April 22, 2016

Fresh Off the Boat's

Outside of its social responsibility and outside of representation, Fresh Off the Boat's responsibility is to itself. To keep it real. To tell its own story. To be specific to itself. And in its specificity lies universality. When we eavesdrop on someone's story that contains no generalities or stereotypes, a crystal clear picture emerges.

It isn't just about "lots of Asian-Americans own restaurants" but more about "Eddie Huang's father owns a steakhouse called Cattlemen's Ranch -- he doesn't serve chop suey and all his employees are white and he has a very positive relationship with each of them. And that restaurant is failing." My white, third generation, three-eighths British, one-eighth Swedish, and half Italian-American boyfriend and I both are able to relate to being a fish out of water, to a failing business, and to good work relationships.

In Home Sweet Home-School, Eddie gets straight A's and his (white) friend gets straight C's. Both pump the air with victory. And then later, a (white) family assembles at Cattlemen's Ranch and you can overhear them launch their meals with, "Cheers to our son for getting straight C's!"

"That was never my experience," said Orion. "C's were never OK."
"Really?" I asked. "It felt like white kids could get C's and not get beat with a belt when I was growing up!" Now I'm learning.

April 6, 2016

Facebook understands the attention economy and works for advertisers

Live is all about interruption -- sometimes annoying, sometimes welcome, always attention-grabbing. Media companies say they have been shocked by the amount of interest in their Live experiments, including a flurry of earnest comments and questions for live streamers.

March 29, 2016

Pay to play, Hollywood disrupted casting

Forget casting directors schlepping to 99-seat theaters to check out plays, another once-common, now nearly extinct form of assessment. "Productions aren't paying for them to make discoveries on their time," says manager Alan Mills, a partner with Marshak.

Technological disruption has changed the landscape, too. Perhaps the most significant change occurred in 2003, when Gary Marsh's Breakdown Services, which has a virtual monopoly as a clearinghouse for casting notices for upcoming TV projects, went from messenger delivery to digital. This has been a boon for efficiency but cut a key human element out of a human resource function. "Breakdown streamlined a ton of things," says Scott David, who casts CBS' Criminal Minds and also owns a workshop studio, The Actors Link in North Hollywood, where he runs classes. "Agents used to come to people's offices and discuss their clients with a book of their clients. Now you can get a reel on somebody in seconds via online."

March 4, 2016

VPN, Netflix, and PayPal

Since VPN providers can easily obtain and use new IP addresses, simply blocking the IP addresses they use is a futile game of cat-and-mouse. However, what happens when those same VPN providers aren't able to accept money from their customers? That's an issue that at least one company is facing.

UnoTelly is a company that provides VPN and SmartDNS services to their customers. There are many reasons why a person would need to use these types of services. But since it can be used to circumvent regional restrictions on services like Netflix, Paypal has stepped in and cut them off.

Earlier this week Paypal sent UnoTelly an email stating the following: "Under the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, PayPal may not be used to send or receive payments for items that infringe or violate any copyright, trademark, right of publicity or privacy, or any other proprietary right under the laws of any jurisdiction."

January 1, 2016

Tarantino's differences between TV and movies

Differences between TV and movies: TV relies on a kind of relentless storytelling whose main job is to constantly dispense information, while movies depend much more on mood and atmosphere -- TV is a writers' medium and movies are a directors' medium.

Even in the Golden Age of Television, the notion of TV as art is now considered something of a media-made joke that is finally being publicly deconstructed by critics, journalists and showrunners alike. The best TV shows still have sets that look a little ragged and threadbare because of the reality of TV economics -- and to Tarantino this matters.

The bigness of his recent movies -- ''Inglourious Basterds,'' ''Django Unchained'' and now ''The Hateful Eight'' -- feels like a rebuke to the smallness of TV and its increasing relevance to audiences, a fight against watching a series of medium shots and close-ups on your computer, your iPad and your iPhone. The belief in visual spectacle is part of Tarantino's message in the era of Amazon, Hulu and Netflix.

May 24, 2015

3er at 40, BMW 3 series

Low key promotional video with documentarian tone.

July 20, 2014

Chop chop

Tell someone to hurry up than telling them to "chop-chop" -- especially if the phrase is accompanied by clapping or snapping fingers.

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April 10, 2014

The dissolve on cinema

The Dissolve provides great retrospective on film and actors. Example, the broken-down grace of Bill Murray.

April 3, 2014

Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin, Unstoppable

ANTHONY LANE's New Yorker's Scarlett Johansson, Unstoppable before and after Under the Skin.

Robert Downey Jr. drinks her in and says, "I want one"--the best line in any Marvel picture, telling us everything about Iron Man, the superhero so blasé that his only option is to buy, or build, enough toys to perk him up. Most of the characters are no better than playthings, anyway. But not her.

January 18, 2014

Code among theives

The Stratton brokers could have just placed orders in these customers' accounts without their permission, but they rarely did. Unauthorized orders were more likely to trigger complaints to regulators, and the move would have violated some unofficial boiler-room code of honor. These guys took pride in their ability to talk suckers into parting with their life savings.

-- Ronald Rubin

Continue reading "Code among theives" »

May 7, 2013

It all leaves you pondering whether you have just seen a monumentally stupid movie or a brilliant movie about the nature and consequences of stupidity.

Why choose? "Pain & Gain," though it compresses some events and characters, hews fairly close to the facts as related in Mr. Collins's deadpan chronicle of idiotic criminality and sloppy police work. Mr. Wahlberg plays Daniel Lugo, a personal trainer and bodybuilding enthusiast who lands a job at a Miami gym after serving time for an investment scam. Swearing that he has learned his lesson -- that there is no substitute for hard work -- he sets his sights on a South Florida vision of the good life, egged on by a self-help guru (Ken Jeong) who fills his head with slogans and three-point plans for success. "If I deserve it," Daniel says, "then the universe will serve it."

What he feels the universe owes him is more or less what a teenage boy raised on "Entourage," Grand Theft Auto and the oeuvre of Michael Bay might demand, though, since "Pain & Gain" is set in 1995, not all of those inspirations are available to Daniel. But the world, then as now, is full of hot babes, fast cars and money, tokens of a high-rolling, hedonistic existence just beyond poor Daniel's reach. He is motivated less by ambition than by a self-pitying sense of entitlement that is both democratic and Nietzschean. He says that he wants to be just like everybody else but also that he wants to set himself apart from the losers and suckers in whose ranks he unfairly languishes.

Continue reading "It all leaves you pondering whether you have just seen a monumentally stupid movie or a brilliant movie about the nature and consequences of stupidity." »

May 5, 2013

Gatsby III

Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, understands that we're drawn back to "Gatsby" because we keep seeing modern buccaneers of banking and hedge funds, swathed in carelessness and opulence. "But what most people don't understand is that the adjective 'Great' in the title was meant laconically," he said. "There's nothing genuinely great about Gatsby. He's a poignant phony. Owing to the money-addled society we live in, people have lost the irony of Fitzgerald's title. So the movies become complicit in the excessively materialistic culture that the novel set out to criticize."

He noted that Gatsby movies are usually just moving versions of Town and Country or The Times's T magazine, and that filmmakers "get seduced by the seductions that the book itself is warning about."

A really great movie of the novel, he argues, would "show a dissenting streak of austerity." He thinks it's time for a black Gatsby, noting that Jay-Z might be an inspirational starting point -- "a young man of talents with an unsavory past consumed by status anxiety and ascending unstoppably through tireless self-promotion and increasingly conspicuous wealth."

The problem with the "Gatsby" movies, he said, "is that they look like they were made by Gatsby. The trick is to make a Gatsby movie that couldn't have been made by Gatsby -- an unglossy portrait of gloss."

February 28, 2013

Jonmillward studies:deep inside, a study of 10000 porn stars

Infographic artist at work:

For the first time, a massive data set of 10,000 porn stars has been extracted from the world's largest database of adult films and performers. I've spent the last six months analyzing it to discover the truth about what the average performer looks like, what they do on film, and how their role has evolved over the last forty years.


-- Jon Millward's
studies: Deep inside a study of 10000 porn stars

September 28, 2012

Shocker: promises of drenchings of blood, vomit, diarrhea and pus.

"Conditions in society are shocking, and art really does become a mirror to society in that way," said the performance artist Karen Finley, who became a national symbol for shock art during the early 1990s battles over public funds for controversial art. And sometimes that mirror turns into a magnifying glass.

Such work may seem to stretch art's immunity plea -- its argument that "we are only reflecting the brutality of the world, and your complicity in it" -- past the breaking point, conveniently projecting its own exploitive tendencies onto the viewer. In "The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning" (2011), the critic Maggie Nelson questioned the lingering hold of what she called Modernism's "shock doctrine," summed up for her in the Austrian film director Michael Haneke's stated desire to "rape the audience into independence."

Not that Ms. Nelson, who teaches at California Institute of the Arts, dismisses the value of confrontation. Art still needs to "say things the culture can't allow itself to hear," she said. "But all shock is not created equal," she continued. "Once the original 'ugh' is gone, you've got to look at what the next emotion is."

"If you could think of something that would get an NC-17 rating with no sex or violence," he said, "you would have the most radical movie of the year."

-- John Waters

Continue reading "Shocker: promises of drenchings of blood, vomit, diarrhea and pus." »

September 21, 2012

Electronic danse music (EDM) invades Hollywood scores and soundtracks

Electronic musicians have scored movies for years. Recent examples include the Chemical Brothers for "Hanna" in 2011, Daft Punk for "Tron: Legacy" in 2010 (also directed by Mr. Kosinski) and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for "The Social Network," for which they won an Academy Award. However, artists like Skrillex, Kaskade and M83 have more trendy momentum than their predecessors did during their projects. By including them, the movies get a quick infusion of youthful relevance, while the musicians court a broader mainstream audience and receive a significant salary.

Skrillex, whose real name is Sonny Moore, composed his score for "Spring Breakers" while on tour, using his laptop, much as he does for his albums. He said he watched early cuts of scenes from the movie before creating the score; his initial reaction to the film was that "it has a lot of tension, so there's a lot of that mixed with the melody," he said. He used live guitars and vocals performed by his girlfriend, the British pop singer Ellie Goulding, and he described the score -- which he declined to play because he had not finished it -- as a distilled version of his dance music, which took out all the upbeat parts, emphasizing melody, "leaving the pretty parts, leaving the sad parts."

Continue reading "Electronic danse music (EDM) invades Hollywood scores and soundtracks" »

November 10, 2011

Brain films: Bertrand Bonello's film L'Apollonide; "House of Pleasures", "House of Tolerance"

He wrestled with the question of how to portray what happens in the private chambers. "Sex scenes in a brothel are so expected that they could be very boring," he said. "I went much more into theater, fetishism, a kind of play." Masks and mirrors are ubiquitous; one prostitute mimics a marionette, while another dresses as a geisha and speaks pidgin Japanese. "These things can tell you more about power relationships than a faked sex scene," he added.

Extending the metaphor of brothel as theater, he likened the madam in "House of Pleasures" to a director committed to putting on a nightly show and consumed by the logistics and economics of doing so. (She is played by the director and actress Noémie Lvovsky, and many of the customers are also played by filmmaker friends, including Xavier Beauvois and Jacques Nolot.)

Continue reading "Brain films: Bertrand Bonello's film L'Apollonide; "House of Pleasures", "House of Tolerance"" »

July 4, 2011

Hollywood realism over regression models ?

The summer before her senior year, though, she took an internship at Goldman. If anything, it left her disillusioned. "I started to feel like it was all a bit of a fraud, all these charts and regressions and models." She turned down the subsequent job offer and took a year to travel to Cuba to shoot a documentary with Cahill. "Living in Cuba made me unafraid of whatever could happen to me. Nothing seemed as scary as waking up at 40 and realizing that I had not lived a very courageous life."


¶ So she moved to Hollywood. The three friends wrote some scripts together but decided they worked better in pairs. "Zal actually had a dream that he was bound and blindfolded and walking down to a basement. And I was like: 'Who was there? Maybe a woman who never leaves!' And we ended up with 'Sound of My Voice.' " Their other film, "Another Earth," which hinges on the discovery of a duplicate planet, came in part from a piece of video art Cahill made in which he interviewed himself in a split screen. "We were like, what if you could confront yourself? What if there was a duplicate you?"

¶ She, too, is haunted by the idea of a duplicate -- another Brit Marling, perhaps one who took the job at Goldman. "If I hadn't met Mike or Zal, I really wonder what I would be doing right now. I wonder if I would even be acting. I can't imagine what it would have been like to do it alone." There may be a duplicate Marling looming in the future as well -- one who perhaps succumbs to all this post-Sundance Hollywood attention and finds herself, say, starring in a romantic comedy opposite Ashton Kutcher. (She just finished filming her first big-budget thriller, "Arbitrage," directed by Nicholas Jarecki and starring Richard Gere.)

Continue reading "Hollywood realism over regression models ?" »

March 23, 2011

Why can't states grasp the absurdity of giving welfare to film and TV producers?

In the definitive document on this issue -- a paper published in December by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities -- senior fellow Robert Tannenwald notes what he tactfully calls "flaws" in various studies the states have commissioned to justify the subsidy. Even after our recent experience with gullible or mendacious accountants in financial scandals like Enron's, it's actually shocking that reputable accounting firms would pull some of these stunts, such as counting the allowances film crews get paid for expenses as a benefit to the state, then counting the same money again when it is spent. Or assuming without explanation that the average film crew member makes $82,400 a year, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics sets that figure at $35,000. The most outrageous double counting, of course, is telling one state after another that it can bring in billions by enticing the same movies away from other states.

-- Michael Kinsley

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September 12, 2009

New Canaan: Concentric larger, smaller lots sized ring the transact

The 22-square-mile town of New Canaan, CT, has concentric circles of one-third-, one-half-, one- and two-acre lots, capped by a swath of homes on four acres or more. About 1,200 apartments and condominiums mingle with roughly 6,000 single-family homes.

Continue reading "New Canaan: Concentric larger, smaller lots sized ring the transact" »

September 27, 2008

What we have here is a failure to resuscitate: Paul Newman at 83

Paul Newman Dies at 83. Noted screen actor and Datsun, Porsche driver.
Many great performances over four decades. We recommended "The Verdict" (1982).

October 10, 2007

Joy Division / Control

BBC, MeFi.

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January 12, 2007


I Do Nothing All Day, scenery from the streets of NY.

Best of 2006 at Atom Films.

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January 1, 2007

Y Tu Mama Tambien, a movie about two economists

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001).
Why did Alfonso Cuaron return to Mexico to make it?

Because he has something to say about Mexico, obviously,
and also because Jack Valenti and the MPAA have made it
impossible for a movie like this to be produced in America.
It is a perfect illustration of the need for a workable adult
rating: too mature, thoughtful and frank for the R, but
not in any sense pornographic.

Why do serious film people not rise up in rage and tear
down the rating system that infantilizes their work?

-- Roger Ebert.