the winter soldier: some thoughts in rhyme on captain america

In the latest Marvel flick,
the real villain should be kitsch.
Overblown, yet underwhelming,
the brothers Russo do the helming,
(Their last film built gravitas
off Kate Hudson’s acting chops.)

The Captain’s rival in this tale
has no panache. His rating: fail.
The Winter Soldier passes years
without aging, which is weird.
The secret is he takes long naps
and knows that getting old’s for saps.
They put him in the deepest freeze,
then thaw him out next to the peas.
We’d guess his neighbor in the crib
is a moldy Sundance Kid.

2014-04-26 redford 3They only wake him up for missions
like killing folks, or doing dishes.
His look has aged since his last slumber –
you have to ask when he went under.
The time, the place, a mystery.
My guess? Seattle, ‘93

2014-04-26 winter soldier

the depreciation of smaug: the anatomy and economy of dragons

I’ve been thinking the last couple of weeks about the second Hobbit installment, The Desolation of Smaug, which I saw in the theater with everyone else over Christmas break. I’m not so concerned with whether it was good or bad, but more about how it got me thinking on a certain paradox I can’t make sense of.

The paradox could be true of almost any fantasy or sci-fi fiction, but as it happens I’ve been mulling it over in relation to the eponymous dragon of the movie. It’s like this: Smaug, as your typical dragon in a work of fantasy, is clearly not bound to the laws of physics, biology, or even common sense. And yet I find — and I suspect many would agree — that I want to object that he is not, after all, “realistic.”
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skyfall: james bond, chess boxer

There’s a scene near the beginning of Skyfall that pretty much epitomizes the Bond attitude for me. It’s in the first few minutes of the movie, at which point 007 has already a) gotten shot; b) taken control of a massive excavation machine on a moving train; c) driven it over some cars; d) used the digging arm to anchor one train car to another; e) climbed over the digging arm onto the other train car; and f) scared the living crap out of a bunch of passengers.

And then, the moment: As nonchalantly as you could like, he straightens his cuffs. It’s a hard gesture to capture adequately in a screen grab, because the effect is so much in how casually he does it and how perfectly it says, “all in a day’s work” for a man who has just rendered several tons of moving train into scrap metal.

I hadn’t remembered this from seeing the movie last year, though. What I did remember was this:

13-11-19 skyfall triptych 1

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my favorite star wars scene or: how i learned to stop worrying and love the sarlacc

I’m usually worried about rehashing yet again an over-tread topic, so I wouldn’t normally write about Star Wars, possibly the single most-discussed film(s) I can think of. Just off the top of my head I can tell you that Jonathan Seabrook’s analysis of George Lucas’s turn to the dark side (in Nobrow : The Culture of Marketing, the Marketing of Culture) has more to say than I ever would, and Chuck Klosterman’s essay (in Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs) captures most of the personal reaction I have toward the franchise.

But now, when you least expect it — the biggest piece of even the most remotely newsworthy Star Wars development was weeks ago — I think it’s a good time to just riff on my favorite scene and my somewhat tortured relationship with it. It comes at the end of the first act of Return of the Jedi. For those who do not already know the original trilogy backwards and forwards: I’m talking about the end of the sequence where Luke and friends infiltrate Jabba the Hutt’s compound to rescue Han Solo. It doesn’t go very well, our team is discovered, and Jabba sentences them to a thousand-plus years serving as a snack for the sarlacc, which amounts to a living hole in the ground.

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the hobbit and hfr: building a better big mac

So I finally saw The Hobbit. It’s not the sort of film I would normally write about because I don’t know that I can make the movie any more interesting by writing about it. More than the movie itself, actually, I’m interested in the technical innovation that it sports: high frame rate.

“HFR” means that instead of the normal 24 frames per second, the movie was filmed and is shown at 48 frames per second. That is, each second 48 individual pictures are projected on the screen.

People are of mixed opinion on whether HFR improves the image, and many seem to find it unsatisfying, but I have found that I’m not one of them. Overall, I think the HFR format looks better than film at 24 fps. However, what I discovered in seeing The Hobbit is that I don’t really care about HFR nearly as much as I ought to.
Watching the movie, I wasn’t disappointed in HFR so much as I was disappointed in my reaction to HFR.

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david foster wallace on the terminator movies

From a 1993 interview with David Foster Wallace in “The Review of Contemporary Fiction”:

It’s almost like postmodernism is fiction’s fall from biblical grace. Fiction became conscious of itself in a way it never had been. Here’s a really pretentious bit of pop analysis for you: I think you can see Cameron’s “Terminator” movies as a metaphor for all literary art after Roland Barthes, viz., the movies’ premise that the Cyberdyne NORAD computer becomes conscious of itself as “conscious,” as having interests and an agenda; the Cyberdyne becomes literally self-referential, and it’s no accident that the result of this is nuclear war, Armageddon.

I came across this quote yesterday and planned to write about it before I realized that Wallace wrote an entire essay about T2 (and how it is “F/X porn”), which will be reprinted shortly as part of a new non-fiction collection. So three cheers for coincidence.

Anyway, I like Wallace and I really liked this theory at first glance, but the more I think about it, the more I think it’s wrong — and the more I think about why, the more I think it’s wrong for interesting reasons. Before I get to why, let’s first acknowledge that Wallace (as quoted at least) got the names mixed up: “Cyberdyne” is the name of the company that creates the artificial intelligence, which is known as “Skynet.”

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