This Week You Will Learn:
- how to show streamers their movie sucks
- how to use the present in showing the past
- the relationship between Reality and reality
- which Indian movies are worth the ticket price
- the state of American residential architecture
- plus comics and cats!
Thanks to scb0212, The Handyman Dirk Poledog, and Miller for their contributions this week. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
The BBC‘s Nicholas Barber talks about the “a new wave of precision-engineered” movies that are tailored to keep us from turning them off when streaming:
When directors are promoting their films, they usually talk about how happy they are to have put their own personal vision on screen. Not so Dexter Fletcher, when he was promoting Ghosted, an Apple TV+ action comedy starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. Discussing the film on Alex Zane’s A Trip to the Movies podcast, Fletcher mentioned his plans for an opening sequence in which De Armas would drive through the mountains for three minutes. Executives at Apple Studios vetoed the sequence because, they said, if “something doesn’t happen in the first 30 seconds, the data shows that people will turn off”. Fletcher didn’t mind. “You can’t make a film for streaming the same way you make a theatrical [ie, a film intended for a cinema release],” he insisted. “You can’t. There’s different metrics and there’s a different approach. There has to be, even for the reason that people can turn off very quickly… What is a cinematic experience for me as a filmmaker… becomes, ‘Ok, I’ve got to adjust to retain my audience’.”
At Screen Slate, Nicolas Rapold interviews writer-director Cyril Schäublin about his new movie Unrest, watchmaking and anarchy:
The idea was to reconstruct situations from the 1870s with people from the present, and to see how they do it—for example, when they exclude people from voting. That’s something that’s still happening in our society. I worked with friends of mine, farmers, people I met when I was looking for locations. And I said, “Just be yourself and be like you when you work.” The wealthy guy is played by a friend of mine, Valentin [Merz]. He’s the kind of person who always smiles, everything’s fine. He just wins people over. This was important because when I asked my family or other people about their relation to the director of the watch factory where they worked, most of them said, “He was such a nice, caring, sweet person.” Which is absurd because that person was earning 70 or 80 times more than them. So I was interested in this kind of soft power, or caring oppression. Not brutal and aggressive, but soft and nice.
At Variety, Emily St. James examines the idea that the 2007 writers strike created a boom in reality television:
“Do you want networks to make more bad reality shows?” is a boogeyman, the same way “It’s time for scripts to be written by AI” is. Both ideas subtly prop up the studios’ party line by pretending that Hollywood’s labor unions should be grateful for the protections they have, and not ask for anything more. These arguments also ignore all the human labor that goes into reality TV—or AI language learning models. Labor that isn’t protected by labor unions, but should be. The real lesson behind the myth of the 2007–08 strike isn’t about how writers should be scared; it’s about how all of us should be wondering how supposedly “cheap” TV got so inexpensive in the first place.
Danny Baldwin announces a new project White Guy Watches Bollywood where he reviews the myriad Indian releases in American theaters from an outsider’s perspective:
There are a huge number of Indian releases each year – several dozen – that are just flat-out ignored by the American film press (and to my knowledge, most all of the Western press) despite bowing on 100+ U.S. multiplex screens. Back in the days of Indian specialty cinemas (remember the NAZ 8 in Artesia?), it felt forgivable to ignore these titles. Now, with new Indian films playing literally one door over from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” it seems just plain ignorant. […] Instead, I’m simply looking to advocate for the latest great Indian releases – across all local languages and industries – that may end up tragically ignored by American movie lovers due to lack of exposure. For too long, the common wisdom has been that, like American comedies, most Indian films don’t “travel” outside their intended audiences. That could be true, but rather than ignoring them, I think it’s time for me to personally challenge the assumption by seeing all of what’s available and judging for myself. How many crossover hits could we potentially be shamefully overlooking each year?
In The Baffler, Kate Wagner declares the American McMansion alive and well and an apocalyptic symbol that must be destroyed by revolution:
The McMansion has also endured because, in the wake of the recession, the United States declined the opportunity to meaningfully transform the financial system on which our way of life is based. The breach was patched with taxpayer money, the system was restored, and we resumed our previous trajectory. The McMansion survived what could have been an existential crisis; it remains an unimpeachable symbol of having “made it” in a world where advancement is still measured in ostentation. It is a one-stop shop of wealth signifiers: modernist décor (rich people like modernism now), marble countertops (banks have marble), towering foyers (banks also have foyers), massive scale (everything I see is splendor). Owing to its distance from all forms of communal space, the McMansion must also become the site of sociality. It can’t just be a house; it has to be a ballroom, a movie theater, a bar.
And Elizabeth Lopatto at Verge looks at how Achewood creator Chris Onstad is bringing his comic back with the help of … AI?
Unlike Character.AI, which seems to be aimed at the kind of people who write fanfiction with Mary Sue characters, RayBot isn’t meant to suck you into a personalized, solipsistic relationship. Instead, you ask him a question, and he replies briefly. …RayBot can be very funny. Also, because Ray is a deliberately unreliable narrator; when the AI hallucinates, it’s entirely in character for him to be confidently wrong. But even at his best — and on less racy questions — he’s still Onstad on an off day. On one hand, Onstad thinks it’s amazing that RayBot is good enough to pass for him at all. On the other, he says, “Okay, cool, I still have some value in the process.”
Plus, this may be running long, but when research has discovered the best way to catcall a cat, it must be reported:
A separate key lesson learned from this research is that French people seem to have their own unique way of getting cats to notice them. The paper details de Mouzon using “a sort of ‘pff pff’ sound” as her vocal cue, which is apparently widely used by people in France to call cats. When she demonstrated the gesture over Zoom, it sounded like a “kissy” sound, at least to this reporter’s ear. And importantly, it was subtly distinct from the “pspsps” sound that’s common among English-speakers trying to attract a cat.