This Week You Will Learn:
- Where Infinite Jest and House of Cards intersect
- What created Brian De Palma
- How Edgar Wright & Friends recreated 1960s Soho
- Why three cinematographers chose black-and-white
- Which stop-motion penguin cartoon was banned from Britain and America
- Who can identify video games characters and remember the Eisenhower administration.
Thanks to Rosy Fingers, a man of both style and substance, for contributing 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!
Stuart Jeffries, writing at Lit Hub, discusses how David Foster Wallace predicted Netflix and the age of digital gatekeeping:
By this means, Netflix was delivering in reality what Wallace had imagined in fiction. He imagined the Interlace as an enormous gatekeeper deciding what you would watch while seeming to offer viewers choice. He supposed the internet would evolve similarly. Because the information supply is in principle infinite, we demand some kind of digital gatekeeper to protect us from being overwhelmed. Wallace told an interviewer: “If you go back to Hobbes, and why we ended up begging, why do people in a state of nature end up begging for a ruler who has the power of life and death over them? We absolutely have to give our power away. The Internet is going to be exactly the same way . . . We’re going to beg for it. We are literally gonna pay for it.” What dies as a result is the utopian idea that the internet or digital culture in general is democratic.
For Bright Wall/Dark Room, Travis Woods scrubs the film of Brian De Palma’s life back and forth, finding Blow Out the moment where the man and artist sync up:
Frames 0001 – 1880: Black and white footage, shaky, handheld—a home movie. A teenage boy sitting in a darkened kitchen, unaware he’s being watched. His name is Brian De Palma and he is 15 years old. Still three years away from the evening he will first watch Vertigo, Alfred Hitchcock’s Technicolor nightmare of spiraling obsession and erotic terror, when his path will eternally shift from would-be scientist to will-be film director. He is a tinkerer, a science student, finding comfort in the rigid logic of the small radio he has vivisected upon the dining table. There is a calm in seeing something’s interiors, in having the power to disassemble and understand a thing and—most thrilling of all—reassemble it even better than it was before. And so it is here, embittered and powerless and ignored by his cold, brutish surgeon of a father who is more and more absent these long nights in which his mother cries upstairs for reasons Brian only faintly understands; it is here, amidst that turmoil, that Brian De Palma discovers control.
Vulture‘s Chris Lee details all the steps that went into the period recreation of London in Last Night in Soho, from research to dealing with modern tourists:
To nail down the gritty verisimilitude of the area, Wright enlisted Lucy Pardee, an associate producer on the British sci-fi sensation Attack the Block and casting director for such films as American Honey and Rocks, to compile a “bible” of research material that eventually grew to be four feet tall. She interviewed locals who lived and worked in Soho in the Swinging ’60s and unearthed reams of documentary information regarding the sex industry and policing of central London from around that time. (Pardee’s research bled into broader subjects like sleep paralysis, ghost encounters, nightmares, and paranormal behavior, too.) Wright tacked up “beats” of information on a whiteboard in his production office, in a way he and Wilson-Cairns recall as “very serial killer–esque.”
At The New York Times, Kyle Buchanan looks at this year’s trends in black-and-white cinematography:
“It’s meant to bring theatricality, and to lose temporality,” the cinematographer [of The Tragedy of Hamlet] Bruno Delbonnel said. “It’s not about the 1700s, and it’s not about Scotland, either. We’re giving an abstraction, but a very creative one.” For Delbonnel, the creative limitations of black-and-white proved intoxicating. “I pushed the envelope even more,” Delbonnel said. “I said we shouldn’t have any furniture, and we pushed this very far: There is only one bed and a couple of tables, and there is no practical light.”
A tribute to the insights of the strange, melancholy stop-motion series Pengu by Joseph Earp for Junkee:
Good children say “please” and “thank you” because they know that they will be rewarded if they do. They do not piss on the floor. They do not rock back and forth on their chairs at dinner time. And they hurt themselves as a result. The good child suffers as a result of the way that they choose to seek out connection with others. They do not live authentically or spontaneously. They cannot self-soothe. In order to find meaning and approval, they rely increasingly on others. And when others stop giving their praise in unequivocal terms — which they always do — the good child has no internal sense of self-love to fall back on. Pingu is not a good child. This means that he interacts with the world forever on his own terms. He is creative in the way he chooses to comply, and under what conditions — as Winnicott himself noted, destruction is a form of creation, and Pingu is endlessly destructive, forever stripping the world of its parts and working out what he wants to do with them.
And finally, in the most useful bit of journalism of the week, Ben Jenkins speculates on which old people would be able to identify Super Mario from a picture on Gawker:
The Queen knows that Mario is a computer game guy, let’s just get that right out of the way. A lot of The Queen’s job is going out into the world and talking to people and looking at things, and if you do that for a long enough period of time, you’re going to encounter Mario. That’s just statistics and I’m not going to argue about it. It’s completely insane to suggest that no one — in the hundreds of thousands of interactions that Queen Elizabeth II has had with people — has ever told the Queen who Mario is. Whether it’s one of her grandkids or a flustered aide on the way with her to meet the Japanese Prime Minister, or just someone at a function having a brain episode while looking for something to say — someone, somewhere, some time, has explained Mario to the Queen. I don’t know how it went. I’m not here to speculate on that, but it happened. […] Dennis Hopper played King Koopa in the 1993 live action Super Mario Brothers. Despite this, or possibly because of this, I don’t think Dennis Hopper could have ever identified Mario from a picture.