Limitless is a 2011 film about a revolutionary smart drug and a man who takes it. I enjoyed watching it.

It's beautifully shot, has topical subject matter and is inspiring.

It's also disappointingly normative.

In short, it's where transhumanism often fails
      The Future! Like Today, Only... uh... More!

(Don't worry, there are lots of cool transhumanists out there)

(I'd really like a link to the stuff trans people are doing to control our own healthcare)


Eddie is a New York novelist who can't get anything done and whose life is falling apart. On a fluke, he gets introduced to a miracle smart drug that boosts his cognitive abilities and allows him to pull his life back together - at a terrible price.

 

The cinematography is phenomenal. It integrates colour, digital effects, perspective, film speed, depth of field and all the other stuff we learned in film school. It creates "subjective camerawork" to put us inside his head and share his altered state of consciousness with the audi

I'm also glad to see a movie about smart drugs - promising, untested, useful, possibly addictive or dangerous.

Eddie, when he's on smart drugs, makes a fine study for confidence and high-status behaviour.

 

But it's normative. Ther'es no imagination in where Eddie goes.

When he's boosted, Eddie only seeks status and follows the American dream - money, women, power. He's not an asshole, but he does get involved in backhanded deals in the oil business. He doesn't change or question his values. He sells his novel, gets laid, beats the bad guy and thinks about running for office - although it's not clear what he would do once in office. Which is scary, as it seems that he wants power for its own sake.

You might think this makes sense - someone getting smarter doesn't make them wiser, right? Valid. But then why does on-drugs-Eddie suddenly clean his apartment, develop remarkable focus, interpersonal skills and gain perspective on his relationships? The implied message is that he does become wiser, and that it is wise to seek power for its own sake. Scary.

 

Drugs, money and women? I'd like to see a movie where Eddie uses smart drugs and figures out how to use them wisely, test them and share them with people who have a personal stake in ending exploitation. I'd like to see him experiment with sex/sensuality/intimacy outside of one-night-stands and one LTR (with young, thin women with nice apartments), questioning his assumptions around emotional connection, gender, beauty and pleasure. Power? Sure. But to share, to network, to change the world.


I've been told that my movie ideas are too political; that politics intrudes on story. This is sometimes true. But here, I think politics would make for a better story. Once Eddie has defeated some people who are trying to hurt him, he has a fine future largely guaranteed. There are no more stakes, and the movie ends. Eddie doesn't change. He's basically the same guy he was after his first hit, only established, stable - which is cool, but the movie doesn't seem to get that this is the case, like we are supposed to view him as a transformed hero. That's sloppy storytelling.

But an Eddie who started asking some hard questions about his life and values, then implementing them? That would make for entertaining watching because there would be long term character growth and huge stakes. You could not only make an entire series out of that, you could take the audience along for a ride of personal and oscial improvement.
 

So why doesn't it go there? I think because whatever body vetted the final script was some combination of invested in the status quo and/or afraid that the audience "wouldn't get it" otherwise.

I guess this is why I have a movie production company.

True Blood - an amazing show were it not for these two really irritating characters... who happen to also be the protagonists.

I have mixed feelings about this show. I have these feelings very often because I keep watching it.

I am drawn to how thoroughly they can construct a convincing world and, within it, manhandle a metaphor for minority rights. We're talking X-Men levels of strange meaphors. Last time I checked Gay Marriage didn't come with the threat of being exsanguinated.... The My copy of the homosexual agenda doesn't call for that until stage 5.

And although her methods are somewhat at odds with say, Leslie Feinburg, Nan Flanigan is one of my organizing heroes.


(note this entry in the context of the last two)

I rented the first six episodes of Carnivale, a series that sprang out of a double-length movie script. I thought it was a beautiful magical-realist period piece, but a bit slow.

(I also thought I have limited interest in watching yet another duo of normative dudes serve as humanity's champions, but that's another article)

HBO cancelled Carnivale after two seasons; one-third of the way through its Big Plan.

Was this a tragedy for artistic television? Yes. But whose doing?

Consider: episodes ran an average of fifty-six minutes and four million dollars. Two seasons. Twelve epsiodes each. One third of a story

So, I ask: How can you spend ninety-six million dollars, and take twenty-one hours and thirty-six minutes and only be a third of the way through a story that was originally written at three hours?

Was it tragic? Yes. But in the Greek sense: the kind that you bring on yourself.

Northamerican Anglophone television has embraced the "story arc," once the domain of soap operas, but doesn't ask how long it takes to tell a good story. So we are left with episodes of 22 or 44 minutes, in seasons that shrink only grudgingly. From 26 episodes to 22, sometimes as low as 17 for high-concept shows on major networks. Artsy channels often have 13,12 or 10.

Consider even the teeniest case: a "short" season of ten epsiodes of a "half-hour" show (acutually 22 minutes apiece). A Sitcom, most likely. Even with a one-season run, that's three hours and forty minutes. How many movies are that long?

I see this trend towards elephantine epics reflected in novels and online articles. I'm sure they're getting longer, but I don't have proof. (All this despite fears of "shrinking attention spans.") Why? Cheaper computer-controlled editing and printing, and transfinite recording online space?

Do we assume that, the more words or minutes, the more media is worth? Or, without boudaries does quality expand to fill the available space?

Not all television is like this. Rome was concise. But Internet TV, or "Streamies" usually don't fall into this trap. Why?
Review of The Taqwacores

The Taqwacores is a low-budget comedy-drama based on Michael Muhammed Knight's book of the same name. (not to be confused with "Taqwacore," the documentary)

The story is one year in the life of Yusef, a square medical (or veterinary?) student who moves in to a dilapidated all-Muslim house in Buffalo, New York, not understanding that it's also an all-punk house. He's welcomed and courted as a friend by Umar, a straight-edger whose blend of anger, Punk and Islam leads him into conflict with his more progressive/substance-using housemates. Despite this, he becomes buddies with Jehangir, the pink-mohawked hardcorester with dreams of hosting a cross-country Muslim Punk festival.

This film shines through its characters. Given their introductions in the preview, I was afraid that they would come off as one-note demographics. While some do (too many characters in 84 minutes), the point of the film is that labels can be empowering if worn with awareness and innovation. Thus, Rabeya, "the Riot Grrl in a burka" is no joke: she's six shades of political fierce that had me leaving the theatre thinking haven't I met her? This is true, albeit to a lesser extent, for Muzzamil, the Queer punk, and perhaps Lynn, the Catholic convert. It fails for Amazing Ayyub, who is a joke character anyways, and Fasiq, the stoner.

This film makes excellent use of repetition. It's shot in four seasons, and in each we see one Friday prayer (with rotating radical Imam), hear one phonecall from Yusef's parents, and watch someone try to sleep through an ignorant radio talkshow that highlights their exclusion from both xenophobic America and fundamentalist Islam.

That the Taqwacores is clearly shot on a tight budget only brings out the DIY punk aesthetic. The editing is choppy; often, several dialogue takes are stitched together and there is no attempt to hide this. Sometimes characters voice-over static images. But the sound is clear. And the sets are real. This is a punk film.

I also like that Yusef screws up where the personal and political intersect (especially with Muslim women), and, although he is learning, keeps screwing up. Education is a road, not a destination. It's a refreshing change from the more common narrative where a doofus becomes a hero of the oppressed.

Speaking of learning about oppression, I also like how the the authours of the screenplay (one of whom was the original authour of the book) listened to criticism of the original novel as downplaying Queer/Women's voices, and made changes to fix this onscreen.

Would I recommend it?

I hate punk music
and
I don't like having many possessions
and
I'm going go buy it
if only so that I can lend it to people.


Why? (It's reflexivity time!)

1. I want to shoot low-budget film and this is a fine example of how a tight budget can make a film better

2. I like religion, radical politics, and the organizing spaces where they intersect

3. It's a story about hybridity. It's in the intersections of identities, cultures, nations and communities where people are ground up, and where new ideas are born. I know this space.


(It is worth noting that it's slightly dated. At present, "Taqwacore" refers not just to Islamapunk, but is expanding into a pan-Southasian not-necessarily Punk or Muslim music-politics; an example of hybridity at work)
Review of Earthling:

(shown at the Queer Film Fest)

This film gives me great hope of the future. It indicates that any sci-fi I make, no matter ow terrible, will have a home at a Queer film festival.

Earthling starts out well, promising slow and emotionally intimate science fiction. Rebecca Spence and Amelia Turner deliver two fleshed-out yet mysterious character leads: a highschool teacher who has recently miscarried and a recently-transferred in student pot dealer (movies teach us that all troublesome or interesting students have recently transferred), who are afraid of their attraction to each-other. Spence realizes that she is something other than human, although she can't remember why. Turner already knows, and wants to bring Spence out.

This is, unfortunately. the only good part of the movie. There were other problems, which I dismissed as an amateur film shot on a low budget until I saw the credits and realized that this was a full production coordinated by experienced people.


Sound:
The sound was usually pretty good, but some dialogue had a chesty reverberation. I think the boom was too low, or maybe the sound tech quit.

Light:
Most of the indoor scenes were underexposed. While the inside of houses are usually darker than the outside - at least during the day - it is also true that, unless your iris muscle is injured, your eyes will adjust to this difference and the inside of a lit house will not look like a nuclear winter. Given that both of the protagonists drive, I assume that this underexposure is not a reflection of their visual disability, but a fuck-up.

The filmmaker could have solved this with any of the following: (1) check the camera's F-Stop or ISO settings, (2) use more lights, or (3) adjust in post.

This light-fail is notable as other footage in Earthling is high-quality. There is some beautifully solarized aquatic film, and an extended scene filmed primarily from a hood-mounted camera. Given that the bad lighting was synchronous with the bad sound, I think that they either ran out of budget partway though, or lost their better staff.

Makeup:
The makeup looked realistic, but marking aliens by small forehead bumps, which seem to be intra-species telepathy-organs reminds me of My Favorite Martian.

Casting:
I got the feeling that the alien in the toque was added so that there would be at least one person of colour with a line, albeit one who stands around for a few scenes, strangely silent, then quietly dies offscreen. Very 80s.

The main problem:
The film was directed, written and edited by the same person. This is strange on a movie with a big cast and crew. And it proved to be a bad call, as it is here that largest errors sat uncorrected.

The film is much longer than it needs to be. This happens when you edit your own material and don't want to cut anything

And then there's the writing.

Consider:
If a girl is pregnant
- at the age of eight
- because she was raped
- by her father who kept her locked in the basement
- and if she tries to carry the child to term she will die

Does the word "abortion" cross your mind? I'm not even asking if you are in favour of it. But if you threw her in with a musican, dykey pot-dealer, schoolteacher and a... quiet man in a toque, all living in suburban America, do you think that at least one of them would suggest terminating the pregnancy? If your answer was "yes," then you live in a different world than Clay Liford, the writer(/director/editor/co-producer) of Earthling

And then there was the astronaut character. At one point he rapes his sister via stomach-pseudopods. This appears to be a case of mistaken identity, see below.. The next morning, she shoots herself with an unforeshadowed handgun. Dad responds not by calling the police or paramedics but by quietly loading her corpse into a pickup truck.

This has something to do with how the astronaut once had a conjoined sister, the memories of whom he repressed. This is unusual as conjoined twins are identical and NASA astronauts (espeicially those with linebacker builds) are usually cissexed. So I guess his conjoined sister who died being amputated was MtF. Or the writer doesn't believe in doing a quick wikipedia check on major plot points.

Fimmakers take note. If you are going to write, edit, direct and co-produce your screenplay, get ouside input. Do a public reading, a test-screening and - actually disregard the prior "if" - don't edit your own material alone.
(The Kootenay School of the Arts is paying me to digitize their slides - And I must rant)

<rant>

For the record, the HP scanjet 5590 is one of the worst pieces of home electronic equipment that I have ever touched. Do not buy one. If someone offers to give you one for free, you should suspect that they wish to do you ill.

Here, it sits motionless, leaving you to wonder whether it is about to scan (in which case, you should not interrupt it), or whether it has crashed. If it has crashed, it will, after eight to ten minutes, give you an error message - then do exactly the same thing the next time you try to use it. This means that you must unplug it and plug it in again.

Things that cause it to crash include:
  • (90% likely) Clicking the "yes, I would like to scan another picture" button (which will cause you to lose the prior scan as well)
  • (20% likely) Clicking the "no, I would not like to scan another picture button, then starting a new scan from scratch
When it does not crash, the track may (<5%) fail, causing it to make a loud "clacking" noise which you cannot fix

When it does scan, the pictures are often (~%12) streaked, as if you were viewing them through some sort of Blade-Runner-esque neon rainstorm

And when it scans correctly, the "automatically corrected" slides are usually (>60%) dark

Additionally, the interface program does not understand what "do not ask me these questions again" means.

[Edit:] It also does not recognize "purple" as a valid colour, assuming instead that it is a part of a frame, and to be automatically cropped

Do not buy the HP scanjet 5590

</rant>
Following up on my review of The Road in (audio) book format.

I liked the movie of The Road more than the book.

Where it succeeds:

Read more... )



I see the movie failing in two places:

Read more... )

Synopsis:

The Road is a long, slow and depressing justification for simple-mindedness, especially as applied to morality.



Full text under the cut:
Read more... )
Review of Sunshine.

Danny Boyle directed 28 days later, which I loved. Sunshine boasts many of the same qualites.
- Beautiful use of colour
- Good use of sound
- "Interesting" use of varied film speed
- Distrust of militaristic hierarchies
- Science Fiction plot that's plausible until you think about it

I liked it too, but it has some big holes that need patching.


Things I liked, and things I'd change:
Spoilers )


Two Review of games by Ron Edwards, focusing on mechanics.


"Sorceror:"


Read more... )What's so bad about spontaneous mutations caused by an alien symbiote?

Yes, I'm losing the ability to eat anything but raw meat, and, yes, I get headaches around electrical transformers, and any sort of medical report would out me as only semi-terrestrial, but why is that *wrong?*

Read more... )

The mechanics:

One of the reasons most reviews of Sorceror are so favorable is that they gloss over the game's mechanics. Ron Edwards tried to write a game with simple rules, but tried to be clever rather than careful. And in binding a game to rules of probability while apparantly having no knowledge of how probability functions, he accidentally wrote a die-based clusterfuck.

In other words: the rules are simple. They're also really bad.

Read more... )

"Trollbabe:
"

Read more... )
Olympics:
Good: Sports, fun

Bad: China, Orwellian



D&D 4th Ed:
Bad: Finally, a table-top version of World of Warcraft where you do the math and move very slowly

Good: All the heros in the pictures have very stylish clothes.

Unsettling: Except for the dwarves, halflings and... dragon people (?), all the heros have homogenously svelte body types and facial structures -  -  - like they're all the same person



Strengths of Forerunning American Presidential Candidates:
McCain: Not Bush, really

Obama: Really not Bush
Saw The Dark Knight.

Found parts fun, but on the whole, overstimulating. Wish to use few words. Like Batman I suppose. Miss the down-to-basics feel of the previous movie (magic flowers, ninjas, world-spanning conspiracies, psychiatrist-scarecrow-villains, gliders). Okay, I missed something. I came out of the theatre feeling numbed.

SO MUCH ACTION. Not sure what's going on anymore.

The Joker was the high point of the movie. But where does he get the time to plant all those explosives? I take it that he is using his mob contacts, and keeping quiet about the fate of his former funployees?

::vanishes mysteriously::
I am pleased with Cloverfield. Walking home I see the housing projects near the railway overwalk, and feel a touch of alarm. Same goes for an open park. I realize that it has managed to partially recode my perception of "urban environment" so as to include "danger!"
Going to Chicklets with April, as well as my newly-moved cousin and her girlfriend was not just fun, but felt like a coup. I don't entirely understand why. It may be the combining of queer events and family that I like. Indeed.

Music: up and down, widely varying themes, some awesome top 40 and 80s including a lady sovereign mashup that should have been left as-is, but also repetitive dance, some tunes semi-undanceable, inconsistent volume, higher tones and high hat often painfully loud

Crowd: sparse until 10:30 then increasing until 11:45, very gradually diminishing thereafter. Ages range from legal drinking to mid-fifties, with the median age being perhaps early thirties? Mostly White, but many more Black and Latina women than I am used to seeing anywhere in the city. Some Eastasians. No Southasians or Aboriganls as far as I could tell in the dark without my glasses. Pants near-ubiquitous: some shorts; no skirts. Guessing 90% women; 6% trans; 4% men sticking to their female chums. Women tended towards the gender-variant. A shorter crowd than I would expect - I was one of the taller non-male people.

Entertainment: two excellent aerialist acts turned the head of the entire dance floor; go-go dancers pulled off 1960s fashions well, but looked vaguely out-of-place. Screens overhead cycled through different videos, some visually cool and appropriate, others a bit sleazy, some just pretty and abstract. Pretty L.A.S.E.R.s and fake smoke abound.

Staff: friendly all-around, from door to staff, to bartender and attentive waiters.

Space: good size; some bumping getting into and off of the dance floor. Smoke room. 90% wheelchair accessible when not crowded.

Drinks: mostly ice

Personal and Social Context:
Running opposite HerShe may not have been a good idea, but it drew a packed house eventually.

Since this was the first time that I'd been to a Queer lasses' event (unless you count the three-and-a-half months of the 2004 course "Queer women's autobiographies"), I am unable to reach any strong generalizations. The social spacing and eye contact indicates that this particular event was a "take your  friends and dance together" rather than a "have a few and hook up" kind of thing. Is this generalizable to other dyke nights? if so, it could contribute to the pronounced difference between the number of gay clubs (a lot) and lesbian clubs (maybe one and they don't have a webpage).

I must say that I enjoyed the space. It had the queer of out-on-campus, and a lesbian-normative atmosphere, but it's also all-genders-welcome which makes this radical warm and fuzzy, instead of awkward and guilty.

If anyone has the goods on Lick (such as "where can I find out what they host over a given week, as - they don't seem to have a webpage") I'd like to hear it.
- Amy
You may be aware that Transformers is a crap movie, but it is not only very pretty, but may be worth your time. It contains:

Spoi - lers )
Review of Unknown Crimes of Insomniacs.

Amusing. Funny dialogue. Fun set. Visual blocking issues. Sympathetic characters. Emotionally relevant. Too short. Good feeling of being there. Too warm. Good vocal work. Conveniently located. You can wander inside the set when it's done.

I really like the theme of people maknig other people do things, and people getting people to make them do things.

It's not playing much longer, so you might want to go see it soon.


Theatre's a funny thing for me. I have the urge to talk to the actors during the play. I also lump the medium in with open mike nights and movies. So a show has to offer something over this very broad (and cheap) competition for me to think of it as worthwhile.


Blade Runner(, food) and Brain-Squeezing - Thursday
You should be afraid of California.
I mean really, think about it. Look at science fiction (a predomenantly American genre) its stories have moved from the cities of the East Coast to the West coast. We've left belching smokestacks, wailing sirens, ghettos, towering apartment buildings, subways and docks and have arrived in a place where the air pollution comes from the exhaust pipes of the vehicles that range across the hundreds of miles of freeways; where the police don't storm an apartment in their war against crack, but black kevlar forms pile out of a van in the parking lot of a strip mall or subdivision. In L.A. there are no flying cars, but there are cameras everywhere: it's the widest prison ever.

A Scanner Darkly isn't exactly about this, but it's good anyways. Oh - and it actually feels like a Philip K. Dick novel.
Harry potter IV: Harry Potter Forever, is a public art performance that uses the innovative techique of projecting light through a strip of moving plastic, to "project" colouful illusions onto a large white canvas. This is accompanied by sonic illusions created through the magic of electrico-magnets.

The plot of HP4: The Quest for Peace sees Harry returning to the ring to battle Ivan Drago, a soviet boxer who killed his mentor or something along these lines. He is accompanied by two rival wizards from foreign schools: one with good manners but terrible fashion sense, another with the best clothing I have ever seen.

Harry Potter: Vice City contains all the makings of a good movie: actors, a set, props and seats to sit in while you watch in. Many moments in HP, such as Harry's battle with the dragon, were exteremely humourous, although some say they were intended to be action-packed. Parts of the movie were pretty. Alan Rickman was good. The interrogation scene was more than capable. Daniel Radcliffe was a capable supporting actor, buoying up the lead of Computer Graphics.

Chris Columbus has made one serious oversight in this film. Hard-core Potter fans will see anything, no matter hom bad, and will complain about anything, no matter how good. Newell is one in a string of directors employed in homage of Rowling's innotative writing technique of contracting out each book to a different ghost writer, which is especially bold as it involved a change of director/writer after Harry Potter III: Harry Potter Revolutions, which was recognized by many critics as being "good." Paul Verhoeven is expected to be the one to blame for part 5 (I am defensively proud to say that I have not read "Harry Potter: Assignment Miami Beach" but would like you not to inquire as to how I can relay the contents in detail).

I heartily reccomend recognizing the fact that it is, without a doubt, a movie that you can watch.

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