Verve and Fervor

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Tag: essay

The Sanity of Gender in ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’

SPOILER ALERT

We are fifteen minutes into our IMAX session of Mad Max: Fury Road. On the screen I see a car that has taken flight. It rotates slowly, passengers in orbit, all awaiting gravity’s claim. A sandstorm reflects flames that are everywhere, half the scene is fire. I am very still, and can hear only a wall of sound measured in kilowatts.

I am realising that despite pushing nearly every cinematic envelope, the film will not, can not, live up to my expectations. I’ve read too many 140-character reviews, too many variations on “My retinas, they are burning!”. I am still just a guy in a cinema, watching a movie. It will end and I will leave and eat and sleep and go to work tomorrow.

But as soon as this feeling passes, as soon as I internalise its message, the scenes start to occupy my mind, taking their place, expanding the empire of their ambition. The remaining hour and a half just vanishes and I am left with a sense of total fulfilment and no desire to write about the experience at all. But I cannot stop thinking about Imperator Furiosa. She has quickly become her own template, her own model, a new default. I begin to wonder whether I’ve witnessed a moment of significant cultural change where, afterwards, the time before starts to feel just a little bit, well, primitive. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Reign of ‘Interstellar’

SPOILER ALERT

“I will not be just a tourist in the world of images”
– Anaïs Nin

It feels like an act of hubris to write something about the cinematic achievement that is Interstellar. Indeed, to borrow a phrase from Harold Bloom, the film effectively closes out the genre. It is a golden halo sitting on the finely etched skull of Science Fiction. What could possibly be said about such a grand synthesis of sight, mind, and memory?

A practical matter first: I saw the film at an IMAX theatre. Shot in 70mm film, the image occupies the entire screen. Three rows from the front and you have nowhere to hide. Wormholes, McConaughey’s tears, an undead Matt Damon, all these things I experienced in a visceral, fundamental way. I don’t know what it would be like at your local multiplex, let alone on your television set. I can only estimate that the loss of grandeur would be relative to the scale of your imaginative investment. When I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey as a kid, I was there. The impact on my preadolescent mind was profound despite seeing the film as a reconstructed analog signal displayed on a small, round television. If you’re able to both allow another’s story to transport you and experience it through the medium most intended you’ll be taken there on automatic stilts, but satisfying only one of those criteria – the willingness to give yourself over to the experience, should be all that’s needed to feel the vastness of the message. Read the rest of this entry »

Youtube Mashups: Suitable additions to the canon?

Youtube song mashups. A fascist contraption designed to force your eyelids open. I’d thought these two things go together almost by definition, but it turns out the opposite is true. These videos self-sustain, have me sitting here rapt, like a child on acid.

Though it is of course all a matter of perspective, I’m pretty sure Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ is objectively bad. This was my initial feeling, that I was on a stupid quest to understand something irrelevant. Indeed, each clip tried to evade my sincerity. The first two did so with ease, but the third offered itself as something different, a temporal exploit or missing page of Kurt’s suicide note. Or perhaps just proof that sometimes it is a bad idea to pay attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Kanye West: fame, identity, civilisation

“The truth about the world is that anything is possible.”
– Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

kanye_snap

Sydney, 2014. A stage before me, walkway extending into the crowd like the tail of a crucifix laid flat. Smoke and light, red beams either shooting up from the floor or falling from the sky. A man in a mask sings about slavery, falling forward only to immediately spring back, a coil of energy animated by the electricity of the sun.

It is a simple and true statement to say that we are part of Kanye’s fame. We are a fact of that system, a point in the loop. We’re an audience, wheels in an economic machine. Also receivers and senders of culture, transmuting words and images into trends and data. Like all truth claims, this is a simple, but ultimately limited observation to make. What I want to do here is instead attempt to convey something of the experience of this truth. I want to try and describe what it actually feels like to say “we are part of a system of fame” and offer what I think this means for all of us. Read the rest of this entry »

The Promise of Virtual Reality

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel”

– William Gibson, Neuromancer

Billy G

I

Two levels of promise, a reality abstracted from itself, a place occupied by the new children of the future. This is the VR we will soon have. Think black goggles strapped to the faces of a billion users, the stuff of modern legend and twentieth-century cyberpunk, coming to an Oculus Rift near you.

We’re living in a curious time, that just-before moment where the incredible outline of a genuinely new thing appears on our collective horizon but refuses to reveal itself completely, dock and take passengers. It may be that we’re a few months or even a year away from the first consumer iteration of Oculus’ headset, but there is no gun-jumping going on here. This tech is a big deal, and those who’ve used it Understand. Each visitor to whom I attach my Rift DevKit 1 has a pornographically good time. During the virtual rollercoaster demo, a friend managed to actually headbutt the keyboard when trying to duck under an oncoming obstacle.   Read the rest of this entry »