How To Write A Lame Weekend, WaPo Trend Non-Piece:
The first big film of the year was about a monster who tramples a group of friends as they stagger through New York, which is on fire. Skyscrapers explode. The monster unleashes spawn that scamper through the subway, infecting survivors with an Ebola-like illness.
"Cloverfield" is 85 minutes of efficient grimness. Morgan Freeman does not offer comforting narration, as he did at the end of “War of the Worlds” three years ago. “For neither do men live nor die in vain,” Freeman soothes in that Steven Spielberg remake. Amid the ashes: Affirmation!
Not this year. The message from Hollywood increasingly seems to be — to glibify it to a tag line — bleak is chic. Hopeless is hot.
Cormac McCarthy. For last year’s No Country for Old Men and next year(?)’s The Road adaptations.
Borrowed quotes from interviews with EMMANUEL LEVY: “This was definitely going to be a genre piece,” “Cloverfield” producer Bryan Burk told critic Emanuel Levy in an interview, “but we really wanted it to be about the people going through this experience, to make it an emotional movie.”
And this one: “Yeah, it is grim,” acknowledged “Dark Knight” director Christopher Nolan in Newsweek. “But Batman is a grim character. It’s a grim world. And that’s part of the fun of it — it’s operatic. It’s exciting.”
And…”movie industry columnist David Poland” gives a quote!
Finally, a shitty kicker:
Miserablism. That’s the word. It’s artful. It’s attractive. And perhaps that’s the key to the chic of bleak. Why else do we click through photo galleries of shell-shocked stock traders, and California wildfires, and the latest unrests from abroad? Why else do studios cheerlead Oscar campaigns for titles as darkly blunt as “Doubt”? There’s something majestic about watching the suffering of people (especially when portrayed by great actors). And there’s something self-satisfying about sitting through a movie, however bleak, and enduring it, and declaring it beautiful and important.
In Which Clive Thompson Cherry Picks from A Wired Feature
At first, it seemed some geeked-out supercoder was going to make an easy million.
In October 2006, Netflix announced it would give a cool seven figures to whoever created a movie-recommending algorithm 10 percent better than its own. Within two weeks, the DVD rental company had received 169 submissions, including three that were slightly superior to Cinematch, Netflix’s recommendation software. After a month, more than a thousand programs had been entered, and the top scorers were almost halfway to the goal.
His name is Gavin Potter. He’s a 48-year-old Englishman, a retired management consultant with an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s in operations research. He has worked for Shell, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and IBM. In 2006, he left his job at IBM to explore the idea of starting a PhD in machine learning, a field in which he has no formal training. When he read about the Netflix Prize, he decided to give it a shot — what better way to find out just how serious about the topic he really was?
-Jordan Ellenberg: “This Psychologist Might Outsmart the Math Brains Competing for the Netflix Prize,” 2/25/08, Wired.
THE “NAPOLEON DYNAMITE” problem is driving Len Bertoni crazy. Bertoni is a 51-year-old “semiretired” computer scientist who lives an hour outside Pittsburgh. In the spring of 2007, his sister-in-law e-mailed him an intriguing bit of news: Netflix, the Web-based DVD-rental company, was holding a contest to try to improve Cinematch, its “recommendation engine.” The prize: $1 million.
As Gavin Potter, a Netflix Prize competitor who lives in Britain and is currently in ninth place, pointed out to me, a computerized recommendation system seeks to find the common threads in millions of people’s recommendations, so it inherently avoids extremes. Video-store clerks, on the other hand, are influenced by their own idiosyncrasies. Even if they’re considering your taste to make a suitable recommendation, they can’t help relying on their own sense of what’s good and bad. They’ll make more mistakes than the Netflix computers — but they’re also more likely to have flashes of inspiration, like pointing you to “Napoleon Dynamite” at just the right moment.
-Clive Thompson: “If You Like This, You’re Sure to Love That—Winning the Netflix Prize,” 11/21/08, NYT.
It’s love at first look instead of first bite in “Twilight,” a deeply sincere, outright goofy vampire romance for the hot-not-to-trot abstinence set. Based on the foundational book in Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling multivolume series, “The Twilight Saga” (four doorstops and counting), this carefully faithful adaptation traces the sighs and whispers, the shy glances and furious glares of two unlikely teenage lovers who fall into each other’s pale, pale arms amid swirling hormones, raging instincts, high school dramas and oh-so-confusing feelings, like, OMG he’s SO HOT!! Does he like ME?? Will he KILL me??? I don’t CARE!!! :)
How To Be TONY's Comedy Editor: Suck (up) for Pity Party Quotes
That can’t be; I don’t waste space on negative reviews. It’s not ’cause they’re bad reviews. A bad review can be good—when it has some humanity to it. And when it has an engagement of what is being criticized. But I find some of the reviewers are really, really snide. I’ve been excoriated in your magazine many times—and I don’t hold that against them. But I find that overall—you can go on record with this—theater and movies are both extra mean. You know, the more you know about something, the more you know how hard it is to do something well. I agree. I’m from the school of thought that in the old days critics used to get slapped in the face with gloves. People use to duel with critics. And you know what? I understand it. Because you can say whatever you want and there’s no repercussion. You can be critical but you don’t have to be snide. Again, I agree. So yeah, I cancelled my subscription. I don’t like your magazine. Especially the Italian guy. Mike something or other. Mike D’Angelo? Yeah—Mike D’Angelo, that was the guy. That was years ago! Dude, he’s been gone for years; there’s a reason why. Really? Yes. Come back to us, John! We want you. Okay, I’ll tell you what: I’ll buy the next issue.
Because if John “I have to cameo in Transformers" Turturro’s feelings are hurt, then those few dozen TONY freelancers will NEVER see their overdue checks. Or, you know, you could just have a completely frivleous title at a dying glossy weekly and snipe at someone who used to work there. Either/or really.
“John Lichman, so far the only Web job position you have found is the one Life has landed you … arms and legs akimbo adhered to the ugly web of unemployment staring into the hungry segmented eyes of desperation as it approaches you like a giant Black Widow. Before it devours you, lets just hope you at least get sex out of it before the ingesting … aren’t those critters are known for that?”—
Because I've been on a Mountain Goats and Aesop Rock kick for the last few nights.
Seriously: “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” would be an awesome short film.
If only to give kids the excuse to run around with paper machete squid masks and stencils. It could benefit you if you were an art teacher at a public school, since it’d be a fun and easy task. And you could lie to the kids too! Tell them it’s for Squid Day.
And when they ask, “When is Squid Day?”
Laugh manically, take out a knife and bellow, “Today is the day! The return of Lord C’thulu! Cthulhu fhtagn! Cthulhu fhtagn!”
“Person: How would you define a browser?
Me: Uh…a web browser?
Me: In what way?
Person: Imagine someone doesn’t know what a browser is. How would you explain it to them?
Me: …no offense, but I think a web browser speaks for itself. I’m not sure how I’d need to explain what it does.
Person: Mm. Yes. Mmm.”—
Quiz! Is this the lede to a story on a porn star or start of a very poor short story?
SHE IS YOUNG, 21, smokes Parliament Lights, and inhales deep with every drag before blowing out, visibly young — her pale skin soft, real, not manipulated. Her features are unmarked. No makeup that you can identify. No tattoos. Holes from ear piercings, but they’re unfilled. She beams with energy at every exchange and inquest, with every word. You wonder. You ask question upon question. You want to know more. And she tells you. Without hesitation. Everything on her mind. Forcefully. Streaming. Louder than you expect. More dynamic. Inflected. Strong. Kinetic.
Can 15 Years of Imaginary Training Be Put to Good Use? Aw Hell Naw!
Steven Spielberg and Will Smith are in early discussions to collaborate on a remake of Chan Wook-park’s “Oldboy.” DreamWorks is in the process of securing the remake rights, and the new pic will be distributed by Universal.