Friday, February 29, 2008

Rheinmetall/Victoria 8

On a recent trip to the MoMA4 I had the chance to see a variety of wonderful short film works (this has nothing to do with film in Minnesota, but I’m rolling with it). As anyone who reads the blog will know I find Jeremy Blake’s work very interesting and I had the chance to see Angel Dust in person, which is entrancing and odd, with it’s digital reproduction of futuristic ski lodge.

              This is snow flying.6

But the piece that really caught me was Rodney Graham’s “Rheinmetall/Victoria 8.” It’s really a very simple piece. It sits alone, in a room of it’s own. The film is of a German Rheinmetall typewriter, an obsolete machine. It is projected by a 1961 Victoria 8 projector, in it’s time considered to be “the Rolls Royce”1 of film projectors. The Victoria 8 is a loud hulking machine, the centerpiece of the room. The film takes in different angles of the Rheinmetall, showing in it’s entirety, then in jarring angles, revealing the inner workings of the machine, it’s subtleties, it’s precision. The room is set up in such a fashion that the Victoria is the center of attention in the room, but convention tells us that the true focus of the room should be the film, but the loud clacking and mass of the projector demand attention. Slowly snow begins to fall on the typewriter. Accumulating in odd place, piling and cascading over the edges. Coming to neat, fine point on the keys, leaving a dusting around the edges. The film oddly entrancing, it’s oddness demands an attention of it’s own. As the film progresses the dual demands for attention, and the inability to satisfy both needs births a sort of anxiety. There is a battle going on in the room. The two machines are at war with each other2. Mutually dependent3, yet at odds. Two obsolete machines, allowing each other to exist, and demanding exclusively. I don’t wish to go into the repercussions of this or anything else, just that one fact about the piece was really powerful; it was an odd sensation, the kind of disquieting anxiety and dissatisfaction that art should produce.

1I have no idea who said this, but I read it somewhere else, so I’m citing something that I have no idea the origins of. But I did it, I didn’t say, so I’m citing it, here.

2So to speak.

3Look at me.

4I have posted this on my other blog as well. Why?5

5 Because I felt like it. And it makes it look like I post more often than I do. No one reads this anyway.

6 in the film. Angel Dust.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Adapting McCarthy

On the heels of No Country for Old Men’s big sweep at the Oscars I thought I would take a moment to note the rising popularity of the McCarthy adaptation. What McCarthy adaptations you ask? There has only been All the Pretty Horses and No Country. But with the success of No Country for Old Men, and McCarthy Pulitzer this past year his novels have become production gold.

I’m slightly opposed to this trend, I’m a fan of McCarthy’s work, let’s skip objectivity, I’m a fan and don’t want to have these novels ruined, or worse yet, bastardized. The track record provides little insight into whether or not these adaptations can work. All the Pretty Horses (until recently) was his most commercially successful work, the Billy Bob Thorton movie adaptation was less than successful. No Country for Old Men was arguably one of his weakest novels; it tended towards a little bit more simplistic structure and never quite comes together the way, say, Blood Meridian or The Road ever do. Which, oddly, lent itself to a much better screen adaptation. The Coen Brothers found the heart of the novel, the impotence of Sheriff Bell, and used that as the focal point of the adaptation (thus the much debated final scene of the film).

But with two more adaptations in production it’s not clear that adapting two of his most successful novels will lend themselves to quality filmmaking. Both Blood Meridian and The Road are currently in the works and may not have the kind of strength and insight behind them that the Coens brought to No Country for Old Men.

McCarthy Pulitzer winning The Road is currently filming with director John Hillcoat at the wheel. Hillcoat’s most recent film, The Proposition, seems to be in a similar vein to the novels of McCarthy. He may be a well suited director for the project, and The Road may be the kind of novel that allows itself to be adapted into another Oscar worthy film. The novel is simple and sheds a typical narrative arch. In fact there isn’t really an arc it’s more like a sun-bleached plain with minor depressions. The film is going to star Viggo Mortensen, Guy Pearce, and Charlize Theron, which is a decent lineup for a dark moody novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic America.

What may be a much more difficult task is Ridley Scott’s pending adaptation of Blood Meridian. Blood Meridian may be a novel on par with Tristram Shandy, as a nearly unfilmable work of fiction. So much takes place in Blood Meridian, vast internal worlds, horrible massacres, betrayal, unparalleled violence. It is an economical novel; every scene feels important and trimmed of the fat. Much like No Country for Old Men it isn’t always about what is happening in front of your eyes, but what is being left out, about what isn’t yet being said. The major obstacle here may be Ridley Scott. A quality filmmaker, yes, but his filmography does not say much for subtle films. Scott’s films tend towards the overblown epic, the glorious sweeping stories that tell of great heroes and underdogs, in a word, Hollywood. Scott has made some great films in his career, but the subtlety, which this novel needs in adaptation, may not be within his realm. William Monahan will be actually penning the adaptation. He, as well, doesn’t not have a history of subtle screenplays. His screenplays for Kingdom of Heaven and The Departed were both well-written scripts, but an adaptation of a modern American classic may not be as successful (as he works simultaneously on the screenplays for both Blood Meridian and Jurassic Park IV). Even the adaptation of The Departed from Infernal Affairs lacked a sense of subtlety or the notion that he had found the heart of the story. It is a great adaptation, but so much of it is directly lifted from Andrew Lau’s Infernal Affairs that there isn’t a whole lot of adapting going on. Even with the nearly one to one adapting scheme used for The Departed he seems to miss the heart of Infernal Affairs and creates a new thematic trajectory for The Departed that did not exist in Infernal Affairs.

Adapting a film from a novel is a common practice, and a dangerous one. More often than not it leads to arguments over how well it was adapted or which form the story is better suited for. And adapting a great American author like Cormac McCarthy can be even more dangerous, yet it can be done. The Coen Brothers proved that it is possible to truly find the heart of a story and evade such esoteric arguments, allowing the novel and the film to coexist, to even become interdependent or lend a helping hand in analysis. But the Hollywood’s rush to adapt McCarthy’s great novels is reminiscent of the constant fads that take over the studios, be it comic book films and superheroes, apocalyptic epics, or McCarthy novels, a saturation of a certain kind of film can be a negative thing in theaters, especially when you’re toying with a novelist of McCarthy’s stature.


I've been writing for Rift Magazine for about a month or so now, but I just wanted to plug what they are doing over there. they are one of the only outlets left in Minneapolis that is really trying to cover the local music scene, keeping up to date, and trying to be all inclusive of the music that is going on in town. that said Rift wants to get back into print, the website is great, but they are looking to do both again and are looking for writers and financial support, so go check them out, save local art, hero.

Monday, February 25, 2008

El Diablo

David Doody did a great short piece on the phenomenon of Diablo Cody, and her win last night at the Oscars. go look at it on his blog.

Friday, February 22, 2008

InDigest Issue 4

Hello everyone, just the obligatory note that InDigest Issue 4 is up. It has poetry from Ingrid Chung & Rebecca Porte, art from Travis Lindquist, new Bedside Stacks and a new Dorkolopogous. There will be more of Issue 4 posted soon with new fiction, a brand new column, and an interview with director Robert Stone.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

So I've obviously already voiced my opinion on the primaries, but I thought I'd pretend to be unbiased (and fail), I just can't help but wonder why Hillary Clinton continues to bury herself in cow shit. She's really grasping at straws trying to smear Obama subtly. The whole plagiarism deal, now calling him "change you can xerox." I think she is just making herself look ridiculous and making him look good every time he rises above it. No doubt she's got very intelligent people working on her campaign, but why can't they see how awful she looks every time that she does this, it's not like they've seen any success from this strategy, she just keeps sinking ungracefully. She maybe try something new, or try using the slogan "Don't change horses in midstream" everyone always loves that one for some reason.

Also doesn't she bare an odd resemblance to Christopher Walken at times? It's kind of creepy. Not that that should make you decide to not vote for her...but it makes you wonder...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

this is me tonight

I wanted to write a new poem on the subway in New York

But then I didn't.

But when I was home I wanted to write a poem called "Willy's Four Alarm Chili"

but there is nothing to write,

but I wrote this,
nothing having to do with food should end in an alarm

but it doesn't end in alarm, it ends in chili

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sometimes I forget how awesome Walt Whitman is...

"Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves....bloody
corpses of young men:
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily....the bullets of
princes are flying....the creatures of power laugh aloud,
And all these things bear fruits....and they are good.

Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets...those hearts
pierced by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they elsewhere with
unslaughter'd vitality.

They live in other young men, O kings,
They live in brothers, again ready to defy you:
They were purified by death....they were taught and exalted.

Not a grave of the murdered for freedom but grows
seed for its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and
the snows nourish.

Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose.
But it stalks invisibly over the earth..whispering
counseling cautioning.

Liberty let others despair of you....I never despair of you.

Is the house shut? Is the master away?
Nevertheless be not weary of watching.
He will soon return....his messengers come anon."

from [Europe: The 72D and 73D Years of These States]

It's too easy to blow of poetry that seems classical and removed from your own time. It often seems (and is) stale and outdated, exercises, now, in nothing more than form and history. Equally, I believe, it can be too easy to accept all that is classic and canonized, and to not be willing to reject the canon for the bullshit it is. But Whitman, Whitman, I want to blow it off and then I return to it on a morning like today and I'm just taken aback. It still feels fresh (even if the form and language can be archaic at times). I had a moment with Whitman this morning, not like a Whitman/Wilde moment, but a moment nonetheless.

Reading: (besides Whitman) Millard Kaufman - Bowl of Cherries
Watching: I Live in Fear - Akira Kurosawa
Listening to: Happy Apple - Peace Between Our Companies

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Primaries - right now.

For all US readers I have to put in a short plug for the primaries/caucuses tonight. Get out and vote tonight. I hope lots of you are voting for Obama (like I am) but it doesn't matter go vote, it's a close race in a primary for the first time in a long while. I know "change" is the key buzz word this year, but really, it's time for a new America that cares about the middle class and the rest f the world. No more policing the world. No more trickle down economics, so that the majority of people are left with the blunt end of recession. That's all, no trying to persuade anyone, just go vote.

Vote Obama. Or just vote. But vote Obama

Monday, February 4, 2008

Good Reads and Lech

I don't believe I ever posted this before, so it's long overdue, and most of you already know this, but I do what I want. A good friend of mine (Lech Harris) recently had two new pieces of short fiction published on InDigest. So if you want to read some good stories you should read Lech's stuff here.

Also I just finally got onto GoodReads. So if you are on good reads you should let me know, I love the site already, fairly useless, but that's my bag of tricks.

Oh yeah and there is a new interview on InDigest, Charles Green interviews filmmaker Valarie Kaur about her film Divided We Fall. It's good stuff.
Reading: Outlaws, Blobs and Other Things
Listening to: Howard Shore's Eastern Promises Soundtrack
Watching: The King of Kong (ridiculous, now I have to go to an arcade and play Centipede)