The Importance of Being Younger Than Successful People

Lena Dunham

So, I’ve been watching HBO’s new series, Girls. I’m not particularly excited about it, I just find it OK. Maybe a little too hip for me, but it’s funny, witty and sick enough to get me hooked thanks to morbid and awkward situations.
Anyway, by the fourth episode I noticed that each one of them was directed by the same person: Lena Dunham. So I googled her and… THE HORROR. She’s the creator, the writer, the showrunner, the director, the leading actress. In short, she’s the HBO version of Tina Fey. But the real point is: she’s younger than me. Seriously, she was born in 1986 and I was born in 1985.
And here we go, existential crisis. A 25-year-old girl has her own HBO show… I can’t even afford to own a car, let  alone a house. Or a TV show. I don’t feel the same way about Tina Fey, because she’s in her forties and she makes me feel like I still have time to… grow (old, rich, talented, mature, lucky… Go pick one).
I had to find a solution to this new depression, so I read Lena’s wiki. Well, she happens to be the daughter of a famous New York photographer and a famous New York painter. Alright, I said to myself. Nevermind. I’m from a small town in the north of Italy and my parents are sort of blue-collar workers. Still, I won a scholarship and got into Berkeley for a year. Not bad.

But Lena Dunham is younger than me. Bummer.

Me, Myself and The Avengers

When I started this blog, I wanted it to be less personal as possible. Well, I know that when it comes to film I can get very personal, but I just wanted it to be a place where I could write and share my thoughts without being strictly academic (for those of you who haven’t realized it yet, I’m a film scholar). And where I could virtually meet people who wanted to do the same.

Last night I saw The Avengers (yes, Americans: it has been released in Italy one week before the States!!! Yay for Italian distribution! BTW, this doesn’t make up for all the other very disappointing cases). I obviously have to write something, not only because I’ve been waiting for this films for years, but above all because it is a great movie, definitely worthy. So here I am, in front of this blank page, thinking about the right and catchy way to start the post. But the only thing that comes to my mind right now, is very personal. So I have to give up my initial resolution.
Few days ago, one of the most important persons in my life suddenly passed away. It was a shock, and I literally couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days. I know that shit happens, but it hurts all the same: I’ve never experienced such a pain. Then, friends reminded me that The Avengers, the film we’ve been dreaming about since we were kids, was about to be released. Firstly, I decided not to go for the moment. But then I thought: this has to be overcome, somehow. So I resolved that going to see The Avengers could be a good start.
I was right. The Avengers did what film are meant for: it entertained me and it took me out of the real world for 140 minutes. It made me laugh and it made me enjoy time out of the bed. It just brought me back to life. The pain is still here and always will, I think. But at least I was reminded that there still can be good moments in life.
As for the movie itself… Yeah, that was freaking awesome! Joss Whedon perfectly managed a very complex multistrand narration, equally distributing time and space to all of the different leading characters. Leading characters who, actually, were also supporting one another.
Guys, hurry up and go see what entertainment is really about! 

The Running Man

I was thinking about Jack Bauer Kiefer Sutherland. Have you noticed? He’s actually not Kiefer anymore – he’s just… Jack Bauer. All the times. Take The Confession, the webseries streamed on Hulu. Sutherland plays a nameless killer, a hitman who murders in cold blood and then goes to a priest to confess his sins. Well, he’s just Jack Bauer gone completely bad. Not that Jack Bauer was a saint. Au contraire. That’s why the connection is easy.
Now, take Tim Kring’s new series, Touch. Kiefer plays a single father (Martin Bohm) who, after the death of his wife on 9/11, has to deal with a “weird” son. Given the kind of spiritual premise that we are all interconnected in this world, that little kid uses math and numbers to find these connections. It’s up to Martin, then, looking for the people whose life are destined to “touch”, to impact on each other in an unpredictable chain of events. Matin Bohn is no hero, he’s just an average man who finds himself stuck in an extraordinary situation. Yet, I keep on seeing Jack Bauer. Especially because he can spend an entire episode running from one place to another with a cell phone in his hand, not really sure where he’s going to end up to. But I also must admit that it hurts when people treat him bad or punch him and he doesn’t react like he should. C’mon Martin, we all know that there’s a little Jack Bauer in you! Anyway, this is not my point. My point is: Jack Bauer lives. No matter who Kiefer Sutherland is going to play: agent Bauer is one of the strongest characters in the history of TV. He’s an icon, he’s pop culture. And if you cast Kiefer Sutherland and make him run, talk to the cell phone and chase people… Well, you don’t need to put a gun in his hand and another terrorist threat in the world to remind us of the 24 world. That’s the power of very good shows and their franchise.

By the way, I really like Touch so far. I find it gripping and fascinating… Though I’m a little afraid of the Heroes‘ effect. I mean, Tim Kring is the creator and we all know how it ended up with Heroes: great first season, then just too much mess.
Let’s just wait, hope and see.

Quality Overdose?

So, HBO’s Luck has recently been cancelled. Despite high expectations, pedigree and promised quality.
Some say that the show was plagued by fightings between director Michael Mann and writer-producer David Milch, added to raging animal-rights groups which condemned the horses’ treatment (three of them reportedly died). That surely didn’t help, but the real point is that nobody watched the show – 500.000 is actually a number too small even for advertisement-free HBO.

I have to be honest: I tried to watch Luck, but I just couldn’t even get to the end of the pilot. I could say that nothing happened, but that’s not a good reason. Even in Mad Men nothing really happens… on the surface. In fact, I felt that the problem with Luck was that nothing lied beneath the absence of action. There was no promise of great things ahead and all I could see was a display of technical proficiency. That was all.
So I wonder: HBO is the flagship channel of Quality TV. What if what we have here is a case of Quality Overdose? I think that the Premium network has taken to extremes the features that made it popular.
A month ago, Ryan McGee wrote on online magazine AV Club: “The first three and a half hours of Luck are installments in the nine-hour story that is that show. Events happen, but they are shaped to the season first and the episode second. It’s one thing to have a goal toward which everything is progressing. But episodes need to have goals as well. It’s the difference between making people anticipate where the show is going, and making them wait for it.”. That’s right: I didn’t want to wait for it anymore. I was giving HBO a 50 minutes chance to entertain me and hook me. To make me desperately want to watch episode 2. Sorry to say that, but HBO failed.

You can’t ask entertainment to pay the price for “quality”.

Related articles:
Did The Soprano do More Harm Than Good? HBO and the Decline of the Episode, Ryan McGee
The Vulture Transcript: Michael Mann and David Milch Open Up About the Cancellation of Luck, Matt Zoller Seitz

This Article Is a Remix

“This is evolution. Copy, Transform and Combine”
This is how author-director Kirby Ferguson sums up his Theory of Creativity. In his four parts webseries, Everything is a Remix, he argues: “copying is how we learn. We can’t introduce anything new until we’re fluent in the language of our domain, and we do that through emulation”. In other words, to copy in order to create. To emulate in order to find your own originality. It’s always been done in the technological field, from James Watt to Steve Jobs. In the musical field, from Ray Charles to Bob Dylan (also, see this article about my Beloved Hero, Bruce Springsteen). In the cinematic field, from Walt Disney to Quentin Tarantino. Nothing new about that.
In the fourth part of the series, System Failure, Ferguson gets to real point: remix vs copyright laws. But let’s come back a little bit. US Founding Fathers conceived the  1870 Copyright  Act as an “act for the encouraging of learning”, and the Patent Act as a mean “to promote the progress of useful Arts”. In short, they wanted to patronize and foster creativity by granting inventors a certain profit; at the same time, they meant to produce a rich pool of public domain.
Now, here comes the Corporations, which gradually transformed public domain into exclusive domain through an abuse of the Copyright and Patent Act: these laws were born to protect creativity. Now, they only protect the ones that own that creativity: as I said, corporations. What’s the aim of these Acts now? To maximize corp. earnings, instead of creativity and public knowledge. 

At the end of the series, Ferguson calls for a renewed social awareness: We live in an age with daunting problems. We need the best ideas possible, we need them now, we need them to spread fast. The common good is a meme that was overwhelmed by intellectual property. It needs to spread again. If the meme prospers, our laws, our norms, our society, they all transform. That’s social evolution and it’s not up to governments or corporations or lawyers… it’s up to us”.

So, I already said what I think about it in here. The problem here is a market failure: society has already understood how digital era works and it’s therefore taking back its common goods. The problem, now, is that institutions need to understand it too. They need to copy, transform and combine in order to evolve.

PS: the Italian version of this article is available on Carnage News

Gone With The Wind (1939)

Straight to the point: this movie is almost 4 hours long, but I never get tired of it. Ok, I generally watch it once a year (maybe even less), but that doesn’t matter. Even Australia is that long, but I’ve only seen it once. Pearl Harbor as well, and the list could go on and on. The point is: I like to re-watch Gone With the Wind and every time I enjoy it like the first time. Yeah, it’s kind of racist. Yeah, Melanie is just unbearably corny. But it’s amazing how the movie makes you sit down and enjoy stereotypes. And just when you think you know it all, it surprises you thanks to Scarlett and Rhett. Well, mostly Scarlett, let’s be honest about that. It’s a 1939 film, so Vivien Leigh’s character is definitely unconventional, just like the relationship with Rhett, which does not include the canonical happy ending. You know they’re meant to be together, but they just can’t. Which, to be honest, it’s even worst than any stereotype the film makes us (when I say “us”, I mean “everyone”) enjoy: Scarlett and Rhett relationship make us (when I say “us”, I mean “women”) love bad guys even more. Make us enjoy complicated relationships. In other words, this definitely doesn’t improve an already messed up love life. Anyway, Gone With the Wind: old, yes. But it still kicks ass.