Bruno’s 4:55 Recitation, 4/18

My apologies. This is inexcusably late.

Bruno began recitation that day with a clip from Bowling for Columbine. It dealt greatly with the notion that the media is responsible for the incredible amount of fear in America. After the clip we had a discussion about whether Moore developed a sound argument/what problems the film and clip might have had. Some believed that Moore manipulates facts in order to create leftist propaganda. Others agreed but thought that at the same time he does create an interesting dialog between what the media does and what he does. Others argued that it is not Michael Moore’s responsibility to create a fair and balanced film, that task is more left for journalists. Moore is creating a point of view, and a persuasive one at that.

People argued that the issue here is not that Moore should make his films differently, it is the perception his films garner. People believe them as fact. His films are widely accepted and embraced by leftists. Once again, is this the artist’s responsibility? Is Moore being hypocritical? Or does he know exactly what he is doing? One thing is for certain: Moore’s films are widely accepted because they are simply so accessible. He is essentially a Hollywood filmmaker.

Next was the Waxman reading presentation. The piece dealt mostly with the rise of powerful films being made through the hollywood system between the years 1998 and 2001.

A major moment in the events leading up to this was Polygraph folding after being sold to Universal. This was important because Polygraph produced many independent films. Being John Malkovich, a script by a then unknown Charlie Kaufman, gets sent over to Universal, and ends up under the radar for some time.

Shortly after this, what ensues is an interesting balance between independent and  old hollywood style films forming a delicate balance with one another in the film industry. Subversive films are greenlit, and then studios try to extract any subversive qualities from them. We also see a good deal of new unique directors rise to the forefront and get away with a lot with their films. Spike Jonze had a growing reputation as a livewire on set, with an unusual directing style. David O. Russel makes Three Kings and begins to have a reputation of being brilliant but often abrasive. With the film Traffic, director Steven Soderbergh is shockingly allowed to photograph his own film. Also, David Fincher’s Fight Club gets made and is filled with an incredible amount of violence for a mainstream film.

After this clip, Bruno then screened a clip from Fight Club, and we discussed its themes of how consumer culture lessens individuality.

As time was running out in class, we had another quick reading presentation for the Brutalized Bodies article. The article primarily discussed how films Like Fight Club and American Psycho are problematic with the subjects they attempt to address. Ultimately, they take advantage of anxiety and are gimmicky because they are really tackling much simpler issues like masculinity.

Then we ran out of time and didn’t really get to discuss American Psycho. Sorry this is so late!




Jaap’s Recitation 5/1

Last week during lecture and section, we discussed how new technologies change the way films are made, distributed and seen.  We looked at the innovations that digital filmmaking created and how it was different from using analogue film.

During lecture, we looked at the final race of the grand prix in the movie Speedracer.  We then watched the film Zodiac which offers a different take on filmmaking and the question of reality.  The entire film was shot using digital technology, and no actual film was use.  This was done to create “a more real kind of film.”

During section, Jaap discussed handing in our papers in his faculty mailbox.  We then watched a clip from the original Tron (1983, created by Disney).  It was important to watch this film because it was the first film that contains CGI.  We also looked at this film in relation to Speedracer and how the film presents this idea of immersion into a virtual reality.  This led us to discuss the positive and negative effects of using 3D in films.  Natasha then gave her presentation on the Stephen Prince article.  After the presentation we discussed Zodiac.  At the end of class we did an informal evaluation as well as formal evaluation.  The informal evaluation was where we went around the room and discussed our favorite film, least favorite film, and most interesting topic of the class during the semester.

Bruno’s Recitation, 5/2/12, 2pm

Our last recitation started with a screening of “Tommy Chat Just E-mailed Me” by Ryan Trecartin, and then we collectively tried to make sense of it. The class’s final resolution is that the film actually had a point about new technologies and our use of them: technological progress and new forms of communication such as Internet have led to an overflow of information that people experience every day, which is not necessarily a good thing since easy access and sharing actually decrease the quality of that information. Hence what we see in the film is a bunch of people talking about themselves and not listening to each other. The work has a very bad quality, which may or may not be a statement as well: a video posted online is not expected to have a good quality, so technically anyone can make films nowadays, regardless of their quality. Which, logically thinking, would stress the importance of having good content, but, as we see in “Tommy…” it doesn’t necessarily happen.

Some other interesting aspects of this type of works include: 1)their preservation and 2)question of originality.  Since such films are mostly distributed free via video platforms like Youtube their preservation often does not concern people at all. Thousands of similar works appear and disappear online every day, which makes it impossible to track them. Neither anyone cares if the video they’re streaming is original or not. People simply watch it.

From there we moved on to a discussion of what can be considered original in filmmaking and art in general. Some people thought that a true work of art needs to be fresh, or at least have some new take on subjects, etc. Then others said that “it’s all been done before”, so the whole question of originality isn’t that important. I tend to agree with that, because it seems like such is the nature of art – to be inspired by existing ideas, use and creatively develop them.

Someone brought up a peculiar point that it becomes more and more difficult to stay unique/original for people as well. Easy access to all kinds of information makes it nearly impossible for one individual to know more than others, or to know something others don’t know.

We also talked about reality TV as an example of a new form of entertainment. The class came to conclusion that most people watch reality TV not for its content, but in order to stay connected to media (without necessarily spending too much time or effort on thinking about it), or because they like watching celebrities’ lives and in a way live them.

Finally, Nathan presented on Prinee’s essay about CGI and film theory. Computer graphics presented a problem for film critics since they didn’t know how to relate them to existing theories of realism (picture represents reality as it is) and formalism (cinema transcends reality by reorganizing it). CGI is not real to start with, so where is its place? Prinee offers a new way of viewing cinema: as a combination of a what we see on a screen and what we all know from reality as human beings. He calls it perceptual realism, i.e. an image looks real to us, because it’s partly based on something we’ve experienced in real life, even though its elements do not actually exist. As an example of this we watched excerpts from “Tree of Life” that included a creation sequence and scenes with dinosaurs, which didn’t look completely realistic, but nonetheless made sense to us. And then our time was over. Have a great summer everyone!


Bruno’s Final Recitation- 5/2

Our final recitation started off with the compelling but strange 2006 art film “Tommy Chat Just Emailed Me“. This directly tied into our reading of Wayne Koestenbaum’s article “Situation Hacker” on the creator of the film, Ryan Trecartin. The class focused on the first line of the article which read: “Imagine slasher films without blood; nudity without porn; the Sistine Chapel without God..” (1). From this, we gathered that when the essence of something is removed, that something is no longer familiar but foreign. This is the effect Trecartin’s work had on the class. We discussed the shock value of the film, comparing it to Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls” and debated the uniqueness and innovation of the two films in the context of their times and respective societies. We questioned what ‘one of a kind’ was and if something had to be one of a kind to be good.

This led us into our discussion on Tuesday nights screenings. The class first discussed Zodiac and it’s digital effects. There were two very prevalent instances when these digital effects were utilized and the class agreed that though they looked cool, they really (to us at least) weren’t relevant to the very sixties mise-en-scene of the film. Then again, David Fincher can do whatever he wants. We then discussed the clip we were shown from Speed Racer. It was interesting to think of its style as the new potential future of cinema. Where is technology going in terms of filmmaking and will audiences come to prefer a CGI heavy spectacle over something arguably more cinematic? As is, The Hobbit is currently being shot at 48 fps and though this is new and cutting edge, some viewers have complained about the quality of the film saying it was “too real”. However, according to Stephen Prince’s article, photography in cinema is nothing less than instructive meaning that a film can’t look “too real”. We ended the class with a brief discussion on this and digital imaging, as well as the 3D film fad and the preservation of media materials. 

Thanks for everything and have a great summer!!

5/2 4:55

Our final recitation of the semester began with that irritable Ryan Trecartin short, titled “Tommy Chat Just Emailed Me”, followed by the presentation on Wayne Koestenbaum’s article. I still can’t get over that it has 45,000 views on youtube, or the fact that Bruno had to watch it three times in one day.


We, then, focused on this week’s topic of digital special effects, beginning with David Fincher’s use of it in Zodiac. We suggested the idea that perhaps, with the mise-en-scene used, and without the dating of the crimes, the special effects, and the known actors, audiences would believe that this film was actually made forty years ago.


Moving onto the ending of Speed Racer. Is this a huge step into the future of cinema? At  many times, the shots weren’t even filmed with a camera. With talking heads being used as wipes, and very exclusive camera positions, or lack-thereof, CGI could be the birth of a new era in film.


But then we discussed if audiences will in fact enjoy this new style of filmmaking. Some viewers complained of the new Hobbit film, shot at 48/fps, saying that it was too real.


We also briefly went into the problems of preservation of films in the future. Now that VHS is obsolete, we can’t help but wonder when the next generation of technology will cause issues with transferring our current works over.


We wrapped up the class with the presentation of Stephen Prince’s article on film theory and digital imaging and a brief discussion on the recent craze over 3D films. Hope you all have a nice summer.

Bruno’s Recitation 5/2/12

So. We started off the recitation with that wonderfully ridiculous Ryan Trecartin video. Again, had there been no pretense, I would’ve said it was comedically spectacular. Actually, I was still laughing even with the pretense. So take that for whatever it means. Also here’s that hands video I was talking about.


Genius. Anyways, what I found to be the most interesting part of our conversation was the focus on memes and the “community” being created on the internet. I know this is nothing new as of the last decade, but I for one get fucking pumped about the idea of memes and this whole collaborative internet experience. It’s never happened quite like this before, even just from a couple years ago to now. It’s constantly becoming something new and big and awesome and oh god I’m just so excited WOO!

Granted, I absolutely hate Facebook trying to tell everyone about everything you’ve ever clicked on in your whole life, but the interconnectivity of everything is awesome. On Myspace, you used to have to find the EMBED code to put something on your profile! Harsh toke, bra. I remember going onto Facebook for the first time and posting a link, then being positively exhilarated when it showed that little preview. NO WAY, I thought in a screaming voice, THIS IS GOING TO MAKE SHOWING THINGS THAT I LIKE SO MUCH EASIER. EVERYONE WILL LOVE ME. And it did make things easier. But nobody loves me.

So I guess here’s the question I wanna raise, which really goes back to something we mentioned weeks ago: the artist’s intention! I swear, if I just stumbled across that Trecartin video, I would have been in awe. It’s such a brilliantly disturbing bastardization of nonsense, I would’ve assumed the person was just trying to be outrageous. And what if I had seen the hands video at a film festival? Would it be as funny, or would I suddenly have a negative attitude towards it as “art?”

These are just the floaty ideas I’m having post-class. Don’t even know if anyone except Bruno will read this. Hi, Bruno. It’s been a good class. I’m gonna watch the hands video again now.

Week 14: New Ways of Seeing?

Last class! Thank you all for an excellent semester. I very much enjoyed reading your contributions to this blog—it made for a dynamic feedback loop of ideas and responses.

This week, we wrapped up the course by considering cinema’s digital turn. How have new technologies changed the way films are made, distributed, and seen? Given that cinema is a historical contingent collection of materials that are always changing—films from 1910 don’t look like films from the 30s, films from the 60s don’t look like films from the 80s, etc—does the fact that “films” are no longer necessary made up of analog, photo-chemically-based film represent a more profound or significant shift? Do digital technologies provide new ways of seeing? New aesthetics? How do digital technologies alter our understanding of the moving image’s relation to reality? At various times in the history of the moving image, film has said to have died—“the death of cinema”—is this a passing of a different nature?

How does the Internet change our consumption and production of the moving image? Think of the proliferation of moving images online over the last ten years, from gifs to supercuts, memes, mashups, LOLcats to music videos—more people are making and sharing moving images that at any time in history. We’ve discussed how experimental filmmaking and home movies converged in the 1960s…now that diaristic impulse to make the personal public, to shed privacy in favor of transparency, or simply to try and draw attention to oneself, is a norm.

The issue of privacy is one theme that seems to emanate from discussions of new media, intellectual property is another. Appropriation, which we’ve discussed in previous classes, is the motor driving a great deal of online moving and still image making. This ubiquity is expressed in video game and new media artist Cory Arcangel’s statement that appropriation is no longer a particularly contested site of cultural production, and that, rather, “it is the air that I breathe.”

Similarly, the digital’s blurring of lines between original and copy, representation and abstraction, real and constructed, has provoked debates regarding the digital’s relation to reality. Even though digital cameras rely on light readings and lenses to capture imagery, some feel that the loss of the photochemical process in favor of information that is stored and read as binary code, and shown in pixels and layers, means that digital mediation is fundamentally opposed to, or unable to capture reality in the way traditional cinema could. Just think of this week’s varied reactions, from condemnation to hyperbolic praise, to Peter Jackson showing 10 minutes of his forthcoming Hobbit movie, filmed in 3D at 48fps. Many viewers thought it did not look sufficiently cinematic, and others worried that it looked “too real.” What does this mean?

So, in order to examine the range of possibilities in how the digital relates to the real, we watched:

Speed Racer (the Wachowski Brothers, 2008)—a candy-colored digital fantasia that wears its technophilia on its sleeve.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright, 2010)—The idea here is that we live in a mediated interconnected headspace, where fantasy and reality are always in flux, where individual subjectivities bleed in and out of one another, and that our lives and identities are constructed by other media, here comics, movies, and video games, and are subject to radical change via those forms of mediation. What is “real” in this canny mix of anime, kung fu, video games, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels and indie rock are the emotions gestured at, and later made central, to the narrative: post-adolescent confusion, solipsism, a realization of a world outside of oneself, of the necessity of growing up, loving others, and earning self-respect.


Tommy Chat Just E-mailed Me (Ryan Trecartin, 2006)


Ryan Trecartin, interviewed:

The relationship between consciousness of these personality progressions on an intuitive and dimensional level is very exciting to me. I see my characters exploring a technologically driven yet non-gender-centric psychologically complex transitional world which is inherently positive and energetic as opposed to neutral and formulaic. I’m very inspired by the tendency for transition to encourage creation rather than the act of subscribing to roles provided through gender, per se.

RT: Yes, time is altered to enhance and encourage felt experience. The timing is manipulated to take the viewer into the piece enhancing a more ride-like digestion of the story, making the act of viewing a part of the piece. The timing comments on the current theme being experienced and explored in the current scene. It all depends on what moment of the piece you happen to be watching. And maybe the timing is a character that evolves and has it’s own “plot personality”.

RT: Life has changed greatly since 1995 and so should the logic of storytelling and the look, structure and creation of the moving image. I use manners that relate and challenge current life, and that meditate on future possibilities. I would argue that the word professional is slowly becoming harder and harder to understand or evaluate.


Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)—the first Hollywood film made directly to a hard drive is both a post 9/11 meditation on media-manipulated terror and an exploration of the human conditions and desire for knowledge that engender the creation of new media. A treatise on the limits of our knowledge, and what happens when we run out of information.