On Saturday, Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday gave rise on Twitter to a show of cinematic enthusiasms, and, when some of my friends offered praise to “Marnie,” from 1964, I chimed in to add that I consider it Hitchcock’s best film, as well as an antidote to Hitchcock-centrism, the snare and delusion that the director bequeathed to other filmmakers and to critics alike. The shorthand for the phenomenon is the ascension, in 2012, of his 1958 film “Vertigo” to the top of Sight & Sound magazine’s Greatest Films of All Time poll. The fuller version entails the assumption that Hitchcock’s conspicuous directorial control and the methods behind them—his meticulous pre-planning, his elaborate storyboarding, his repudiation of improvisation, all in the interest of realizing his thought-out intentions onscreen with a maximum of clarity and precision—constitute the exemplary form of the art of movies.
The Book That Gets Inside Alfred Hitchcock’s Mind
The Book That Reinvented Hitchcock
The Video Store as Film School
A major reason that the summer of 2016 has seemed so broadly unmusical is that we have all spent so much of it listening to Donald Trump. He is his own sort of pop song, a harsh and nasty one, in the category of rap-rock, that genre devoted to harrowing themes of white-male identity. His tempo is blistering, his theme is his greatness, his cadence is predictable, and the track goes on for far too long. Trump is such a syntactically upsetting speaker, in fact, that transcriptionists have begun to protest the new difficulty of their work. In March, for example, Trump said to the Times, “And there’s nothing, there’s nothing as, there’s nothing as meaningful or as powerful as that, and you know the problem is, and it used to be, and you would hear this, David, and I would hear it, and everybody would hear it and—I’m not sure I believed it, ever.” You can hear the backbeat of mania in this repetitive bluster. It sounds like Kid Rock’s 1999 hit single “Bawitdaba.”
Why “New Trump” Isn’t So New
What Are Donald Trump, Roger Ailes, and Steve Bannon Really Up To?
A Year Without Oliver Sacks
The French photographer Charles Fréger has travelled the world in pursuit of people in costume. He has devoted projects to both imagined characters and real-life figures—road sweepers, water-polo players, practitioners of Mardi Gras rituals in New Orleans and pagan traditions in Europe—interested, always, in how people “look the part.” In his latest series, “YOKAINOSHIMA,” Fréger catalogues the monsters, or Yokai, of Japanese folklore. Made between 2013 and 2015, and collected in a book published this month by Thames & Hudson, the pictures in the project form a colorful encyclopedia that displays figures of Japanese custom strangely removed from the world of their origin.
The Long, Vital History of Bystander Recordings
When Color Was Vulgar: Paul Outerbridge’s Avant-Gardist’s Eye
Exploring the Lost Grandeur of New York City’s Verizon Building
Pride and Prejudice (1995). For an entire generation of people in the UK this BBC mini series is the definitive version of P&P. With a lot more room to breathe (six hours) the characters are fully fleshed and many of the more diverting but easily cuttable bits of the book are left in. Colin Firth is a stolid Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle is a charming Elizabeth Bennet. The BBC lavished a lot of money on carriages, country houses and authentic Regency outfits. And nobody puts a foot wrong. And yet. . .Well call it heresy if you want but I don't find Firth all that interesting as Mr D, Adrian Lukis is a timid and unthreatening Mr Wickham and Jennifer's Ehle's Lizzy lacks bite. You cannot complain about Alison Steadman's Mrs B or Andrew Davis's faithful screenplay.
Pride and Prejudice (2005). Keira Knightley is a spirited, beautiful Elizabeth Bennet with lank hair and dirty boots. Rosamund Pike is a lovely Jane Bennet. Carey Mulligan shines as Kitty Bennet and Jenna Malone and Talulah Riley are great as Lydia and Mary. Simon Woods is an outstanding Mr Bingley playing him as a bit of a nineteenth century Bertie Wooster. Matthew Macfayden is an appropriately dour, broody Mr Darcy almost as good as Olivier's version. Rupert Friend is sinister and scary as Mr Wickham. This is by far the best directed of the three versions I'm reviewing here. There's a tracking shot at the Bingley ball (the second ball in the book if you'll recall) where the camera swings through the action taking in a sad Mr Collins, a humiliated Lizzy, Mary being consoled by her kind father (Donald Sutherland), an ethereal Jane and a happily toasted Mrs Bennet (the superb Brenda Blethyn). The screenplay was written by Debborah Moggach with script doctoring by Emma Thompson (who won an Oscar for her script for Sense and Sensibility). At two hours this is the right length for the story and the humour of the book is excised & reattached with ease. The scene where Mr Collins (Tom Hollander) proposes to Lizzy is one of the funniest you'll ever see. There's also a little more room given to the servants than any of the other versions, which when you read Jo Baker's Longbourn and watch the upcoming BBC version of that superb book you will appreciate.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2015). An ok attempt to mix zombification and class into a post apocalyptic romance. Lily James is all right as Lizzy, Sam Riley makes an OK Darcy. Charles Dance is sadly off form as Mr Bennett. Lena Headey steals the show a bit as Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Ok, as Simon Pegg is wont to say, skip to the end: Wickham, a kind of semi-zombie, (Jack Huston) leads a horde of zombies out of London to conquer England but after Lizzy, of course, realises he's a baddie he is stopped by she and Darcy at the Last Bridge. Good cast and a few good ideas but cd have been much better....
On the other hand, the period setting brings out the very worst in Allen. He's obviously not at all interested in the textures of history - which wouldn't be a problem if the film wouldn't insist so bluntly on Farrow being a "victim of her time". For Allen, "history" is nothing more than functionalist shorthand, which allows him to not even bother with the complexities of communication and affect. The result is a sadist streak undercutting all playfulness. The scenes with Farrow and her husband at home are especially disgusting, as they are obviously just there to properly set her up - literally: to beat her into submission - for all that romantic escapism.
When you hear the word “narcissist,” who comes to mind, aside from everyone? Your ex, probably. Your least favorite writer. Maybe several of your closest friends. The notion that narcissism is ubiquitous and ever increasing has been a truism for decades. In her new book, “The Selfishness of Others,” subtitled “An Essay on the Fear of Narcissism,” Kristin Dombek destabilizes that contemporary commonplace, breaking off chunks from the inside. It’s easy to agree that, yes, people these days are altogether too narcissistic. Dombek, an essayist and occasional advice columnist for n+1, is after the deep, deceptive narcissism inherent in that very view of the world.
iWill Be Your Mirror
Wenngleich unsere Gegenwart in all ihren medialen Seinsweisen und Aggregatszuständen auf vielen Ebenen von komödiantischer Zeichenpolitik affiziert scheint und der Komplex »amerikanische Komödie« weniger ein stabiles Genre als ein Repertoire und Container kultureller Selbstverständigung aufruft, lässt sich die dazugehörige Komödienlandschaft vielleicht doch kartografieren. Wie bei jeder Karte geht es dabei um eine Übersetzungsleistung, um einen Ausschnitt. Das untersuchte Territorium dieses Sammelbandes erstreckt sich über verschiedene Medienökologien, Subgenres, Produktionskontexte – seine kartografische Vermessung handelt in fünf Essays von der gewöhnlichen Reflexivität der amerikanischen Unterhaltungsindustrie, webbasierten Post-Sitcoms, zwei Zeitaltern komischer Institutionen, Formaten mit der Produktionssignatur »Apatow« und den Filmen Wes Andersons.
W W W – Amerikanische Komödiengegenwart, eine Vorbemerkung
Nikolaus Perneczky –Backstage Comedy. Zur gewöhnlichen Reflexivität der amerikanischen Unterhaltungsindustrie
Joachim Schätz – »What am I gonna do with a fair trial?« Die Institution als Sitcom: Von Barney Miller zu Brooklyn Nine Nine
Lukas Foerster – Neue Gemeinschaften. Zu Ästhetiken und Adressierungsstrategien einiger Post-Sitcoms
Daniel Eschkötter – A Less Perfect Union. Romantic Comedy, Judd Apatow und die Codes des Ordinären
Simon Rothöhler – We are all different (especially him). Zu Wes Andersons Komödienästhetik
I was twenty when I learned to ride a bike. I’d owned one when I was six—a little yellow number with training wheels, a gift from a boyfriend of my mother’s. Unfortunately, someone stole it, and, for whatever reason, I never got another. For fourteen years, I walked. It wasn’t until 2001, when I was a junior in college and at loose ends for the summer, that I decided to join the rest of humanity behind the handlebars.
How to Save Olympic Track for Its Fans
The Mystery of Ryan Lochte
Life After Usain Bolt
It has been suggested recently, by the Washington Post’s excellent pop-music critic, Chris Richards, that the summer of 2016 is lacking a proper pop anthem: that we are afloat, untethered, splintered, and wounded, both musically and otherwise. Historically, the defining characteristic of a so-called song of the summer has been its ability to function as a default center of gravity, a jam that, in spite of our heavily fractured moment, everybody’s still hearing everywhere, all the time, and nominally (if only begrudgingly) enjoying. Retroactively, a song of the summer often becomes shorthand for a specific summer itself, in the way that no one can now responsibly evoke June of 1995 without also crooning the chorus to TLC’s “Waterfalls” and doing that excellent jutted-elbows dance.
Song of the Summer: Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam”
Song of the Summer: “Femenine,” by Julius Eastman
Song of the Summer: “Bawitdaba,” by Kid Rock
13 HOURS isn't as good as THE HURT LOCKER or ZERO DARK THIRTY, maybe also not as good as AMERICAN SNIPER, but still Bay's quite suitable for a journalistic approach like this, because it allows him to use bodies and to a limited degree even psychology in the same functionalist and spectacular way he uses rifles and grenade launchers.
(Hard to judge its politics from outside the us, as this is obviously tailor made to play into right wing talking points. Aside from that I don't see why this should be more problematic than most other recent American mainstream films set in the arab world.)
Early May and the lilacs are in bloom, the forsythias just past their prime, as Colonel E. Jacob Crull, of Roundup, Montana, climbs the front steps of a funeral establishment in Elkhart, Indiana. He carries a bottle of muriatic acid and the refrain “beaten by a woman,” a taunt he has hoped to escape by visiting his sister in their home town. But the national newspapers are filled with accounts of the arrival, in Washington, of Jeannette Rankin as a Republican representative to the House—the first woman to serve in Congress. Crull, the fifty-eight-year-old unmarried lawyer and former member of the Montana legislature whom she defeated in the primaries, believed that a spot on the 1916 Republican ticket would make the beginning of a brilliant political career in Washington. Defeat at the hands of a woman has crushed his ambition and will to live. Two boys will find him later that day, “huddled on the steps”; he is taken to a local hospital—his last words, “I’m heartbroken.”
What Divides Us?: An Interview with Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway
Latin America’s Transgender-Rights Leaders
Who’s Afraid of a Feminist Foreign Policy?
Some time ago, I wrote about the interesting situation we had with emulation and Version 51 of the Chrome browser – that is, our emulations stopped working in a very strange way and many people came to the Archive’s inboxes asking what had broken. The resulting fix took a lot of effort and collaboration with groups and volunteers to track down, but it was successful and ever since, every version of Chrome has worked as expected.
But besides the interesting situation with this bug (it actually made us perfectly emulate a broken machine!), it also brought into a very sharp focus the hidden, fundamental aspect of Browsers that can easily be forgotten: Each browser is an opinion, a lens of design and construction that allows its user a very specific facet of how to address the Internet and the Web. And these lenses are something that can shift and turn on a dime, and change the nature of this online world in doing so.
An eternal debate rages on what the Web is “for” and how the Internet should function in providing information and connectivity. For the now-quite-embedded millions of users around the world who have only known a world with this Internet and WWW-provided landscape, the nature of existence centers around the interconnected world we have, and the browsers that we use to communicate with it.
Avoiding too much of a history lesson at this point, let’s instead just say that when Browsers entered the landscape of computer usage in a big way after being one of several resource-intensive experimental programs. In circa 1995, the effect on computing experience and acceptance was unparalleled since the plastic-and-dreams home computer revolution of the 1980s. Suddenly, in one program came basically all the functions of what a computer might possibly do for an end user, all of it linked and described and seemingly infinite. The more technically-oriented among us can point out the gaps in the dream and the real-world efforts behind the scenes to make things do what they promised, of course. But the fundamental message was: Get a Browser, Get the Universe. Throughout the late 1990s, access came in the form of mailed CD-ROMs, or built-in packaging, or Internet Service Providers sending along the details on how to get your machine connected, and get that browser up and running.
As I’ve hinted at, though, this shellac of a browser interface was the rectangular window to a very deep, almost Brazil–like series of ad-hoc infrastructure, clumsily-cobbled standards and almost-standards, and ever-shifting priorities in what this whole “WWW” experience could even possibly be. It’s absolutely great, but it’s also been absolutely arbitrary.
With web anniversaries aplenty now coming into the news, it’ll be very easy to forget how utterly arbitrary a lot of what we think the “Web” is, happens to be.
There’s no question that commercial interests have driven a lot of browser features – the ability to transact financially, to ensure the prices or offers you are being shown, are of primary interest to vendors. Encryption, password protection, multi-factor authentication and so on are sometimes given lip service for private communications, but they’ve historically been presented for the store to ensure the cash register works. From the early days of a small padlock icon being shown locked or unlocked to indicate “safe”, to official “badges” or “certifications” being part of a webpage, the browsers have frequently shifted their character to promise commercial continuity. (The addition of “black box” code to browsers to satisfy the ability to stream entertainment is a subject for another time.)
Flowing from this same thinking has been the overriding need for design control, where the visual or interactive aspects of webpages are the same for everyone, no matter what browser they happen to be using. Since this was fundamentally impossible in the early days (different browsers have different “looks” no matter what), the solutions became more and more involved:
- Use very large image-based mapping to control every visual aspect
- Add a variety of specific binary “plugins” or “runtimes” by third parties
- Insist on adoption of a number of extra-web standards to control the look/action
- Demand all users use the same browser to access the site
Evidence of all these methods pop up across the years, with variant success.
Some of the more well-adopted methods include the Flash runtime for visuals and interactivity, and the use of Java plugins for running programs within the confines of the browser’s rectangle. Others, such as the wide use of Rich Text Format (.RTF) for reading documents, or the Realaudio/video plugins, gained followers or critics along the way, and were ultimately faded into obscurity.
And as for demanding all users use the same browser… well, that still happens, but not with the same panache as the old Netscape Now! buttons.
This puts the Internet Archive into a very interesting position.
With 20 years of the World Wide Web saved in the Wayback machine, and URLs by the billions, we’ve seen the moving targets move, and how fast they move. Where a site previously might be a simple set of documents and instructions that could be arranged however one might like, there are a whole family of sites with much more complicated inner workings than will be captured by any external party, in the same way you would capture a museum by photographing its paintings through a window from the courtyard.
When you visit the Wayback and pull up that old site and find things look differently, or are rendered oddly, that’s a lot of what’s going on: weird internal requirements, experimental programming, or tricks and traps that only worked in one brand of browser and one version of that browser from 1998. The lens shifted; the mirror has cracked since then.
The browsers that we use today, the Firefoxes and the Chromes and the Edges and the Braves and the mobile white-label affairs, are ever-shifting in their own right, more than ever before, and should be recognized as such.
It was inevitable that constant-update paradigms would become dominant on the Web: you start a program and it does something and suddenly you’re using version 54.01 instead of version 53.85. If you’re lucky, there might be a “changes” list, but that luck might be variant because many simply write “bug fixes”. In these updates are the closing of serious performance or security issues – and as someone who knows the days when you might have to mail in for a floppy disk to be sent in a few weeks to make your program work, I can totally get behind the new “we fixed it before you knew it was broken” world we live in. Everything does this: phones, game consoles, laptops, even routers and medical equipment.
But along with this shifting of versions comes the occasional fundamental change in what browsers do, along with making some aspect of the Web obsolete in a very hard-lined way.
Take, for example, Gopher, a (for lack of an easier description) proto-web that allowed machines to be “browsed” for information that would be easy for users to find. The ability to search, to grab files or writings, and to share your own pools of knowledge were all part of the “Gopherspace”. It was also rather non-graphical by nature and technically oriented at the time, and the graphical “WWW” utterly flattened it when the time came.
But since Gopher had been a not-insignificant part of the Internet when web browsers were new, many of them would wrap in support for Gopher as an option. You’d use the gopher:// URI, and much like the ftp:// or file:// URIs, it co-existed with http:// as a method for reaching the world.
Until it didn’t.
Microsoft, citing security concerns, dropped Gopher support out of its Internet Explorer browser in 2002. Mozilla, after a years-long debate, did so in 2010. Here’s the Mozilla Firefox debate that raged over Gopher Protocol removal. The functionality was later brought back externally in the form of a Gopher plugin. Chrome never had Gopher support. (Many other browsers have Gopher support, even today, but they have very, very small audiences.)
The Archive has an assembled collection of Gopherspace material here. From this material, as well as other sources, there are web-enabled versions of Gopherspace (basically, http:// versions of the gopher:// experience) that bring back some aspects of Gopher, if only to allow for a nostalgic stroll. But nobody would dream of making something brand new in that protocol, except to prove a point or for the technical exercise. The lens has refocused.
In the present, Flash is beginning a slow, harsh exile into the web pages of history – browser support dropping, and even Adobe whittling away support and upkeep of all of Flash’s forward-facing projects. Flash was a very big deal in its heyday – animation, menu interface, games, and a whole other host of what we think of as “The Web” depended utterly on Flash, and even specific versions and variations of Flash. As the sun sets on this technology, attempts to be able to still view it like the Shumway project will hopefully allow the lens a few more years to be capable of seeing this body of work.
As we move forward in this business of “saving the web”, we’re going to experience “save the browsers”, “save the network”, and “save the experience” as well. Browsers themselves drop or add entire components or functions, and being able to touch older material becomes successively more difficult, especially when you might have to use an older browser with security issues. Our in-browser emulation might be a solution, or special “filters” on the Wayback for seeing items as they were back then, but it’s not an easy task at all – and it’s a lot of effort to see information that is just a decade or two old. It’s going to be very, very difficult.
But maybe recognizing these browsers for what they are, and coming up with ways to keep these lenses polished and flexible, is a good way to start.
Locarno International Film Festival 2016: Mädchen in Uniform, Leontine Sagan / Geza von Radvanyi, 1931 / 1958
Was sich allerdings komplett verändert hat: die Bildpolitik. Das Verhältnis von Bildraum und Körper, von On zu Off, von Individuum zu Gruppe. Komplett verschwunden ist in der 58er-Version alles dokumentarnah Beobachtende, insbesondere gibt es nicht mehr die das wilde, drängende, der gepredigten Zucht und Ordnung gegenüber exzessive Miteinander der Mädels eher aufzeichnenden als konstruierenden Totalen (sowie diese langsamen Schwenks, die einen in ihrer gefräßigen Bewegung neugierig machen auf die Attraktionen, die noch nicht, aber gleich in ganzer Pracht Bild werden). Anders herum gibt es auch nicht mehr die Mannigfaltigkeit des Details. Keine Großaufnahmen mehr, die entschlossen und immer etwas willkürlich eine unter vielen Attraktionen isolieren, und die das chaotisch blühende Leben im verschmierten, glücklichen Gesicht eines schokoladeessenden Mädchens aufscheinen lassen.
Statt dessen dominieren 1958 im Dekor und in der Bildsprache klare Linien, größtmögliche Klarheit und Reduktion. Man kann glaube ich Szene für Szene durchgehen und zeigen, wie Radnayi fünf, sechs Ideen von Sagan in jeweils einer einzigen, isolierten filmischen Geste verdichtet. Plansequenzen und travellings konturieren den Schauplatz - als, so der Dialog: Zitadelle (ein Wort, das im ersten Film nicht fällt). Deren Schrecken allerdings wenig mit Waffengewalt zu tun hat als mit Abstraktion. Das Treppenhaus ist kein plötzlich gähnender Höllenschlund mehr wie 1931, sondern eine geometrisch präzise Mausefalle, die der Hauptfigur schon früh im Film "gestellt" wird (und das beschreibt auch gut die Differenz im Verhältnis der beiden Manuelas zu ihrer jeweiligen Libido). Das 1931 wild in den Bildraum hinein sprudelnde Leben zieht sich 1958 ganz in das freilich außerordentlich artikulierte Seelenleben der Mädchen und Frauen zurück.
Das betrifft selbst und erst recht Körperlichkeit. Bei Sagan schwärmen die Mädels von Hans Albers' Sex Appeal und erfreuen sich an ihren "dollen Körpern" so sehr, dass sie sich einmal sogar gegenseitig die Blusen platzen lassen. Bei Radvanyi geht alles Leibliche in Bewegungspattern und Blickwechseln auf.
Noch sonderbarer, dass ich zwar beide Versionen liebe, mir die von 1958 aber doch etwas besser gefallen hat. Ich glaube schon, dass ich anhand der Filme zeigen könnte, warum. Die absolute Kontrolle über den Bildraum hat bei Radvanyi nichts mit Sadismus zu tun, sondern mit Einfühlung und Neugierde, es geht nicht um die formale Verdopplung von Klaustrophobie, sondern um psychologische Verstricktheiten.
Aber es wird auch etwas damit zu tun haben, dass ich mich schon eine ganze Weile nicht mehr einfach nur zur urwüchsigen Klassik, sondern noch mehr zum Klassizismus, zur Herrschaft der Mise-en-scne hingezogen fühle. Viva il calligrafismo!
You’d think that the polymathic Bill Gunn, who directed, wrote, and co-starred in “Ganja & Hess,” from 1973 (which I discuss in this clip), would have thrived in the freewheeling New Hollywood of the nineteen-seventies. He didn’t—and the film didn’t, either. After a brief and unsuccessful theatrical release, it was first withdrawn and then drastically reëdited (and shorn of nearly a third of its running time). As for Gunn, it was seven years before he made another film, “Personal Problems,” which was done with an even scantier budget and never released at all. (Neither was his first feature, “Stop,” from 1970.) His story—that of a visionary filmmaker left on the sidelines of the most ostensibly liberated period of American filmmaking—is, unfortunately, not unique. It’s the story of William Greaves, Barbara Loden, Claudia Weill, and even Elaine May—of black filmmakers and women filmmakers (and, when Kathleen Collins made “Losing Ground,” in 1982, co-starring Gunn, the story of black women filmmakers, too). So-called New Hollywood was more Hollywood than it was new.
Postscript: Abbas Kiarostami, 1940—2016
The Brian De Palma Conundrum
Live-Drawing the 2016 Oscars