While the artist’s life may have driven everyone’s favorite eyebiter to go without HBO (a catastrophe if ever there was a catastrophe), the sometimes solitary life of a scholar-in-training has forced your 5th favorite correspondent/epistlist to spend long hours reading texts in languages he barely understands and shorter hours reading languages he doesn’t understand at all. Somewhere along the way he’s supposed to find time to think of research topics and research those topics. It is, sadly, no longer acceptable to write the paper synthesizing a couple of articles, or the paper explaining how one randomly selected type of literary criticism effects this less-randomly selected author (that these occasionally find their way to the salad should come as no surprise). But the worst part of graduate school is that I have increasingly less time to spend on things just for myself, and too often that means Salad posts have fallen by the wayside. Though my frequency might be faltering there are as of yet no plans to (again) abandon the site. Although, I must admit that it would be great to hear something from the readers. Let yourselves be known.

Otherwise, today’s topic is one of the stranger examples of an art/film. Recently we talked about Cory Arcangel’s nintendo experiments. The project that first drew me to Arcangel was his Whitney biennial piece, a Mario 3 cartridge hacked to only show the clouds while really awesome techno bump-bump-thumped around the room. One of the things that very much makes this piece “art” is its singularity. Arcangel hand hacked the Mario 3 cartridge to make it into something very much his own, and something new. Once more, we were the only ones capable of seeing it, and watched it within its own installation, its own exhibition space.

One of his follow-up projects was a Mario “short film.” Its initial conception was similar; it had a unique installation at a museum/gallery setting, and was a hand hacked cartridge. But in its afterlife, it’s found it’s way to youtube. I’m going to post part 1 within the post, and anyone who’s interested should go to youtube for the other parts.

The primary question is how has our viewing experience changed as a result of watching the movie on youtube rather than in a museum. There are a few obvious answers. 1) the piece is somehow less art-like. It no longer has the curatorial stamp, nor does it have the singularity or limitedness of art. 2) the craft element has disappeared. We’re no-longer impressed with the technical aspect of the movie, the ways in which Arcangel was able to graft new vessels into old wine. Instead, it resembles a computer program, something far more people are skilled to do. And 3) as a result, it becomes more of a movie. Though our main character is an 8-bit Mario, we expect more film-like things to happen. More movement, more progression. Arcangel presents an existentialist Mario, fine, but doesn’t necessarily explore that through any film-like interactions. Oddly, it seems to suffer because it carries itself with the pose of fine art, rather than the mixed popular-high art genre that is film.

It’s an interesting project nonetheless, and I’m interested in the opinions of others. Hopefully, notwithabang will give his thoughts from the gamer’s perspective.

Note: This post also appears on TheFuriousRomantic.com.

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There are a lot of good things about HBO’s new series In Treatment. I won’t be sharing my thoughts on any of them, however, because HBO has pissed me off.

Having watched the very first episode of In Treatment while visiting family (I cannot afford cable at home, a result of “the artist’s life”), and having enjoyed it enough to want to watch more of the show, I did some research when I got home and was surprised to find that HBO was offering the show online, for free, via an iTunes podcast. This seemed too good to be true, but I tried downloading the episodes from the podcast, and it worked, so I shrugged and decided to just not worry about it. This was a pleasant feeling, and I privately congratulated HBO on the marketing move. I was still convinced that something fishy was going on, but my naive prediction was that I would be allowed to watch the first season of the show online, in this manner, before then being cut off.

This prospect did not bother me. I understand that even when your total production budget has been dramatically reduced – due to the fact that you shoot 90% of your show in one room, and that the majority of your cinematography consists of filming two actors sitting across from one another, at only a few different camera angles and under the same lighting arrangement – that these things cost money.

So on my merry way to therapy I went, for approximately three weeks. Due to the different sort of format they use for the show (each week features five different original episodes, but I am not going to go into any more detail, because I’m pissed off) I was able to watch fifteen half hour episodes, online, for free. That’s seven and a half hours of free premium entertainment. More than just a taste, this represents several separate meals. They might have been good meals, too. Actually, I can’t remember. I’m pissed off. Read the rest of this entry »

There are few nights more anticlimactic than Oscar night, the night where we ignore the back and forth between Barry Obama and Hillary Clinton and celebrate the anti-democratic, unelected elite. It’s hardly surprising that in a time of recession and general economic malaise that we have decided to come together to share in life’s rich pageant and praise famous men and women. It’s just a shame that Letterman won’t be there. Without question, the best Oscar host of the last 15 years.

But since the Academy of Revisionist History Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will never admit their mistakes, there’s nothing to do except pick the losers of tonight’s festivities.

Best Actor: Viggo Mortenson, Eastern Promises; Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah; Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; George Clooney, Michael Clayton; and Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood.

In this the year of long titles (we haven’t even mentioned No Country for Old Men), the similarly long winded Daniel Day-Lewis is almost sure to win. The only thing that might hold Lewis back is the very real possibility that the Academy believes Day-Lewis to be on such higher level than any other actor that they don’t actually vote for him. I for one agree; he is so good that there should be a general category, “Best Performance by Daniel Day-Lewis,” but until such time, it’s unfair to hold it against him.

Best Actress: Ellen Page, Juno; Laura Linney, The Savages; Marian Cotillard, La Vie en Rose; Julie Christie, Away from Her; and Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: the Golden Age

This is a really tough category. I think that Ellen Page wins if everything’s coming up Juno–which I don’t see happening. I’d give the award to Blanchett, but I think she’ll win for supporting actress, and no-one has seen any of the other movies. My mind is telling me to pick Christie, but something is telling me to pick Laura Linney. It was something of a surprise nom, but then again, she’s a pro who has been at it for a while now and this may be here year to get recognized.

Best Supporting Actor: Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men; Philip Seymour-Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War; Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild; Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton.

Bardem. No contest…upset pick: Tom Wilkinson. Affleck may be the next big star, but this just isn’t his year.

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There; Ruby Dee, American Gangster; Saoirse Ronan, Atonement; Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone; Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

As I said a minute ago, I’m going with Blanchett since she’ll be recognized for both roles. That said, Amy Ryan has the best upset chance, followed by Tilda Swinton in the unlikely “Michael Clayton sweep scenario” wherein she, Wilkinson, Clooney, and the movie win.

Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood; Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly; Ivan Reitman, Juno; Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men; Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton

As goes the DGA, so goes the Oscar. This year that means Joel and Ethan Coen. A well deserving pair, if not necessarily for this movie.

And, lastly, Best Picture: Read the rest of this entry »

Is this the year for an all-Chicago slate?

With the Oscars just two weeks days away, it’s way past time to review the last remaining Best Picture nominees: Michael Clayton and Atonement. We’ll start today with Michael Clayton which, as the post title has already given away, is a surprisingly excellent film, a beautiful example of the way elements of different genres can be mixed together in order to create something new and exciting.

In Jacques Derrida’s playful yet obfuscating “The Law of Genre,” JD argues that genre cannot be transcended. last_action_poster.jpgA text, in trying to move outside of its genre, simply changes its definition. A novel that suddenly introduces a play, ala Moby Dick or Exit Ghost, is still a novel, even if the dramatic form appears to be incongruous with the prose of the novel. I bring this up for several reasons. The first is that many movies (and other pieces of literature) play with the “4th wall” and have characters acknowledge their fictionality (the best example of this is Funny Games, Michael Haneke’s magnum opus, whose English language remake is soon to be released. See our coverage of Haneke’s language games, here). Still, this does nothing to change the genre of film. Until such a time when we enter the world of Last Action Hero and moviegoers can enter the movie and film characters can come into our world, film will always remain a film. The other reason that I bring this up is because of this article in Slate, America’s premier online magazine. According to the Slate piece, Michael Clayton is only superficially a thriller. Though it mixes elements from the action genre (quick cuts, car chases, MURDER!) in order to heighten the tension, the movie best succeeds as an indictment of the legal realm. In their words:

beneath the expertly deployed suspense lies something more interesting: an indictment of the mercenary universe of white-shoe law firms and a devastating—and unusually accurate—look at the demoralized lives of the lawyers who work for them.

While Slate considers this the ole switcheroo (a surprising variation, according to Webster’s), I hold Michael Clayton’s admixture of genres to be one of its more interesting developments. Read the rest of this entry »

With Apologies

February 21, 2008

Crashing a Party One Drunken Eve

Whose brews these are I think I know
He’s stopped to use the bathroom though
He will not see me stealing beer
Or from his apartment me he’ll throw

The evening’s end is drawing near
And I, not drunk enough I fear
Yet drunk enough to eat that cake
Though it be made from hooves of deer

I’ll pretend I’m at a wake
Though me? Irish? I could not fake
Sometimes background is skin deep
What became of LP Mandrake?

The poem’s bad enough to weep
And I, sober, to bed will creep
On Thursday posts I hope to keep
On Thursday posts I hope to keep