — a study released in December by Creative Arts Agency and tech company Shift7 found that, between January 2014 and December 2017, female-led movies actually outperformed their male-led counterparts worldwide.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

Comic-Con 2019: 50th Anniversary!

Posted on July 18, 2019 at 12:23 am

Fifty years ago, a bunch of comic book fans got together to swap comics and stories and now it is a world-class extravaganza encompassing every possible category of what they call the lively arts. Television, movies, games, books, and, still comics — everything with an element of fantasy or science fiction and plenty that is just plain entertaining. Television comedy favorites are here: Superstore, The Good Place, Seinfeld, Brooklyn 99. Upcoming shows like Pennyworth (the backstory of Batman’s Alfred character) and The Dark Crystal.

This afternoon, I visited the FutureTech Live demonstration of amazing technology, including Focals by North, eyeglasses with a holographic display of your appointments and apps, VR technology to simulate a forklift for training purposes, the KOOV robotics and coding kids that let kids build all kinds of fabulous toys while learning STEM skills, a stunning tour of the galaxy from the University of California at San Diego Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences, and an astonishing 3D VR art creation program from Deploy XR. I saw glow in the dark and LED-lit temporary tattoos from Sprite Lights.

More coming, including cosplayers and interviews. Stay tuned.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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