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.

Hugo Cabret (2011)

Yeah, I do reckon that this post comes a little late. But you know… Italian releases and my dissertation are not helping me out on this one. Anyway, Hugo Cabret has finally come out in here too and I’ve also finished writing my grad thesis, so I’m ready to come back to my blog-life. And yep, I’ve been missing you all, guys!

I saw Hugo Cabret on Valentine’s Day and I must say the timing was perfect. I mean, I spent the night of Love’s Day (which I usually despise, but that’s another story) with Martin Scorsese. I spent the night of Love’s Day with George Méliès. I spent the night of Love’s Day with a little boy who, just like me, is absolutely crazy about movies. Summing it up: I spent the night of Love’s Day with my Love for cinema.
Surely it’s not a flawless film – a little too long, sometimes even to sappy, editing not as perfect as you expect from a Scorsese movie – but overall, I enjoyed it. I felt like a little kid watching The Magic happening on the screen. Yeah, I did feel like Hugo so, dear Mr. Scorsese, mission accomplished: through that kid you perfectly represented all of us film-lovers. You perfectly represented yourself. By the way: not only this movie made me appreciate Valentine’s Day (at least for a little more than a couple of hours), it also made appreciate 3D. It was actually kind of painful because I forgot to wear lenses so I had to wear two pairs of glasses for 137 minutes. But that’s just me to blame. So, do you know why I enjoyed it, nevertheless? Because the film was made for 3D. Apart from the technical perfection, I felt like Mr. Scorsese made us put on our supercool and super-21st century 3D glasses in order to watch the 1930s viewers on the screen watching us back. And, as we viewers watch each other, we feel like two reflections of a mirror. As if to say that, you know, love for films is transcendent, no matter where and when you live.

That’s why Hugo Cabret is a great love movie.

Beware: Copyrighted Material

“Even the good become pirates in a world where the rules seem absurd”
(Lawrence Lessig, Remix

I think you all know about PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) and SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) by now. In case you don’t, Wikipedia’s links will do the job. The acts’ approval has been postponed due to the widespread protests and boycotts, but the issue is far from being over. So… what do I think about online piracy?
First of all, let’s define piracy.

– Someone enters a theatre and starts recording the movie with his/her camera. Than He/she posts it online or makes DVD and sells the copies.
– Someone edits an homemade video of his/her holidays adding a legally bought Prince song (not a random reference, see the Lenz v. Universal Case) as soundtrack. Then he/she posts it online.
Well, these are very different cases. Yet, according to lawmakers and copyright supporters, these two people are both perceived as criminals.
So, firstly: the crime of piracy lacks a real definition. And before acting on penalties and consequences, I think it’s essential to define WHAT really arms society copyright owners. Secondly: I think it’s totally wrong to apply “real world” rules and common beliefs to “virtual world”. And I’m saying this because PIPA and SOPA supporters have made a major case out of it (see here). We live in a digital era that requires new points of view about matters as copyright and intellectual property. We live in a world where technology actually ALLOWS copies. The possibility to copy is now an intrinsic feature of all texts and works of art (just to paraphrase Walter Benjamin). And here we go: the market enters the game.
A few days ago I found this article by Tim O’Reilly that explain what I think better than I’d actually do. Summing it up: piracy is the result of a market failure (“the unwillingness or inability of existing companies to provide their product at a price or in a manner that potential customers want”). Traditional companies were so busy fighting online “pirates” that they retarded  the growth of new business models more suitable for the digital era. Who won? Not pirates. But new services as Amazon, iTunes, Netflix. So “The solution to piracy must be a market solution, not a government intervention, especially not one as ill-targeted as SOPA and PIPA. We already have laws that prohibit unauthorized resale of copyrighted material, and forward-looking content providers are developing products, business models, pricing, and channels that can and will eventually drive pirates out of business by making content readily available at a price consumers want to pay, and that ends up growing the market”

That’s pretty much all, folks.
And now: what do you guys think about it? 

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilley,  Ezra Miller

Kids can really be scary and disturbing. Take Joshua, for instance: he’s a little wicked demon cast inside a seemingly normal family. And there’s nothing more threatening than normal things turning out to be the opposite. But, you now, you take movies like Joshua just for what they are: thrillers/horrors. For thought they may be creepy and disturbing, you see their cinematic and fictional effects. You see the plot.

Then there are other movies, like We Need to Talk About Kevin. In short, and in IMDB’s words: “The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief – and feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions.”
The story is entirely told through her memories and perspective.  As she tries to start a new life, metaphorically cleaning up the new house, she scratches the surface not only of those walls, but also of her memories’ walls. Through her flashbacks we gradually find out what really happened and, above all, like her we strive to understand why and how.
Kevin is clearly a disturbed child, right from the beginning. She knows that something is wrong with him. We know too. Her husband, instead, doesn’t notice and that makes her feel like an unfit mother – also because that little ass wants her to feel like that. So she’s deeply conflicted about the evil that she sees in her son and the natural love of  a mother. She knows, but she doesn’t really act. And that makes you wonder, at the end, whether things could have gone differently if she had said to her husband: “We need to talk about Kevin”.
In many ways, Kevin’s character is as disturbing as Joshua’s. But, as I said, this is a quite different movie. Though it’s not a true story (it’s an adaptation of 2003 Lionel Shiver’s novel), it conveys that precise feeling. The way is told, through rough and uneven memories, makes it so real. Like reading a diary. Or looking inside someone’s mind. Plus, it totally engages the viewers: as we embrace the mother’s perspective, we perfectly understand what she feels. And, like her, we start to feel guilty as well. We start to look for reasons and someone to blame but, in the end, it all comes back to Kevin himself. Who is just innately evil.
A painful drama, a gripping psychological thriller, a great movie.

“It’s like this: you wake and watch TV, get in your car and listen to the radio you go to your little jobs or little school, but you don’t hear about that on the 6 o’clock news, why? ‘Cause nothing is really happening, and you go home and watch some more TV and maybe it’s a fun night and you go out and watch a movie. I mean it’s got so bad that half the people on TV, inside the TV, they’re watching TV. What are these people watching, people like me?”