Archive for May, 2005

Code 46

I finally had the chance to see Michael Winterbottom’s Code 46 (IMDB) last night, and while I don’t have time for a full review, I’ll quickly note that I found the film’s subtle meditations on genetics to be rather rewarding. Unlike Gattaca, in which bad genes become just another means for replaying the “triumph over great odds” narrative, Code 46 doesn’t reduce genetic engineering to two classes of “valids” and “invalids,” instead focusing on narrower restrictions. A genetic predisposition to certain diseases prevents you from traveling to certain countries, for example. And, as the opening credits explain, you are prevented from having procreative sex with someone who has a too similar genetic makeup, a “Code 46” violation.

The film’s plot centers around Tim Robbins’ William and Samantha Morton’s Maria, two people who meet for the first time in Shanghai, while William is investigating a passport forgery crime, and ultimately the two have a passionate affair, not realizing that they are genetically too similar (their mothers are genetic clones). Visually and aurally, the film is pretty cool, too. The dystopian future is clearly made to resemble our own world–the clothes are similar, and the visuals emphasize futuristic structures, but without the visual effects that might make the space seem too detatched from the contemporary.

In his review of the film, Steven Shaviro notes that “What distinguishes Code 46 from these other films is that it shows how the ‘society of control’ is inextricably interwoven with the sense of possibility that comes from decentered flows,” and I think that the issues of “control,” as they have been articualted by Gilles Deleuze, are central to this film, specifically in terms of “access.” In fact, if I had seen this film earlier, I almost certainly would have taught it alongside Deleuze’s essay in my freshman composition class this past semester.

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Things I’m Reading Instead of My Students’ Film Final Exams

It’s the exam week of my last semester at Georgia Tech, and I’ll confess to having more than a mild case of senioritis. That includes rewatching Dazed and Confused the other night and hearing echoes of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out Forever.” But in my tireless search for distractions, I came across a few new (or new to me) film and media blogs/articles I wanted to mention.

First, Amy Taubin’s “Primer: The New Whiz Kid on the Block,” part of her Art & Industry series, in which Taubin discusses the film’s time-travel plot. Money quote: “Since the device is a crude form of a time machine, and since film itself is a kind of time machine, one can read Primer as a film that mirrors its own DIY production.” I’m looking for a good excuse to write a conference paper on Primer, and it will definitely find its way into my book. In her interview with director Shane Carruth, he cites Neil Labute’s In the Company of Men as a significant influence (a comparison that makes a lot of sense to me).

Via Green Cine Daily, an interview with some guy named George Lucas who discusses Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 and a certain blockbuster film due to come out in a few weeks. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the Star Wars films, in part because my parents prevented me from seeing the originals in the theater and I’ve never become emotionally invested in them, but Lucas’s desire to make “historical” films sounds really interesting to me.

Also via Green Cine, I see that Nick Rombes, editor of New Punk Cinema, now has a blog, Digital Poetics. In one entry, Rombes tackles the notion of Interface as Narrative, in which he discusses the role of the interface in our engagement with a film on video or DVD, specifically noting Memento’s playful interface, which “performs the content of the film in sometimes startling ways.” Off-hand, I’d also nopte that the menu on the DVD of The Ring has a similar effect, in which the remote control is disabled when the viewer plays the hidden “Easter Egg” of Samara’s video.

In other news, I also found Synoptic Cinema, a blog hosted by the film jouranl Synoptique, and the IFC Blog, which will quickly become daily or semi-daily reads, I’d imagine. And, in some desperate attempt to prove that I have a life away from the computer, I’ll mention that my team of local bloggers won at bar trivia last night at the Mellow Mushroom on Peachtree.

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Moving Home, Leaving Home

Profgrrrl’s recent entry about defining home has me thinking about my upcoming move to Washington, D.C. Moving to Washington, or more likely a Maryland suburb, is a kind of homecoming for me. Even though I moved to Atlanta when I was about eight years old, I was born in Washington, D.C., and spent significant chunks of time every summer visiting the nation’s capital because of my dad’s job with the Department of Commerce and my mom’s desire to return to a city she really likes. And while I’m not feeling conflicted at all about moving (in fact, I’m looking forward to it), I’ll be curious over the next few weeks to reflect on how this experience will allow me to think about “home” in new ways.

There’s no question that Atlanta is “home” in some very specific ways; after all, I’ve spent a larger chunk of my adult life in Atlanta than any other place and my family still lives here. I generally root for Atlanta’s sports teams (with varying degress of enthusiasm). But I still experience myself first and foremost as an itinerant academic, moving from place to place until I get a tenure-track position. Since graduating from high school, I haven’t lived in the same residence for more than three years. I still don’t put posters up when I move into a new apartment (something that honestly won’t change when I move to DC; I’ve come to accept this fact about myself).

In addition, like GZombie, I have a conflicted relationship with Georgia, with the conservative politics of many of the state’s residents, with the suburban sprawl that engulfs the once-quiet bedroom community where my parents live. I’m also conflicted about the city’s habit of erasing its own past, but that’s probably happeneing in most major cities, not just Atlanta. There are many things I really like about Atlanta, though, and I’m planning in the next few days to blog about those (as you can probably imagine, a few of them have to do with movies).

Given the number of times I’ve moved in the last ten years or so, I’m not even sure that it makes sense to call any specific place home. Instead, I am very much looking forward to spending some time in Washington, less to revisit my past than to see what new connections I can forge, what new directions I can take.

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Capital Times

I think it’s safe to let everyone know that my job search has reached a happy conclusion. I’ve just accepted an offer for a visiting assistant professor position in media studies at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. I’ll have a lot more to say about this news in the next few days, but it looks like a great opportunity, both in terms of teaching and research, not to mention the opportunity to live in yet another cool city.

I’m still sorting out some of the details, but it looks like I’ll be heading up to Washington in a few weeks to start looking for an apartment, probably in Hyattsville or Silver Spring (as long as I’m on Metro, I’m cool). If anyone has any suggestions about where to look for affordable housing in D.C., I’d love to hear them.

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Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

Two time-travel related stories have been making the rounds in the blogosphere this week. First, as Diana mentioned in a comment to a previous entry, Amal Dorai, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering is planning a Time Travel Convention for May 7 at 8 PM. Following the logic of the Cat and Girl comic, Dorai reasons that you would really only need one time-travel convention because time travelers could theoretically return to their home times and invite all of their friends, though Destination Day may give the MIT time-travel convention some competition (also check out the NPR interview with Dorai and his short bibliography on time travel).

Meanwhile, RedNova reports on a Black Box that has had some success in anticipating catastrophic events. According to scientists, including Princeton University emeritus researcher Dr. Roger Nelson, this black box anticipated the September 11 attacks by several hours and later repeated this uncanny sensitivity by anticipating the tsunami in December of last year. These researchers, who are part of the Global Consciousness Project, claim that the black box consistently experiences abnormal activity (I’m not going to try to re-explain the details) immediately before major global events. They theorize that if time flows backwards and forwards, “it might just be possible to foretell major world events. We would, in effect, be ‘remembering’ things that had taken place in our future.” The scientists clearly don’t anticipate that they’ll be able to produce a machine that can predict the future with any degree of certainty, though some hope that such a machine might allow people to tap into their psychic abilities.

Because I’m writing on time-travel film, I always find these stories fascinating even if I’m not sure (yet) how they’ll fit into the work that I’m doing (if they fit at all). I think that what I find so interesting about Durai’s Time-Travel Convention is his awareness that the Web may not exist in its current form in the distant future when time travel is invented (assuming that it ever is), hence his attempts to have the event mentioned in print media with notices in major newspapers and tucked into “obscure” books (does my dissertation count?).

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“Perception was Reality”

Scott Macauley’s Filmmaker Magazine interview with director Alex Gibney and journalist Bethany McLean underlines much of what I found so effective about Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, specifically the difficulty of explaining what Enron actually did before it collapsed into bankruptcy. In the interview McLean comments, “You can make an interesting analogy between Enron and the 1990s stock market, because in a lot of ways perception was reality. If you created a buzz and a feeling that the stock would go up, that became its only form of reality, its own form of validation.”

As I left the theater, one impression that I had was that Enron seemed to be one of the first great “historical” films about the 1990s, that it captured that Alan Greenspan New Economy vibe better than anything I could remember seeing (side note: at one point in the film, Greenspan is in fact shown receiving an award from Enron for his public service). This sense of smoke and mirrors is also something that Gibney and director of photography Maryse Alberti, with Gibney noting that Enron was very much “like a movie studio, like a propaganda machine.” This notion of a “movie studio” is made explicit in one scene that was trimmed from the final film, in which Enron created a “fake” trading room floor, with secretaries masqeurading as traders to fool analysts into believing the trading floor was already running.

Macauley also reads the film as timely in the current political moment, with deregulation and Social Security privatization (still) on the table. The interview is also interesting to get a sense of how Gibney departed from the material in the book and in terms of the sountrack choices (thanks to Green Cine for the link).

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