The book is sexuality as apotheosis-definitely not a turn on and definitely not a book with a rich sense of characterization-the characters here merely represent ideas and thesis about human nature-but most certainly a book that is a utopia of European descent
Why does Kundera have to equivocate everything in The Unbearable Lightness of Being? Isn't it enough just to state things that occur in the book unabashedly. The story could still be about a man in paralysis without the tone indicating this. A reader may not be even aware upon reading the novel of the conflicted state of Tomas, upon the conflicted state of all the characters, because the author suffers from the same conflicts. Conflicts that to the normal unabashed soul don't mean a hill of beans in this town. It's the oh woe is me sensitive nature of the highly literate to not want to commit to anything, even to a bit of fun sexual naughtiness, and to equivocate that banality poetically is what Kundera is all about as a novelist.
Why does he see being a fan as something so unorthodox and weird? Even if he likes fans, why does he have to see that connotation applied to them? His feeling are unorthodox and are going to give an unintended negative connotation to a simple pertinent need we all have within us.
I think it's sneaky that she has a market audience of highly susceptible girls that just broke up with their boyfriends. She's the Bridget Jones of pop. Dowdiness evolved or break up as absolution is her appeal; that appeal is something that is a humdrum everyday occurrence in her case gussied up as something else.
Why does Rush’s album Moving Pictures have such durability; durability that the band both reaps from and at the same time is haunted by? (They will always be known for this album as if this is the album that defines them.) Maybe it stems from the fact that it is the album that defines not necessarily them (as if any album could do that) but instead what they constitute-which is illusiveness, staying out of the limelight of definition, even when your fan base and your detractors beg for such a definition. Maybe the answer resides in Red Barchetta. Before I write about this song, a song that all three members of the band say is the one song that never gets old when played live, or when the original recording is simply listened to, consequently inferring that many of their other tunes do when making such a comment, I want to talk about the bands awareness of themselves and what they constitute; it’s this quality that makes me such a fan of theirs. The moment, heavily documented in the Rush documentary, when Rush exhausted themselves as a band simply from overexerting themselves technically as musicians, marks a turning point in their career. What were they going to do; sell out and make radio friendly tunes? Permanent Waves held the answer. The album started with a song that dealt with this conundrum entitled the Spirit of radio, a song that was a critique of their sounds new home. The band doesn’t like their abode at all. This song is the antithesis of that home. It’s the most exuberant thing I’ve ever heard. Yet, there’s a tragic awareness to the music-to the whole album-that gives the sound its depth. It’s the awareness that that home will always be there, no matter how eroded. The song is a view into the future. It’s aware of lady gaga and how Gaga will have more lasting impact than this band ever will have in the general consensus of the listening audience. The tragic awareness is not that that’s a shame because Rush is the better artist. That would be self-indulgent and egotistically biased, but rather that for the sake of the radio, Gaga is a horrible influence. Actually, Rush, as guitarist for the band Alex Lifeson has said, has always benefitted from this strange position of being sandwiched in the middle of adulation and contempt; of you’re the greatest band I’ve ever heard to who are you again? There’s more pressure on a Gaga to go in one direction or the other. Rush is completely free. That’s the sound that I hear on Permanent Waves. The album is the awareness that this wiggle room can’t do anything to influence anybody. There’s tragedy behind the happy go lucky sound of the album. It’s the depth that people who say they don’t like Rush can’t hear. It’s the awareness on the artist’s part that they can’t do anything to stop the impending doom that is the future. The band’s epiphany (which is Moving Pictures) comes when the band decides to become more radio friendly. Like I stated earlier I love their self awareness because it was a right decision no matter if their loyal fan base got mad or not. The statement from such an act was not that this bands simply about making money but that they are not merely a cult progressive rock band. In other words, that they are not just a band that exists to not make money. In my opinion, what this means is that there’s no guilt in this band’s not trying to change the world like they were trying to do so much in the past. If Hemispheres is the last time that they did try to change the world, and Permanent Waves is the lament over this, then moving pictures is the celebration. There’s a part in Red Barchetta when Alex’s guitar part is the sound that they could never have on their earlier more “complex” albums. It’s the weapon that keeps the picture moving; that is progressive while at the same time making a term like prog rock look trite and too constricting. This band is not just about changing time signatures. When one listens to their music they shouldn’t be saying: ahh I understand completely what they are doing here. What they should be saying is: what am I listening to? Simply talking about their musicianship or their objectivism or whatever, is making them the lie that most rock critics see them as, which is something boring and geeky. The sound of Alex’s guitar on Red Barchetta is the doorway out of this. It’s the car that is outlawed. It’s something taken for granted. Something not talked about properly by either its detractors (the ones who expect too much of them) or its fans (the ones who expect too little). Something unheeded and completely itself. This sound is where the durability of the album stems from. Fans like Billy Coogan and the filmmakers of the rush documentary ask the question: can Rush be the ultimate way in which to save the radio in order to enrich the potentiality of the music form? The song answers: who cares? The other extremely poignant song off Moving Pictures that I want to write about is Limelight. Limelight is the song that deals with the outlawing of nebbishness; of not ever being able to be completely aloof and completely yourself anymore because of societal pressures (in other words the antithesis to Rush). The plangency that is felt when one listens to the song comes from the fact that there is no red barchetta in this song. There isn’t even any future. Now is the future, which means one has to take action now. What is now in the drummer and lyricist for the band Neil Peart’s eyes? More importantly: where do the constraints come from? Do they come from the accuser, or something much more terrifying to consider, the accused? Now in Neil’s eyes is the feeling that he’s going to lose his integrity because of his fan bases misconstruing what he is. (Suddenly that fan base becomes the person beating up that kid in glasses, while ineptly thinking that it is that kid. It becomes the societal pressure that it thought it was up against.) Its Neil’s depth. What is so shocking about his depth is that it makes one realize that most, if not all, in the limelight don’t have it. It makes Neil himself realize that he could very easily become what he always feared and fought against. His prognosticating skills, his ability to see that the album he’s making that’s turning him on so much creatively might very well be his downfall (because he will forever keep trying to replicate that magic because he will believe what society tells him now that he’s in the limelight; now that he actually has a chance of being influenced by what they say: that this is his best album and he shouldn’t try to make anything better but to simply make the same album over and over again) and his ability to talk about this in one of the songs on the album explicitly is, I think, his true brilliance. This daring song, a song that criticizes the adulation that it’s receiving, is a criticism against the whole album, against even itself. If there was one sentence that conjures up this band for me it’s: How far can you progress creatively before outlawing yourself and ultimately pleasing everyone except yourself? If Neil’s way of combating this is by being totally cut off from his fans which means not only never meeting them in person but never satisfying their expectations as well, in effect never making Moving Pictures 2 which ultimately makes one realize that he’s a consistently changing viable artist, more power to him. The listener that’s listening to Limelight is hearing Neil’s realization that this is the turning point and that barriers have to be put up in order to cut off the influence of fame; in order so that he doesn’t become another Hemingway. In order so that he doesn’t become a talented individual that’s a lost cause, that’s even made infamous by that lost cause (which is an adherence to the style that everyone wanted him to write in to the point where he couldn’t evolve away from that style). Rush isn’t that kind of band. Rush is a band that has always been destined to draw the line between fame and influence (In other words, even if they are incredibly famous, what they turn out is only influenced by themselves, not by what initially garnered them their fame), and moving pictures is that line. The line that creates durability-that keeps a band going. The line that makes the band realize that it’s done something that they could never improve by making something similar and ultimately better from it. After that line is drawn, for the first time the band doesn’t feel intimidated over the fact that they will never make a better album in their fan bases eyes. Once Neil stops writing fantasy lyrics (once the fantasy is dropped) that band realizes that that flying car was their need to please their fan base without pleasing themselves. Now that Neil’s deep need to appeal to his fan base in order to understand himself has already been done on this album, for the rest of his career he’ll be an objectivist looking at everyone but himself. His integrity throughout the rest of his career becomes his struggle to stay this way. The struggle that is outlined in Vital Signs, the last song off Moving Pictures: “Everybody got to elevate from the norm” repeated over and over again, which shows how hard it is to maintain this feeling. The struggle is the friction of the day alluded to in Tom Sawyer, the first song off Moving Pictures, which is this band’s existence; which should be all band’s existences. The friction is to stay out of one’s comfort zone in order to evolve creatively even if your fans don’t want you to. Why should one be so adverse to their fans wishes? One should be this way because in actuality, those fans secretly do want you to evolve even if they tell you otherwise. Once one becomes implicated by this band (that one is comprised of this bands fan base; the one that is considered the norm in Vital Signs), one begins to say, why can’t there be more Moving Picture type Rush albums? The turning point itself is so great. Silly, I presented the answer a couple of paragraphs above. Limelight is terrifying because it knows too well how much you like it.
Fail Safe (1964), a film that came out at the height the fear of the possibility of nuclear warfare between the United States and Russia, is flawed because it never allows its main characters to be fools. In the context of nuclear Armageddon, politicians and military personal are inevitably fools. Stanley Kubrick, the director of Dr Strangelove: or, How I stopped Worrying and Loved the Bomb (a satiric take on a similar situation in Fail Safe; both films came out at the same time.) talked about this when he stated that: “But after a month or so I began to realize that all the things I was throwing out (the elements in his treatment of Red Alert that were satiric) were the things which were the most truthful. After all, what could be more absurd than the very idea of two mega-powers willing to wipe out all human life because of an accident, spiced up by political differences that will seem as meaningless to people in a hundred years from now as the theological conflicts of the Middle Ages appear to us today” (Nelson, pg. 85)? It’s the fact that these officials are so ensnared in their military regulations and technology, in Dr. Strangelove, that they don’t realize how inane their handling of a situation like the possibility of Nuclear Armageddon really is. It’s the regulations that disallow the characters to do anything about the situation. If that’s not Black comedy, I don’t know what is. Yet, Lumet’s Fail Safe doesn’t see the comedy in the situation. Fail Safe is a film that doesn’t allow comical abstraction because it doesn’t allow speculation on why just such an accident would occur. By making his treatment of the threat of nuclear war comic, “…Kubrick…redirect(ed) and expand(ed) the novel’s (Red Alert’s) psychological/thematic emphasis…Kubrick shows a more profound interest in origins, both psychological and philosophical, than does George’s novel (or any film treatment of this type of material at that time)” (Nelson, pg. 87). Kubrick in Dr. Strangelove is examining the reason for why these people are the way they are, not to ultimately poke fun at these characters, but rather to show the audience his worries over how easily a nuclear situation could occur. Characters rely purely on protocol, to the point where their logic exits the situation. Examples constantly persist in the war room. When Air Force General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) tells President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) about General Ripper’s (Sterling Hayden) instigating the go code for American fighter pilots to bomb Russia, Muffley is incensed. He says to Turgidson, “When you issued the human reliability tests, you assured me that there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring.” (He’s referring to a general becoming psychotic, and not being detected by the reliability test in anyway.) Turgidson’s response is that, “Well, I don’t think it’s quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slipup, sir.” Some slipup. Kubrick’s film is actually more terrifying than people realize. The abstract fools in Strangelove are silly to the point of horrific action (or consequences) that has a great deal to do with the context of reality. The actions exhibited in the film could become an eventuality; it’s simply comically presented. (Kubrick’s film is also highly prophetic: another characteristic that Lumet’s film doesn’t have the distinction of exhibiting. When Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott) says to President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) that he feels that the president is too afraid of his perception of what the president will appear like in history books, the scene could very well be Donald Rumsfeld talking to George W. Bush. Lumet’s film is merely dated.) Lumet’s film doesn’t depict this human fallibility in anyway (probably because it’s too afraid to.) The film respects all of its characters to the point where the movie becomes theatrical dramaturgy (and highly unrealistic dramaturgy at that. There are elements in the film, like the bomber pilot having a dream about a bull being hunted down and a woman obsessed with death that are more fake than anything in the abstractions in Strangelove.) Why should a filmmaker respect someone who inadvertently causes nuclear annihilation? Fail Safe is disingenuous probably by accident; by noble intention, which is an error similar to the errors exhibited by the characters in Strangelove. Fail Safe doesn’t deal with the inherent flaws in provisional thinking in anyway. It doesn’t have moments like the one in Strangelove where Turdigson discusses Plan R; an inane provisional maneuver that allows a general to give the go code towards bombing Russia, in case the President is delayed in doing so. Fail Safe doesn’t have the gall to criticize a character like Turdigson; while Kubrick’s satiric structure inevitably criticizes the figure. The problem stems from figures who are in love with provisional thinking, and would never criticize the process, even to the point of nuclear annihilation. When one thinks about it, Kubrick’s film really isn’t that far-fetched, which is actually a more terrifying concept to ponder over. Strangelove posits that military figures are as preposterous as abstract satiric monsters; like Strangelove. Fail Safe doesn’t dare do so, for fear that it will disrupt the status quo; even to the point of nuclear annihilation. Henry Fonda’s president in Fail Safe is in such contrasts to Sellers president in Strangelove. Fonda’s president, “…impress(es) the audience with…(his) humanity and sense of responsibility; for in the end, it is a problem that we all must share and for which we all must be held accountable” (Nelson, pg. 86). Kubrick’s film logically holds the figures in charge culpable, and that’s because he as a filmmaker believed in the concept of human error, opposed to the easy excuse of mechanical error. It’s of interest to compare the two telephone conversation scenes between the presidents of the united states and the Russian Premier’s in both films. The president in Fail Safe is not delusional in terms of how confident he is. Rather, he’s a very sensible individual who tries to handle the situation as logically as possible. In Strangelove, Kubrick makes fun of this kind of sanctimonious interpretation of the president’s capabilities. He doesn’t honestly believe that these officials are as in control as we as a country assume that they are, and this has to do with the fact that Kubrick naturally distrusted this image of public officials. If they were that good at their jobs, how could the country get in this mess in the first place? Wouldn’t something like the threat of nuclear war be prevented by a capable politician? Even though Strangelove is satire, it also points to salient concerns on Kubrick’s part. There’s an underlay of realism in all of the fantastical elements of the film; almost as if this nightmare could become an actual reality. (Fail Safe is the inversion of this.) The scene of Fail Safe has both the President and the translator being rather nervous at the prospect of talking to the premier; almost as if the Cuban Missile Crisis never happened before, or they’ve never dealt with a situation of this magnitude before. Doesn’t this take some of the disturbing element out of the scene? Isn’t it more disturbing, and more having to do with the problem, to consider the fact that politicians like the president are so used to this occurrence of the threat of nuclear war that they are bored of it; almost as if it were another form of malaise? That’s the way Sellers performs the scene. Strangelove is a film that counters what Fail Safe does as a film. It’s almost as if sanctimony were being countered by a strange form of realism. Kubrick wanted to make the ultimate Cold War film, and he did this by countering the common way in which to deal with the subject matter. Most filmmakers like Stanley Kramer and Sidney Lumet dealt with the subject matter in a pat fashion, in which these filmmakers would, …”rather be on the ‘right’ side of a morally complex issue than transform or unsettle an audience’s perception by showing how such a problem, more often than not, originates from deep inside the structures of a social mythology and the paradoxes of human nature” (Nelson, pgs. 86-87). Therefore, Kubrick filmed his Cold War drama in a new style, consisting of new kinds of camera angles and use of lighting—finding the unreality and phantasmagoric in the situation without sacrificing the realism. It’s the idea that there are horrific intentions lurking under all of the apparent orderliness of the military environment. Characters like Turdigson and Ripper and Strangelove have heinous designs lurking underneath their “official” decorum, in order to deceive the public into believing that they are responsible individuals. Therefore Kubrick felt that, “The real image doesn’t cut the mustard, doesn’t transcend. I’m now interested in taking a story, fantastic and improbable, and trying to get to the bottom of it, to make it seem not only real, but inevitable” (Nelson, pg. 89). Kubrick employed this idea in his aesthetics: “In the B-52, once the “go” code is received, fantasy should take a backseat to both the hard reality of the machine and Kubrick’s cinema verite camera, which, in a cramped atmosphere illuminated only by source lighting, works close-in through quick zooms and jerky motions to document the intricacy of instrument panels and attack profiles. Yet the satiric exaggeration of Kong’s character turns realism towards the fantastic…” (Nelson, pgs. 89-90). If one where to compare this film’s aesthetics to Fail Safe, then they would realize that the style of Fail Safe (or the lack of style) is highly anachronistic; it doesn’t attach any new meaning to the situation of nuclear determent. It’s simply a detached documentary in terms of style. Ultimately, Strangelove is more of a complex film than Fail Safe because unlike Failsafe, Strangelove enters into the nightmarish possibility that our contentment, our belief that the military and government can handle a threat like nuclear war, is ultimately a façade.
Works Cited: 1. Nelson, Thomas Allen. Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze. Indiana University Press; Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2000.
Manny Farber’s (1917-2008) aesthetic terminology (what he was greatly known for as a critic) involved movement, rather than just talking about pictorial composition. Farber was like a great ballet critic; he understood the exciting kineticism involved in movies. His favorite filmmakers were the ones, like him, who were aware of the possibilities of kineticism. This form of filmmaking that Farber was invested in writing about had nothing to do with ideology; if anything, ideology (and pat descriptions of aesthetics—devoid of movement) in his opinion distracted the audience from what was really transpiring on the screen. Reading Farber makes one aware that movies are a more pleasurable art form when painters interpret them. Yet, to my mind Manny is the only major film critic who was also simultaneously a painter. Sometimes, the films that Manny liked had strange ideological points, but that didn’t matter to him. For him, if the ideology of say a Herzog film was hard to fathom and interpret, all the better. In Manny’s opinion, strange elusive immersive films were all that one needed to enjoy the art form. He didn’t like clarified pictures with one obvious theme; to him these types of films were simply too easy to interpret. Ironically enough, the films that Farber didn’t like, because they were simple or “complex” politically, were pretty banal aesthetically as well. Farber was a man who was weary of prestige filmmaking. Farber felt that everything in a movie, including its politics, was felt in the movement and space of the film. This is a revolutionary concept. If you were a critic, greatly influenced by the way Manny wrote and studied film, you’d have to be like a detective and tunnel your way out in your deductions to figure out why a movie works or doesn’t work. You’re not allowed to have an easy impression of the movie as soon as you come out of the theatre. What Farber would do when watching a movie was start with the parameters (aesthetics) which is a very sensible and grounded form of criticism, and slowly go from there (this greatly gets rid of the necessity to generalize). Because of this unorthodox method of deduction, many find his style of writing difficult to read. Farber worked with what he knew, rather than getting distracted by a concept that was outside of his frame of reference; like the “artistic purpose” of the filmmaker, or the filmmaker’s “statement” in the work. He cared less about prestigious terminology like that, and readers reading him today are unused to this rebellious form of analysis. Farber had a tendency to write about his love of B movies. This attraction to the Underground sensibility stemmed from his own personality. Farber wasn’t necessarily trying to please anyone, or trying to cultivate celebrity status in anyway. (This is proven by his never having a consistent period of staying at a regular prestigious post. He wrote for The New Republic, Time, The Nation, New Leader, Cavalier, Artforum, Commentary, Film Culture, Film Comment, and City Magazine. He is one of the only critics I have ever read that was not highfalutin but sensible about the films that he liked. He saw B movies in their proper context, and didn’t over-inflate their importance in anyway; falsifying what those films meant could have taken the spontaneity out of them. Farber wrote in great detail about what bothered him in the movies that he liked, which meant that he kept a proper perspective of the topic at hand. Sometimes this made it hard to interpret his criticism; to figure out whether he liked a movie or not. What Farber was doing in his writing was relating his own puzzlement to a movie to his reader, and he never falsified this emotion in anyway by easily stating that something he saw was “good” or “bad”. This was a critic who never tried to be different from everyone else; he just naturally was that way. Even though Farber constantly set trends in the critical establishment (like the importance of writing about the director’s style) he would always constantly shift ground and contradict that trend. For the longest time, he wrote about his ardor over B movies. It seems that once he set this trend, he suddenly shifted ground later in his career to write about low budget experimental minimalist films. This hipster attitude of his had to do with his not having a set opinion on a movie or a genre or a filmmaker. Therefore, he made it impossible for others to copy his style. It’s amazing how Farber never got distracted from what he was looking at. His termite art approach made it impossible for him to be weighed down by obstructions like sentimentality and “quality”. He didn’t like anything that was obvious or “beautiful”. He liked the challenge of writing about films that were tonally constantly changing, and upon initial inspection messy and “disorganized”. Farber felt that if one constantly looked at a painting in different instances and in a new light, surely one could do the same towards a movie. Hence, his constant reappraisal of a film. Farber wrote about what was exactly in front of him, opposed to getting into generalizations outside of the context of the movie (including, ironically enough, his own opinion.) Farber felt that critics were too obsessed with getting their set opinion on a movie, rather than on how a film actually works. Farber was more interested on figuring out the artist’s process, rather than the actual merit of a movie. He, to quote his own phrase was “process mad”; because he was an artist in his own right, he was more interested in how an artist achieves their effects rather than on whether the movie was “good” or not. Farber felt that opinion could be a detriment towards the more important role of the critic, which is figuring out what one has just seen on the screen. Farber was into the architecture of a given film—he wanted the reader to enter the terrain and talk about what he likes or dislikes, much like a tourist. One doesn’t have the time to talk about matters that don’t concern them. One sees a building in relation to its terrain—not the other way around. Farber was a very subtle writer, in that there are hints of his own personality in the writing. For instance, one can detect his contempt for people who didn’t follow his subscribed method of analysis. He felt that once one gets away from a rapid and direct tone to whatever it is that they do, one loses their integrity (like John Ford). Farber never let “organization” get in his way; he found his own organization or style as a writer/painter/teacher. (There is subtle organization in the writing, but it’s very hard to detect how the writing flows. It, like his paintings, appears beautifully disorganized and highly original). The writing feels as if it were merely comprised of great observations, divorced of a thesis. Every sentence is a fantastic observation, and not something that deviates from the films elements. Nobody ever talked about a movie in this practical way which appears odd on the page. Farber wrote about the elements that a director uses to make a scene work rather than what a scene means. In a sentence like, “Few movies (he’s writing about Hawks Scarface) are better at nailing down singularity in a body or face, the effect of a strong outline cutting out impossibly singular shapes” (Farber, pg. 25), the qualifications for liking this film are of the most original variety. There’s no thesis to that sentence because the spontaneity and elusivity of his impressions would be gone if he generalized the writing in anyway. Farber never followed anyone’s subscribed notion of how to do something. (An example being his never showing a complete film to his students but rather teaching bits and pieces of a movie. Sometimes he would even run a film backwards.) Farber encouraged writers to do their own fresh form of analysis. He basically felt: what are the layers that one notices that no one else is talking about in relation to a work? Works Cited: 1. Farber, Manny. Negative Space. Da Capo Press, 1998.