It is the ruin of all that is good and fair in this world.

Not [H.H]. That’s not causing anyone any trouble, except me.

But the VERY IDEA that you shoot a film at 48 frames per second! Peter Jackson shoots a film at double speed, film critics outdo themselves in hysterical stupid.

After a while my eyes adjusted, as to a new pair of glasses, but it was still like watching a very expensively mounted live TV show on the world’s largest home TV screen.

Says it all really. Making a film twice as clear turns it into … television.

The unintended side effect is that the extra visual detail gives the entire film a sickly sheen of fakeness… I was reminded of the BBC’s 1988 production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and not in a good way.

Television!! How lower class!!

For people shots and pans, the smoother motion of 50 fps looks more like … newer TVs to us, although we find it to be less noticeable on action shots.

… but when actors, costumes and sets appeared the clarity made every pore and flaw visible, breaking the spell of the film

 

OMG Television!!! Even worse it’s like one of those horrible Computer Games that young people seem to like!

It’s not … FILMIC!

valium_mm__47393

One day I hope to take ‘filmic’ and bury it alive under a slab of concrete, along with its addiction to blur as the answer every problem. Blur is the Valium of ‘film’, the scratchy grain, the losses of optical printing, the blur of shallow focus, the juddering pans that 24fps has offered for the last 100 or so years. All of this keeps the image soft, and politely out of our personal space.

Of course when you run out of Valium or Heroin or whatever your fancy, the world is harsh and bright and terribly in focus. Horrible nasty real world, not abstracted by analogue media – the rumble of the turntable, the hiss of tape – ready to provide a meta level where the story can be kept at a distance.

In 2012 there are still people who want to keep it blurry and grainy so that they aren’t confronted by pores and hairs and all that nasty reality. The Dogme movement was one attempt at blowing that out of the water – too rough and ready and Jackson is better equipped to strip off the bunny rug.

Of course this is also political. Never mind that television has been for quite some time the equal and in some cases the better of the cinema. That video cameras have been used for ‘film’ for about a decade. ‘Film’ is pulling rank, which is all it has left really. The smart directors like Jackson are crossing boundaries and forging a hybrid where the size of screen will no longer be compartmentalised.

Trolling, epilepsy, halloween.

This blog started when a BBS collapsed under trolling – trolling so horribly lame that I realised my community thought ‘post pictures of your desktop’ was astounding wit. Widening the audience to village idiots was doing no favours to anyone except the idiots so I closed it down. We’d always termed the BBS an experiment and the first post on this blog presented the findings: there was blame on all sides. There was a power imbalance implicit in the BBS which could not be smoothed over.

Here we are in 2012 and the newspapers are howling about flames on Twitter. Celebrities are horrified that their narcissistic streams of minutiae are being interrupted by foul and violent voices. Should have read my findings, creeps. If I failed to make my online home a home for everyone, Twitter disposes of even that gesture. Twitter accelerates the power imbalance between the haves (recognised, respected) and have nots (ignored, spoken at) in the worst possible manner because it cuts out online equivalents of body language. The word limit discourages seemingly unimportant verbiage that carries the subtext. Everyone who is upset about Twitter needs to see it as reaping exactly what it set out to sow: CB Radio without the tone of voice. And CB Radio was really really bad.

When you make no attempt at conversation – when you have ‘followers’, when there is no junk language (which like junk genetic code is anything but) – the violence of the repressed reply might be upsetting. Twitter is a manifestation of celebrity – and celebrity is a cancer fed by endless appeals to be known and liked as means to sell products. While I feel sorry for the poor fish being hauled out of the ocean, I also feel sorry for the poor human cattle being syphoned of their empathy.

(At this point some journalist will throw up ‘Arab Spring’ as the great power of Twit. This is sad because it means you think Twitter was more important than the complex conversations individuals were having face to face. Hey look at that thing drooping off your head – it’s called a body.)

Thousands of screaming faces

So I dusted off the Playstation3 and turned it on to ensure it will be ready for Our Special Announcement on October 31st. Poor thing only gets used when there’s a video to be replayed, and must feel entirely unloved for months on end. It updated the system and all kinds of new things appeared on the control panel. There’s a whole bunch of video channels and TV stations, one of which plays Cindy Lauper videos back to back, so quality stuff.

Anyway, there is now MUBI. MUBI is on the internet so you can have a look for yourself, it’s a kind of Netflix for film ‘buffs’. You can pay to stream films that you would otherwise not see and then tell your friends how cultured you are ’cause you’ve seen some obscure movie they might not have heard of. Maybe I’m being a little hard.

So on the website if you click on Discover you get a list of films they have in the database (sadly most not available to view). On the web it’s OK… on the PS3 they are shown as an infinite set of tiles like this:

This is a bad idea. When you have brain problems, a BAD IDEA. Because I am looking at a big screen and I see a person in front of a backdrop and another person in front of another backdrop and ANOTHER person in front of ANOTHER backdrop and ANOTHER PERSON IN FRONT OF ANOTHER BACKDROP AND THERE ARE TWELVE THOUSAND MORE PEOPLE IN FRONT OF MORE BACKDROPS AND MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP

and we’re off…

… every one of these films is just some person against their damn backdrop and superimposed they’re a jiggling coloured ants nest and it’s intensely irritating… and I think how much I have come to hate film narratives because of the existence of this endless army of face and field. The MUBI pictures distil that irritation and amplify it 12,000x …

ending with the usual searing migraine. I still can’t look at that interface without pain.

Since then my Huxley-like ‘realisation’ has dissipated – I don’t actually hate narratives (hating Werner Herzog is impossible) – but this endless film after film after film with protagonist, antagonist, three acts, turning points on page 60 etc. etc. – when you see it tiled as 12,000 faces and backdrops it causes nausea. While the hero’s journey is satisfying to the human spirit – surely we can aspire to move on to something else.

Hugo this way I’ll go that way.

I wrote several thousand words on Hugo and the evils of retrospective editing of a real man’s life. No one should be forced to read that but by God it made me feel better to rage it out. I will now give you the essential crib notes:

Fuck you Scorsese for allowing the life of Melies to be drowned in infantile revisionism. You should know better. You took a children’s book, lit it orange on one side and blue on the other and threw some Film 101 into the pot. A lot of what you concealed is the dirty history of film. We have our own trains pulling into our own stations: we don’t need your old magic tricks, we have too many of those. What we need is the grey reality of greed and folly that you want to gloss over. Film is not a family. Film is a pack of hyena.

Show us Melies signing the deal with Pathe that lost him his house. Show us his brother churning out shitty westerns for that brute Edison. Show us how film society dribbled money to him when he was running the toy store. Show us the reality. SHOW THE TRUTH. Then talk to us about ‘your love of film’.

Hugo is just another shiny robot movie. The recreations of the early cinema are wonderful, but then, shiny robot.

That over too many pages.

I have finally released the 25th Anniversary remaster of Come Visit The Big Bigot on BandCamp. I had been holding off for a release on CD – 25 years was 2011, but I think that release may now not happen. If you’ve been following you know why. It’s free to listen and Strange Brew is free to download.

Related – I am nearly all gone from YouTube. You will find me at Vimeo. Just use the ‘Videos’ menu at the top of the page to see what’s there. YouTube is really not the place for me – when 100,000 people watch my video by accident, do you call that a successful communication?

What to do with “Australian Film”?

Have you ever owned a pet that uncontrollably shits everywhere? It’s usually a cat but probably ferrets and turtles are just as bad. You love the little blighter to death but it would be really great if you could somehow CORK IT UP. Meanwhile you get pretty good with paper towels.

This is the Australian Film Industry. Love the poor little furry thing but Jesus will it stop shitting things out?

Recently three more films plopped onto screens around this great nation, slid down onto the floor and were mopped up with very few people even noticing. Much discussion ensues about where the funding went (and I must say that the 7 million bucks pissed away on A Heartbeat Away is a sackable offence) but all of this really misses the point.

Let’s start with two phrases, and see how they resonate with you:

A Good Film.      A Good Australian Film.

Note how the second phrase seems to pull the punch. This is a Good Film, but it’s Australian. Seeing as all you really wanted was the Good, the second descriptor can only be a qualification. The only people that would really care about Australian are Screen Australia, because Screen by itself doesn’t collect much glory.

And, really why does the federal government fund films? Well, we have a grudge. Our first film studio opened in 1897, a division of the Salvation Army. They produced the first long format film / mixed media presentation in 1899 called Soldiers of the Cross. We made the first feature film The Story Of The Kelly Gang in 1906. Australian film production was bigger than that of the UK and the USA up until 1912 when some idiot banned bush ranger (basically cowboy) films and the distributors signed a deal with theatres to import cheap American films.

Australia does two things (a) come up with ideas well before other countries and then (b) totally fuck it up. As you play audio samples on your mobile phone marvel at two things that came out this country – samplers and WiFi. That the CSIRO won back the rights to WiFi is unusual, that Fairlight created a giant white elephant that was quickly nibbled away is typical. (And have you seen the Fairlight CMI app for the iPhone? They want 12 bucks for the DEMO, the full thing is 40 dollars.  GarageBand is 5 bucks. Fairlight will not learn).

The current paradigm came about  when John Gorton become prime minister in 1968. Some facts about Gorton: He went to school with Errol Flynn, who probably used the Inception device on him given later events. In second war he was a fighter pilot, and losing a dogfight landed pretty much face first. It would be two years before he would get hospital treatment which was two years too late – he was the first guinea pig to run a country. He became PM on the machinations that followed the disappearance of Harold Holt who it was said was captured by a Chinese submarine, but I suspect Errol Flynn. Initially slightly to the right of Genghis Khan, he mellowed rapidly and went on a mad spending spree for the arts, starting up AFTRS, the Australia Council, and the Australian Film Development Corporation. He would in 1973 sponsor the law decriminalising homosexuality in this country. Good for him.

(I met John Gorton and his wife. The meeting was photographed by a newspaper. When it was published they had mysteriously replaced myself and wife with some other couple. Again I blame Errol Flynn).

Once the government started to fund films there was a gold rush of what are now called Ozploitation films, which over some time honed into our golden age of pan flutes, little girls in slow motion and Mel Gibson. Australian films were for a while pretty cool, but that was a while back and the people that made it happen have all gone overseas where you can get a reasonable budget. Leaving a large hole that just never seems to heal.

I am the doctor.

First, geography is no longer of any importance when one of the largest nations on earth is FaceBook. Australia is just another suburb within flying distance of the main shopping mall, hardly exotic. Nationhood is quaint. Every time somebody starts a project dependent on nation, they are polluting art with politics. The word ‘Australian’ should no longer appear before ‘film’.

Secondly, somebody should go around to AFTRS with a broom and sweep out the 1970’s. AFTRS is a training ground for cavalry officers – who ride off gallantly on their shining white horses straight into machine gun fire like the French at the start of world war one – but played on an endless loop. Film school is a kind of military training that has not adapted to guerilla warfare. The guerillas are winning.

Thirdly, ‘film’ itself is a questionable means of story telling bolstered by a wall of spurious and pretentious pseudo-science. That somebody somewhere is still lecturing about the filmic ideas of Lacan is as horrifying as the call to enforce creationism in science classes. ‘Film’ is a vain attempt to insulate against the hordes that happily make their own moving pictures and upload them to the web – 35 hours a minute. ‘Film’ despises the hordes at the same time pretending to entertain them. The neuroticism of this relationship is all on the side of film makers, the hordes don’t give a fuck.

Fourthly, if you only have enough ideas for a short and only enough money for a short then make a short. That goes for a whole nation as much as an individual. Look how our animated short films are world class. Do that.

‘Film’ started with the cinematograph. It was ended by the DV camera.

COMMENT ON ‘WHAT TO DO WITH AN AUSTRALIAN FILM?’
As always you make me laugh out loud Uncle Tom. And laughter leads to thinking and thinking leads to commenting…

Alas, I am dismayed at the post i want to comment on has its comment fields disabled..? Thus Im am commenting here as a by proxy way of commenting  on the previous post entitled “What to do with an Australian Film” (hopeful that you may paste it over to its correctly associated post)
I too am frustrated with Australian Film and indeed my frustration is on many levels;
– the word FILM itself
– The idea that feature films are top of an arbitrary hierarchy
– that in the age of netflicks we should even think box office numbers relevant.
– that Australia is still obsessed with ‘quirky Aussiness and ‘telling our stories’
– that we insist on making $10 million films when the best you can hope for at the Aussie feature in Australian is 2million (and that assumes its done well)
BUT… where I have to call you a point is your assertions about AFTRS.
You say “somebody should go around to AFTRS with a broom and sweep out the 1970′s.” You’re not the first to say it and indeed when i was at the national screenwriters conference back in feb I coped a public whacking from playwright David Williamson who seemed to think AFTRS and its focus on Auteur Directors was the primary problem with Australian Screenplays being so bad. (if nothing else I think DW greatly over estimates the influence of AFTRS) But… my main response is to suggest that the broom has indeed already gone through and the AFTRS you refer to is, in fact, no more.
Now, of course I do work at AFTRS and my federally funded welfare payments to do so, ensure that i must defend the place. But I think I can respond with some evidence not conjecture that the old auteur feature film centric cavalry-charging artiste is not the dominant paradigm at AFTRS any more (and hasn’t been for a good number of years) That old the paradigm and perspective has shifted seismically. Of course, the results of this change we shan’t see until our graduates stat making good stuff over the next 5-10 years but such is the nature of educational institutions.
The perception that AFTRS is Auteur Art centric and introspectively self absorbed doesn’t hold up when you look at the kinds of courses we teach and how they’re taught. I don’t want to espouse an essay so I’ll go in dot points.
– the first two weeks for all Grad Dip students are spent studying Genre cinema and working collaboratively on no-budget, fast turn around, all digital sketches in genres of scifi, horror, rom-com, magic-realism, mockumentary and so on. This sets a collaborative and audience-focused tone to the entire course for all students.
– The Foundation diploma is an all digital laptop and video camera 1yr program where the core modules include virtual worlds, website development, 360 transmedia storytelling and game design along side classical storytelling, screenwriting, doco and short filming.
– AFTRS has numerous courses in numerous states specifically on animation, 2d and 3d, compositing and Animation Directing which are enormously successful.
– There are barely any projects made at AFTRS on film anymore. I think only 2 last year across the whole school and all courses. DSLRs, RED, Sony VG10’s, Alexa and so on are the mainstay. Its very much a digital school with a very forward-thinking future focused head of cinematography in Kim Bannerham.
– The Screenwriting department has been completely reinvented with an entirely new curriculum under the guidance of Ross Grayson Bell (the creative producer of Fight Club) and a mix of Australian and International teachers who’ve worked across film, Tv and online media. We have current students in this program for example working in placements with Australian cable TV drams producing parallel web-series projects.
– This year saw a brand new graduate course that i co-designed and am teaching which is specifically dedicated to Online Episodic Series development. Every student is handed a laptop, a Sony VG10 HD video camera and a backpack to put them in. The course focuses a long-form process of developing an episodic drama or reality series to be delivered online and exploiting the delivery and audience engagement opportunities the web offers. The students continually shoot, sketch, draft, upload and shoot again – very much a guerilla approach to fleshing ideas and addressing that major missing element of so much australian screens production – proper development time. The course is also designed to circumvent the short comings of short-films as both industry calling card and learning vehicle and focus on making audience-focused stories with broader appeal and Bigger ideas.
These are just a few of the forward-thinking programs AFTRS offers and we havnt even got to the research projects we’re undertaking and publications we’re producing all focused on ensuring we are thinking hard about the future and not self-absorbed about the past.
The real challenge for AFTRS is communicating to the wider world that the 70s have long been swept away, and prompt everyone to see that AFTRS, as the national screen arts and broadcast school, is very much alive and vibrant and relevant in the digital age.
Your criticisms of the problems with ‘Australian Film’ are more than valid – tragically so – but your perspective on AFTRS as an ongoing part of that problem is sorely outdated my friend.

What’s so great about cinema anyway?

Seriously.

Films are the same every time you play them. Nothing improves on the second viewing –  just the same scenes, same people, same stupid race through plot points. And 99 percent of the time it’s the same plot anyway. Meet some lunkhead. Oh no, don’t do that, you will get in trouble! Lunkhead does it anyway and sure enough everything is a big mess. Female lunkhead comes along she is too smart for him but they’re in bed soon enough, maybe you will get to see her backside. They are running away from evil guy but hah hah he has them now! Oh no! Bad guy forgot something and is defeated. Hooray for lunkheads they will never do stupid thing again – unless there’s a sequel.

Either (A) like me you really don’t care about the lunkhead and the movie is a pointless roller coaster of indifference or (B) you manage to care and the endless stupidity of the hero reversed only by the unbelievable fault of the bad guy is going to disappoint you again and again. You already know what is going to happen in a film, so why bother watching?

Don’t give me that crap about the ‘Hero’s Journey’. They’re not a hero, they’re a bumbling idiot to have done exactly the transgression that lead to the whole debacle. If you knew someone like that in real life you’d leave the answering machine on to vet your calls. So why would you pay money to be wedged into a chair in the dark for hours watching the same creep? Because it’s cinema! You get to see some oaf in action from multiple camera angles.

Film is just photography with moving bits. There’s really no need for all this movement, can’t you imagine it in your head?. I mean I thought La Jette has made that point. Do you really need a book to have the words move around the page? It’s ridiculous. Why can’t we just dawdle on an image for as long as we like? We’ve had art galleries for years – and we haven’t needed some Director in a golf buggy driving us past the paintings at the speed he feels is ‘cinematic’. No, the whole time they have to hurry us along in case we notice the badly painted backdrops.

01a

And why do games now have to be ‘filmic?’ It ruins them – all scenery and cut scenes – no game. ‘Hello I am your sidekick would you be so kind blah blah blah – oh no I am really the villain it is a plot twist!’ Pac Man did well enough without exposition every five minutes. Can you imagine if you had to wade through a back story for Inky The Ghost?

And music that is ‘cinematic’? Code word for reverberated wash.

The whole notion of film is poison for all the other arts. It’s got to stop before all the REAL forms get dragged down to its level!

I denounce cinema.

Films need to be scenes you can pause or play backwards or forwards in any order and be just as entertained. And lots of special effects instead of character development because I don’t really care about these people I just want to see crazy shit I don’t get sitting at my office desk. Film music should have no relationship with what’s on screen and should never be long drawn out strings and horn sections that try to ’emote’. If there’s dialogue then it should just be witty banter that has no meaning.

Basically like all Peter Greenaway films.

greenaway

This is my solution for the Australian Film Industry. No one watches Australian films because they are like textbooks of film theory. If I was king of Screen Australia I only fund films that were bizarre collisions of vibrant meaninglessness, especially films that led to fist fights in cinemas. I have no doubt – no seriously – no doubt that MORE people would go watch an Australian film if you left the theatre with a black eye and no idea of what you just experienced.

DOWN WITH PLOT POINTS!

DOWN WITH SCRIPTS!

DOWN WITH MOTIVATED CAMERA WORK!

MORE EXPLOSIONS MORE BEANS!