Sunday, February 28, 2010

Viewing Log #35: Baby birch bleat bang [2/22/10 - 2/28/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

In the wind
Culture clash
—Culture clash

  • The Holy Girl [Lucrecia Martel, 2004] Just as soon as I wrap up another Word Doc, I'm gonna give this a go, finally, for words to be read elsewhere and later. A real "thinker," as they say.
  • Shutter Island [Martin Scorsese, 2010] # Yeah, I went again. More shortly. But, quickly, I'll say that the music is the best part and that I was surprised at, again, how everything feels.

  • Landscape Suicide [James Benning, 1986] Okay, I get it now, Matt. Great, just great. Was more partial to the first part set in Orinda, but not only because I used to live there and manage that movie theatre; also because her interview, with all its stammering and indecision, not to mention her note of confession and all its pain, made sense and made her isolation in herself feel real. Put otherwise, it turns the formal into a pathetic appeal. Gein, on the other hand, became more othered, less human. I'd love to see it again, or read a smart text about it, to address my curiosity with its gender divide. At first blush, my neophyte eyes say it's maybe the film of the 1980s. Maybe not my favorite, but easily one of The Great Things.
  • American Dreams [James Benning, 1984] Kinda like a great video podcast (only so emulsified that's a silly comparison) with three different threads twined and abutting/overlapping. I spent most of my time reading the Bremer letters and listening to "the radio" while largely ignoring the particulars of the Hank Aaron cards and jigsaws. For that reason, it took me a while to realize that the numbers that kept fading up and down were his home run totals tallying up. Overall a pretty damned tight picture, one worth a look at least twice. And there is a curio corkscrewed into it: Benning himself. From Milwaukee, he must have been a fan of Aaron, and may have collected more than a few of those cards, if not all of them. And what does his inclusion in these dreams mean? I'm not one for investigating behind the screen all that much, but it seems impossible not to here, despite the abundance of material culled from general Americana. Because, if Benning's singing this song (these songs), what's his dream? Only to critique? Or just to witness? How's it not his diary, too?

  • Shutter Island [Martin Scorsese, 2010] Plenty surprised by this one, but not by the so-called twist, and not because I "saw it coming" or whatever but because everything fits from the get-go. Plenty more to say, even after all the internet mess. Will try my hand at it for another outlet shortly. Mostly I dig stories about storytelling, and architecture, so this was a treat on that level. And it kicked me in some sore spots in unexpected ways.

  • The Wire: "The Target" [S1E1, Clark Johnson, 2002] Somehow forgot all about this episode. Not a single scene seemed familiar. The pacing's all wonky, nobody's in a rhythm and it's only the dialog that's interesting. Or so it appeared to me. I was tired and full of risotto. Still, there are some good things, of course, and some jokes, but it's so damned self-serious it's kind of obnoxious. Maybe I'll go through Season One again while it's on demand. I do want to see the "Fuck" scene again in the context of its episode.

  • Lost: "Lighthouse" [S6E5, Jack Bender, 2010] Kind of like a big 45 minutes of "duh" (but what do I know?).
  • Winter [Nathaniel Dorsky, 2008] tweet: all in the rain beads on that hood / truly SF / floating quince blossoms in plastic, & so many circles / the wettest, most palpable
  • Aubade [Nathaniel Dorsky, 2010] tweet: bright, static / color lines dont twirl / purple rises, stands, almost billows, sways / closes with a door closing
  • Compline [Nathaniel Dorsky, 2009] tweet: aerial, more angular / more pools of light round clouds / a ribbon of blue carousels across a diagonal near forever / lift off
  • Sarabande [Nathaniel Dorsky, 2008] tweet: a nest, thatched thick / to reorient gravities / to look *through* things at the world.

  • The Same River Twice [Rob Moss, 2003] # The first half hour or so, for a little ditty I'll link to soon. For now: Karen Schmeer, you knew how to weave things. Now this film takes on even more sentimental value—and I never got to meet you! Also worth noting: can't wait to go rafting this summer.
  • A Serious Man [Coens, 2009] # Yikes! More here, in simple and (I guess) serious terms. The revisit made me think of sound a lot, and tuning, but that didn't make it into the finalized edit. In fact, I think a lot more things. I could probably write two thousand words, not just six hundred, on this movie.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Convergence for what's out there (2/27/10)

by Ryland Walker Knight

Can't stop what's coming

Sundaze blur

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Last Lost: "Lighthouse"

by Ryland Walker Knight

After seeing four by Dorsky (more later, non-Lost fans), helping my bud Brian haul some keyboards, and fixing a supremely late dinner sandwich, I settled into the couch with the DVR for what amounted to a pretty basic episode with very few answers. But I guess I can't expect the show to live up to the promos, cuz that's what promos do: they whet the whistle. In any case, this lighthouse was cool, but hardly a revelation. Just another component in Jacob's all seeing all knowing apparent benevolence. Okay, so Jacob's been watching these "losties"—in particular Jack—for a while now; not too big a surprise given we've seen Jacob alive (and seemingly well) in the days of man'o'wars and unstylish smocks. Nor should it surprise that Jacob wanted the lighthouse inoperable after all. No, the biggest scare was: Is Jack going to fuck up Hurley?

Of course Jack wouldn't hurt Hurley. Lindlelof and Cuse don't want to lose even more good will with their audience. Besides, Hurley's got to stick around to talk to Jacob's ghost or spirit or whatever. What made the scene shake, though, was how uncool Matthew Fox was: he really got wild eyed. He really sold Jack at the end of his rope. But you'd like to think a dude who was willing to admit he came back to the island because he was broken and was wrong about just about everything since that return (and knows it) had already hit rock bottom. But no. The pile-on continues. Jack's almost a Job. (I don't want to admit the links between Shepherd and who in the bible was a shepherd, or simply what a shepherd is, just yet—but, there, I gave the thought a thought.) And don't get me started on the off island junk of this episode, though there were wrinkles in the otherwise cornball "dad issues" plot. —The main wrinkle, of course, being not Jack's memory problems, and that mysterious scar on his torso, but Dogen showing up at the recital hall; but that was too vague to draw any conclusions from at this point.

Another bit of obvious was that Claire's really and truly off her rocker, now friends with Dark Locke, and convinced (poisoned against) the others, or the temple people, as those responsible for Aaron's disappearance from the island. The best thing about that reveal was the line reading of, "Oh, that's not John, that's my friend," while Terry O'Quinn just smiled. Otherwise, those few scenes were just Emilie De Raven doing her usual thing, you know, and coming off as the least believable murderer around. Put otherwise, I was bored by her reversal. More interesting was Jin telling a lie about the truth only to lie some more in order to save his skin. It's easy to forget, now that he's so sweet and altruistic about finding Sun, that Jin spent a lot of his adult life before the island as a henchman, as a killer, as somebody who knows how people are manipulated and manipulable. But those were flashes inside a pretty predictable bit.

Sorry if this bit of blogging seems too blasé, but, well, the episode didn't wow me. Part of this is because I was tired, and I'm tired now as I type this; part of this is because I had all kinds of angles on light and shadow and color and different registers of gravities still piling in my head; and part of this is because the episode lacked any real urgency. What made seasons 4 and 5 so great was their hurtling through plot. Each episode made a claim on a character. There's nothing new here that needed a full episode to unravel. The really daring thing to do would've been to get the lighthouse broken and Dark Locke's appearance into this week well before half-time; after all, all I did seeing these things happen was wait for what would come next. In that, it's great television, designed to addict. And Lost has always gotten the medium: in a lot of ways, ways that I know very little of, the show is about, or at least seems interested, in various television histories as part of its own mythology. I can sense this, and I've never seen an episode of Gilligan's Island, or very much Star Trek (in any iteration), let alone any other adventure shows I'm sure it references, like cartoons. Ed Howard mentioned comics in the comments on the season premiere, and that seems apt, too, of course, though I don't know which comics, exactly, would come into play here (I read Batman and Sin City and then-newly-formed Image comics almost exclusively in middle school). Basically, though, it's about the broader "sci fi" or "adventure" genres (and their sometimes overlap) as media in themselves, how they appropriate and redeploy certain tropes or myths to prove, among other things, that good and evil exist to fight.

So, yeah, here's hoping that when these bad people we once thought pure raid the temple in next week's "Sundown" we get a few more dead bodies that matter. That's basically what I want to see at this point: who do they have the balls to kill off? And will Sayid's infection swing him into line with Claire and Dark Locke after all? Or can Dogen speak enough Japanese to confuse everybody? And, really, is Jack that important? Is he really going to take over? Are he and Kate truly destined to rule the island, away from the world, while Sawyer finds his way back to it? Maybe, though, we'll just be lucky enough to get a few more great compositions like those around the mirrors. Those shots, and that scene, showed what they get right on Lost sometimes: marrying outsized structure to a few images, and this season seems all about reflections and refractions, so what better way than beaming back into the world? And what other reaction can you expect from a broken dude who breaks everything? He doesn't see straight anyways, much less in a mirror, and we saw that in the first episode of the season on the alternate plane.

Also, I kinda just want to stop talking about Jack every week.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #30

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Yes, you; I Cannes see you.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Viewing Log #34: Lateral Collateral [2/15/10 - 2/21/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

This past week I watched a bit of all of Wes Anderson's movies here and there*, I looked at A Serious Man and The Informant! again, and a whole bunch of basketball games, as well as a basketball movie on hulu. I also wrote a bunch about Wes Anderson, and then rewrote it a lot, and need to give my text one final pass right now. (More on this soon.) I read some Philip Larkin and some Cavell and even wrote some poems of my own. I worked a lot and my brain got tired in a different way. I plan to work out more in the coming months by swimming laps because running only hurts my knees ever since I fell. I still walked the dog in the sun and in the rain. I drank a fair number of beers on a few different nights. I danced at Soul Night and Barry introduced me to those DJs and they seem like swell dudes. Pretty packed. Still plenty left on the dining room table.

—Here's another goodrn, Tom

*Since people like lists, here's how I'd rank the Wes films in preferential order, which, of course, doesn't mean it's anything but my taste, which I think should be shown to favor the formal and the hilarious first. Do you remember just how funny these movies are? I'll expand on this more later, but, the gist is this: making comedy makes sense (in nonsense) as much as light of the world and its problems, is hard, should be a bigger part of so-called serious art and, for that matter, a bigger part of so-called serious people's canon.
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, 2004
  • Rushmore, 1998
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, 2009
  • Bottle Rocket, 1996
  • The Darjeeling Limited, 2007
  • The Royal Tenenbaums, 2001

This coming week I have some sure-fire movie-going bets, though, including the Dorsky night at PFA, which means Lost will get pushed back a bit, and I want to see Shutter Island three days ago, and I may even brave My Son, My Son if I have the time. What's more, there's a ton of SFIAAFF screeners to get to, like the new Hong, which I plan to write about in the near future. Anyways, back to editing before bedtime, before another week of madness. Here's hoping that, with the right attention and application and sleep schedule, everything heals.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A conjunction of quotations #9

— edited by Ryland Walker Knight

throw it back
William Gale Gedney


I believe in me. I’m a little screwed up but I’m beautiful.
Steve McQueen


As he stood in the darkness outside the church these memories came back with the poignancy of vanished things. Watching Mattie whirl down the floor from hand to hand he wondered how he could ever have thought his dull talk interested her. To him, who was never gay but in her presence, her gaiety seemed plain proof of indifference. The face she lifted to her dancers was the same which, when she saw him, always looked like a window that has caught the sunset. He even noticed two or three gestures which, in his fatuity, he had thought she kept for him: a way of throwing her head back when she was amused, as if to taste her laugh before she let it out, and a trick of sinking her lids slowly when anything charmed or moved her.
Edith Wharton


[Hats] can be great fun. And it is true that they can put a woman in a good mood. Anyone who laughs at this fact just knows nothing about the finer points of woman’s capacity for survival.
Marlene Dietrich


In the quotation that both slaves and chastises, language proves the matrix of justice. It summons the word by its name, wrenches it destructively from its context, but precisely thereby calls it back to its origin. It appears, now with rhyme and reason, sonorously, congruously in the structure of a new text. As rhyme it gathers the similar into its aura; as name it stands alone and expressionless. In quotation the two realms—of origin and destruction—justify themselves before language. And conversely, only where they interpenetrate—in quotation—is language consummated.
Walter Benjamin


Remember Barbara
It was raining nonstop in Brest that day
and you walked smiling
artless delighted dripping wet
in the rain
Remember Barbara
It was raining nonstop in Brest
and I saw you on rue de Siam
You were smiling
and I smiled too
Remember Barbara
You whom I did not know
You who did not know me
Remember that day all the same
Don't forget
A man was sheltering under a porch
and he called your name
and you ran toward him in the rain
Dripping water delighted artless
and you threw yourself in his arms
Remember that Barbara
and don't be angry if I talk to you
I talk to all those I love
even if I've seen them only once
I talk to all those who love
even if I don't know them
Remember Barbara
Don't forget
that wise happy rain
on your happy face
in that happy town
That rain on the sea
on the arsenal
on the boat from Ouessant
Oh Barbara
What an idiot war
What has happened to you now
In this rain of iron
of fire of steel of blood
and the one who held you tight in his arms
is he dead vanished or maybe still alive
Oh Barbara
It is raining nonstop in Brest
as it rained before
But it's not the same and everything is ruined
It's a rain of mourning terrible and desolate
It's not even a storm any more
of iron of steel of blood
Just simply clouds
that die like dogs
Dogs that disappear
along the water in Brest
and are going to rot far away
far far away from Brest
where there is nothing left.
Jacques Prevert


The basic things you've learned stay the same. The world is right there in front of you in more or less dreamlike incarnations: moving water; tall buildings; ridiculous pain; voices singing; people to love. Your job is to imagine yourself in it. When it rains, You rain. When the birds fly, they fly inside of You.
Ben Polk


It looks like high time baby
to stop our lovin' nickel dime
We're in the high times baby
Where words are lost and tempest tossed in lemon lime.
When times and places effervesce
In words of wonder from down under
I'm no less. I'm fine. It's my time.
Van Dyke Parks


No. [I don't feel like audiences are ever really in danger watching a film.] That's the problem with movies, and that's the problem with watching too many of them. It's not ultimately a suitable substitute for life. You can get a lot out of it—I've spent a lot of time with movies, and I love it. But I think it can warp your perception a little bit.
Andrew Bujalski


Because when you do a film, it's generally five, six or seven weeks at the most. We had the ambition to do it for a year and a half, and that changes a lot of things and we were not in the same state of mind... When you spend a year and half with the film, you are just there and life is much more together. You have lots of other things. You have people who are born, people who die and seasons change. So the film becomes, really, almost organic. You don't really think about the film. Or you think about the film and life at the same time. So it's good. It's because it brings down the importance of cinema. The balance is more correct, I think. In what you live, that a film should not be the main thing in your life. Perhaps it's one of the things. It's your work. It's like the guy in the office, or the guy who makes food, or the guy who makes shoes. They do it everyday, from 9-7. It should be the same thing... It's like the idea of trying to make it all your life, because I like it, it's what I chose, and make it day to day, everyday... And with this small budget crew and in this place where people are very generous.
Pedro Costa


Anything that gives us room and allows us to do something gives us a possibility, that is, it gives what enables us. "Possibility" so understood, as what enables, means something else and something more than mere opportunity.
Martin Heidegger


But I don't wish that I was dead
A very old friend of mine once said
That either way you look at it you have your fits
I have my fits but feeling is good
Confusions not a kiddney stone in my brain
But if we're miscommunicating do we feel the same?
Then either way you look at it you have your fits
I have my fits but feeling is good
Animal Collective


I go down to the river
Filled with regret
I go down and I wonder
If there was any reason left
I left just before my lungs could get wet
I'm lonely, but I ain't that lonely yet
The White Stripes


There’s a great deal that’s bad about having a body. If this is not so obviously true that no one needs examples, we can just quickly mention pain, sores, odors, nausea, aging, gravity, sepsis, clumsiness, illness, limits—every last schism between our physical wills and our actual capacities. Can anyone doubt we need help being reconciled? Crave it? It’s your body that dies, after all.

There are wonderful things about having a body, too, obviously—it’s just that these things are much harder to feel and appreciate in real time. Rather like certain kinds of rare, peak-type sensuous epiphanies (“I’m so glad I have eyes to see this sunrise!” etc.), great athletes seem to catalyze our awareness of how glorious it is to touch and perceive, move through space, interact with matter. Granted, what great athletes can do with their bodies are things that the rest of us can only dream of. But these dreams are important—they make up for a lot.
David Foster Wallace


After all, a girl is…well, a girl. It’s nice to be told you’re successful at it.
Rita Hayworth


Under that sky find a spread of strange when
you look down on our ochre'd earth holding
the splay in the eye, yielding at my
golden main. Sit, please, on the lip to name
a fawn or see hosts scorch a gorge brown, full
of flowers curled to dirt. A storm of her
decomposing trees is just soot at rest.

The whole whorl wave of blue thunder goads mothers
behind screens. Dads, though, can't fight it, can't save
cellmates from walls: walls and tall trees, poles, beams—
—bars, at bottom, only proxies hacksaw.

—Hard to say, he says, when the clouds light up!
—Heard her playing, she says, over that hill.
—Grass. He shook his head, letting a fistful
fall on her knees. Who knew? Who knew, Blue? You?
She just laughed. They fell facing their faces,
their teeth telling yellow on the green's twill
mat getting matted more matted. Then the
girl, with a bounce, crested a new, left lawn.
Ryland Walker Knight

Last Lost: "The Substitute"

by Ryland Walker Knight

The Substitute 3

The stir 'em silly bit of copy at the end of this week's preview for next week's episode declared, "The time for questions is over." I guess that means we're supposed to buy into Dark Locke's spiel to Sawyer about Jacob purportedly manipulating all our principals into trajectories aimed at the island. And I don't know if I do. I don't doubt that Jacob played a part in getting these people to the island, but I do doubt whether his endgame had someone else take over ever. The speech was edited to support Dark Locke, of course, with the reminders of Jacob's appearances, but what about this newly instantiated dude would make you think he's telling the truth? Richard's admonition—that this pillar of smoke is a pillar of evil intent on eradicating everybody on the island—makes more sense, and colors my suspicion that I'm sure others share: that cave-list of "candidates" was never Jacob's, in fact that cave was his neither, but rather that shadowy space is a province of the dark figure.

Like "The Constant," this episode has a great, polyvalent title. Unlike "The Constant," it's mostly a table setting episode. But boy howdy was I pleased to have it focus on Locke and his variant personalities/manifestations/threads. What's more, we got a lot of Sawyer acting tough and sorta smart. Makes sense, too, as Locke and Sawyer were always looking for a substitute, a place to displace their displeasures with the world, be it faith or be it a woman or be it a walkabout or be it drink. So it's a cruel joke that one of Locke-prime's solutions to this problem is to become a literal substitute, albeit a stand-in who sits. —Would they really give a dude in a wheelchair the gym gig? And it's a crueler joke to have this substitute man of faith prey on Sawyer's fears and anger with a con designed to prod him where it hurts. That is, to tell him, the con man, that he got conned into this life.

But, of course, it also makes sense that Sawyer, drunk as a skunk and a mess in foul/ed skivvies, can recognize at first sight that this isn't actually John Locke since we've seen before that Sawyer knows how to read people. Goes with being a con man. Or so it seems. Seems he's gullible like anybody, as that cave sequence illuminates, when the carrot (or donut) dangled is just what he wants. Seems he's got his obvious foibles like anybody. But on Josh Holloway they always look good, even in a grimace, and plausible. Put otherwise, I think he's an underrated actor among this ensemble. Holloway may not be as subtle as Terry O'Quinn (did you notice his taken-aback gulp when Katy Segal tears up the card?), with his muscling through the difficulties, but, like a good con man, he doesn't come off forced. His character's an actor so it fits they found a slick s-o-b with charm and dimples to spare to fill those boots.

The series' other great con man, Ben Linus, is also a good actor played by a good actor. But Michael Emerson's all about restraint. His lies are built like forts, guarded calculations from on high. He's forever trying to hold onto an upper hand. Which is what makes his half-assed eulogy for the real John Locke stirring, if not moving: now, in the face of what this Dark Locke is capable of, including manipulating him into murder, Ben's willing to admit his shortcomings as a human. However, the lies won't ever stop with Ben, it appears, as he's quick to pawn off his part in Jacob's demise in order to appease Ilana's grief. However, his role on the island this week wasn't nearly as intriguing as his cameo back in 2004's sidelong world. I don't know how putting the island underwater in the 1970s puts a heeled-by-the-temple teenage Ben back into "the real world" to grow into this European History teacher, but I'll play along with it if it means more scenes in that thread between him and the wheelchair-bound Locke. I do hope they return to them in that teacher's lounge, playing chess and drinking tea and needling one another, to echo their games on the island. I do hope it spins out that they were being groomed to replace Jacob and his dark counterpart. But such wishful thinking will only lead to disappointment.

More important is what this cave represents for the show. Dark Locke may not be telling the whole truth about it, but it tells us another truth about the island: this figure, who claims he was once a man, has been hunting for some time. And there's something about this Locke shell that doesn't quite meet his needs. If he is recruiting, as Ilana says, he very well may be recruiting another substitute body to take over. Getting off the island "together" with Sawyer may just lead to Sawyer forking over his characteristic common sense and improvisational skills, if not also his body. Or, it could fulfill Richard's prediction and fear, and prove the temple's protective steps true, by forcing James to turn on his old friends one hundred percent. It's a great cliffhanger. For one, it's literally set on (or in) a cliff. For another, being set in a cave, you know there won't be any turning back. You know that list will whittle down one way or another. You know that "inside joke" of tossing the white stone into the waves signals a moral imbalance, a ledger on the tilt.

The Substitute 2

Here's hoping next week's "The Lighthouse" opens more than a yellow eye on the so-questioned legacy of this island, and on the so-announced limitations of what Locke (real, dead, or Dark) can or cannot do with the time and the body that's left to him.

[EVENING UPDATE: We're live at The House.]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Make tomorrow yesterday, love ice and sun

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Click for treats

Sunday afternoon I learned about The Field. First thought: How could this dude elude me for so long? Mostly my fault, if we want to say fault, since I don't exactly go looking for music the same way I used to at the start of our last decade (ie, read Pfork). However, how come it took somebody new to hip me to this? Turns out my friends all already thought I was hip to it. They just figured I wouldn't need a nudge in this direction because it suits my musical temperament so well. That is, it has its pop roots—it's dance music after all, there's a cover of "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime" on the newer record—but it's weird and illegible enough to intrigue other parts of my brain. Dance music, and minimal dance music at that, gets a bad rap for being "repetitive" but that's precisely where the fun lies. Not just because it builds a beat to vibe with and dance to but also because repetition is an order to play with just like anything else: the differences, exciting and terrible and awesome and so many things, emerge over time. Put otherwise: these two albums have been on repeat a lot because they tickle my brain as much as my sides; they stimulate concepts up top and feelings below in the body. (This was also my so-called "over-intellectualized" argument in favor of Midtown 120 Blues last fall, too.)

Also, for all my love of Cut Copy and Pavement and Prince and any other wacky pop, I'm pretty into minimal-architectural sounds that arrange a space (a field!) of play. For a long time all I did was listen to Fennesz. That was like living in a cave, however, and putting The Field on repeat is like living a perpetual drive across the Golden Gate bridge with the sunroof open and not minding the fog's chill because you know there's sunshine ahead.

Unlock your far out
—Suits living West of it all, too

This also gave me good reason to update the widget after a long time off that tip. I've added the two albums that headline this post, the Cavell book we should all be reading together, and two of the best American films last year (The Informant! and Fantastic Mr. Fox), about which I'll have more to say in the not-too-distant future in other outlets. As ever, thanks for reading, and for any Amazon purchases you make (I know there are some of you out there indulging/helping me! and that's great!), and, duh, stay tuned for more. Heaven knows that I'll be around, maxin' with or without socks, dreaming about words and sequenced spaces.

No sock shadow puppet here

Monday, February 15, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #29

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Save me a place

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Viewing Log #33: From here we go [2/8/10 - 2/14/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—to sublime

  • Basic Instinct [Paul Verhoeven, 1992] # The other day, Miriam called it "one of the great feminist films of the last half century." Since my dad has a copy just sitting around, I thought I'd see if I see anything new. Now that I'm all about Black Book, maybe I will. In any event, I'll update tomorrow after I draw a verdict of some kind.
  • Nausicaa [Hayao Miyazaki, 1984] # When I first watched it, on some crappy dvix I found online in 2000, it wowed me with its metaphors and imagery. The imagery still wows in spots, but it's a clunky thing, ain't it? At this point, I like Mononoke more because it's the more mysterious story of these two screeds. (Though I also think Howl's Moving Castle the angriest, and most intriguing, of Miyazaki's eco- and pax-preaching.) Still, though, the finale here is pretty powerful. Watched with Chloe around leftover suppers.
  • Zombieland [Ruben Fleischer, 2009] Funny, apt flick with the fam on a day purportedly about "love" or whatever. Not exactly "smart" but easily clever. I like all the popup titles acting like video game information, but to call it interested in gaming would be misdirection. It's a family road film! With zombies! Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson are great, of course, but I was surprised at how winning I found Jesse Eisenberg. No real surprise, though, that Emma Stone's just going to get more and more attractive through the next, say, ten years.

  • Adam's Rib [George Cukor, 1949] # Found time to watch this one, and take some stills (look here), but I am mad at myself that I didn't actually get my full post up in time. However, that just means life got in the way in good, productive ways. And I think Cavell would salute that. (Not to mention Emerson and Locke and Katherine Hepburn.)

  • Lost "What Kate Does" [Paul Edwards, 2010] Kinda shitty groundwork episode. More here.

  • Saute ma ville [Chantal Akerman, 1968] What a goof she is! Here's your kitchen with kitsch, at all events a tongue in cheek tumble into activity. Quite literally a kitchen sink film. Such fun with sound, too, as it seems like everything is post-dubbed to nutty ends.

Broke obnoxious agreement
—May need to stretch more

Friday, February 12, 2010

Our City Our Words: Adam's presentation

by Ryland Walker Knight


As I mentioned late last night, all kinds of things (ahem, work) got in the way of my Cavell time this week. Last night I proposed we switch it up to a biweekly thing, to give us a pair of weeks to talk about things, but this morning I don't know if even that's feasible. Granted, it's a busy time in the office, but, really, it comes down to this: I don't want this project to be a chore. And what with this year's SFIAAFF coming up, not to mention SFIFF53, I'm going to be a busy lil man. And I want to savor the Cavell. Put otherwise, setting myself this weekly project feels like some kind of self-sabotage in at least two registers and I'd like to avoid both. Thus, to tide us over, I'll live up to one half of this bargin and offer some pictures from George Cukor's Adam's Rib, which I watched before bed last night. What struck me most was not the gender politics front and center, and its concomitant conversation about consent to or dissent from the city, say civilized society, but Cukor's presentational style. Something about the ether about me last night kept getting caught in all those single-take scenes set up not simply as a stage but also as tableaux. Plus, there's those interstitial title cards in one form or another that make the picture less a talkie than a silent, like the film within the film, which brings to mind that boneheaded evasion often associated with rhetorical arts such as "lawyering" or "reporting"—namely, that "it's all rhetoric." Well, duh. It's up to you to assess the argument. When it comes down to it, the problem is simply that most people are poor rhetors when, in fact, we all bear the same duty to be able to make sense of the world. But more about that later. For now, here's some other ideas. And in images!



—merry mess/messy marriage


—imagine that



—imagine what


—divided, but open

That is, like the slammed door, this scene is never shut off. Well, in the end it is, with the curtains drawn on that bed in the country, in the green world, making sex the final stage or arena—a bed set like a stage, a stage set like a bed, enclosed like a manège or manger, as we see in the short film—where this couple can sort out their final, little difference.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Last Lost: "What Kate Does"

by Ryland Walker Knight

boring beauty
—Kate doesn't believe in the word "spoiler"

Hard not to feel let down after last week's opener, sure, but hard to be surprised when "Kate" is in the title of the episode. Evangeline Lilly may have model looks but that means she also has model skills: she's best when relegated to set dressing, like hanging off that limb last week. Her posture's not forthright but almost diffident, trying to eek by in just about every scene. We all know she's only got one play when she says she can be very convincing; and we know, thanks to Josh Holloway's determined performance, that this despondent Sawyer won't fall prey to her one-note ploys. Yet, thanks to what seems like a conscious choice to flip things by the writers this season, Kate isn't quite so predictable. She at least tries to turn her back on Sawyer. But prime-time likes to have its prettiest share the screen as much as possible so they get a moment: each sheds some tears (Kate's punctuate the scene), but it's Sawyer's moment—to grieve Juliet, to blame himself like always. Kate, on the other hand, nearly never accepts culpability (actual or contrived) for her actions. It seems like genuine self-doubt and/or self-critique are beyond her. And glib little me would love to make a joke about this being true of Ms Lilly, too, but that'd be mean. (Further, I don't know her.)

So we'll leave Kate. In fact, I was bored with her even before she kicked Claire to the curb. Seeing Ethan Goodspeed show up as the doctor was cute (no needles a flip of all those needles from before), but it hardly seemed to justify, or redeem, all the rote Kate junk of the 2004 non-crash story line. (Maybe we should call that branch 2004'? 2004-prime?) The 2007 island plot, in particular what transpired at the temple, was the good stuff this week. The big surprise here, lucky us, is that Jack sat smack in the middle of it—and I dug him as our proxy for once.

help me

The whole episode smacked of Season 3, which was lame, but that meant a frustrated Jack deciding to play with the rules set by his de-facto captors to ferret some truth; or trust, as it happens. The whole episode was about trust. It made me realize how boring an idea trust is: you can question it all you want, I guess, and it may take certain actions over time to earn it, but trust is a pretty clear cut either/or by my lights. What's more, all the guilt trip strategies employed by this Dogen stooge (who trusts anybody, besides a grandma, maybe, that spends a ton of time with bonsai?) are another example of a typical Lost annoyance and limitation. Like Jack, I find it hard to arrogate to anybody so plainly trying to manipulate me. Like Jack, I don't want hints when I know you have answers. (I think this is a common gripe even die-hard fans have with the show.) Like Jack, I don't want to surrender my friends.

Jack takes this debt he feels he owes to Sayid, as ever, to ridiculous devotional lengths. He tries to take the pill—some so-called remedy—that Dogen designed for Sayid to prove a point (to himself? to Dogen? certainly not me) that it wasn't a cure-all but, in fact, poison. This prompts the big reveal of the episode, which is naturally twofold: that Sayid may, yes, be infected by "a darkness" and that this creeping take-over already took over Claire, Jack's sister. The ramifications are pretty evident pronto. This Dark Locke, as manifestation of the smoke monster, and also of Titus Welliver's Man-In-Black, controls all kinds of facets of this island. His reach is far from comprehensive, but we can guess with a lot of certainty that his darkness is responsible for the murk in the temple's pool, and the appearances of Christian Shephard on the island throughout the series. Because who else—that is, what other physical fingerprint, what other face and voice—would have the power to, as John Hawkes' Lennon translates, claim her? (Quickly: just read that his character's called Lennon, which is hilarious and stupid and I hope exposed as a ruse or, at least, due to some pop culture time capsule thing. I thought, really? and you gave him those glasses?)

lennon lenses
killer claire

Perhaps most intriguing about Claire's reappearance isn't that she reappeared but that it doubles up the Rousseau story: here we have another mother living off the land by traps and rifle guile without her baby. Makes me wonder what hand the darkness played in Rousseau's obvious shift after the murder of her party and the theft of her daughter. The smoke never caught or killed her, after all.

Which brings me back to trust. The darkness seems to prey on trust. If Island Christian has been or was just another manifestation of the Man-in-Black, his appropriation of Claire was designed as a lure, as an illegitimate offer for an illegitimate daughter. And this Dark Locke came out to the beach last summer only to prey on Ben, to turn people's fear of the island's mystical powers against them. This darkness, in whatever form, no matter its human-sounding motivation, is a metaphysical predator. Its machinations make the Others' (to say Jacob's) seem benign. It's out to rob these peons not only of their bodies, their lives, but of their souls. That's the real transgression of Dark Locke: he poached a truly reverent spirit for nefarious ends. Were it not for all the trust proclaimed throughout the show, and not just this episode, I'd say this bad guy represents one hell of a cynical view on life. But I guess that's why he's the bad guy: he inspires the cynicism. Then again, so does the island, so where does that leave us? Like most mass myths, it leaves us with these people—with their all-too-human capacities—and makes it about their choices of consent—to the world, to this world (the island or the branch), to each other, to trust, to the adventure, to life lived beyond the fold.

—Goodspeed? As is, let's get this preemie going?

Funny, too, that, like the island, like this darkness, and despite what ratings tell us, Lost itself—that is, the show—hardly inspires trust in its audience. Guess that's the god complex: it's all a mystery, and we've got to keep you hooked less you check out. Or tune out. Or drop out. Of course I'm hooked. I'm a curious fool.

[UPDATE: We're live at The House Next Door.]

Monday, February 08, 2010

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #28

by Ryland Walker Knight

No one's a twofer

Convergence for your itinerant coffers (2/8/10)

by Ryland Walker Knight

via @BISradio

via @slayoyayo
—For Slayo, thanks

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Viewing Log #32: Dancin on our tongues [2/1/10 - 2/7/10]

by Ryland Walker Knight


  • Fantastic Mr. Fox [Wes Anderson, 2009] # For a refresher/clarifier before the super sunday daze of dips and bottled beers. Again, as ever: every single shot brims with pretty, with information, with affect. If only the bad guys weren't so simple...

  • The Sopranos "Johnny Cakes" [Tim Van Patten, 2006] # Weird to see 2006 so clearly as they show it here: greedy, duplicitous, blind and hypocritical. Or that's the image I like to rear-project. But there's also Vito's final admission, his true desires coming to the fore, and that dawning's nice to see.
  • The Sopranos "Luxury Lounge" [Danny Leiner, 2006] # SO funny, but good grief some ugly things, like Artie's bullshit, are just so ugly. In any case, Kingsley and Bacall are fucking great, of course, but the fish-out-of-water jokes with Carmine and Chris are the best. Also, robbing Bacall? Priceless. Oh, and, for what it's worth, that rabbit that Artie cooks looks amazing. Even at 10pm.
  • Playtime [Jacques Tati, 1967] # Only a few scenes on Blu Ray at my dad's. The palate on this edition is so subtle! All the pale folders and cubicle walls don't zing; they're almost like a clouded neon, like "maybe look at me." Also, duh, this is probably what I'm going to start answering when people ask me what my favorite movie is. I know, I know, Malick means a lot to me, but, hell, this is what I'm talking about.

  • The Philadelphia Story [George Cukor, 1940] # Pure pleasure from start to finish. Cary's a little heavier here, somehow, than in His Girl Friday (same year) and, lemme tell ya, it works. Though that could be attributable to Jimmy Stringbean Stewart and lil Kate standing next to him. More here.

  • Lost "LA X" (Parts 1+2) [Jack Bender + Paul A. Edwards, 2010] Dug it, a lot. More here.

  • Casa De Lava [Pedro Costa, 1994] # Finished it up a day later. Sometimes I miss this style from him, because he's so good at it, but as Edwin has said, I appreciate Costa's vision of cinema almost as much as some of his films. And it's funny to see this earlier vision, so realized already, so jettisoned after Ossos. More coming.

Strawberry hill 1