Monday, September 13, 2021

Michael Benton: Social media is superficial, only if we let it be

Social media is superficial, only if we let it be.

There was a small time when the ability to communicate with people across vast spaces was a revolutionary thing. We were excited by the ability to engage with others in a way we never dreamed was possible. It was a moment when it seemed the world was going to tip over, perhaps most vividly for me during the 1999 Seattle WTO Protests when we saw the power of the intersectional alliances that had never seemed possible happening in American streets and a burgeoning IndyMedia movement bringing people across the globe together in a way we have only recently begun to see happen again (the young people demanding change in the BLM, Sunrise, LGBTQ, etc... movements). Then 9/11 hit and suddenly our (privileged/limited) world order collapsed in reactionary fear. If only we had instead joined a sympathetic rest-of-the-world in solidarity instead of reactionary, warlike, ignorant fear toward 'others'. Afterward our culture, especially the mediasphere and our built environments, began to collapse into a state of corporate control and political paranoia. I think of that earlier time with nostalgia - both for the dream (it obviously was a fantasy if it collapsed so easily) of what could have been and the sense of immense loss. The world was literally lined up in support of America at that moment and we could have made it a moment of coming together to heal/commune/organize. Our worlds became privatized, locked down, and information began to be controlled again... literally became the "internet of things" instead of what we hoped would be a burgeoning forum of ideas and creativity. At the same time this dominant flow of controlled information became a part of our lives in a way that we never experienced before. When we woke up, for some never waking up, until we went to asleep, and for others never being able to sleep soundly - even if we are not active participants in that mediasphere (because those around us are and none of us are complete hermits).

I don't know what my point is...... just thinking because I am conscious.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

ENG 102: Science and Technology

All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (BBC: Adam Curtis, 2011) ["A series of films about how humans have been colonized by the machines they have built. Although we don’t realize it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers. It claims that computers have failed to liberate us and instead have distorted and simplified our view of the world around us."]

Almaaita, Zaynah. "Top 25 Censored News Stories of 2017 - 2018 - #22 Big Pharma’s Biostitutes: Corporate Media Ignore Root Cause of Opioid Crisis." Project Censored (October 2, 2018) ["The beginning of the opioid crisis, Martin reported, goes back to drug manufacturing companies hiring “biostitutes,” a derogatory term for biological scientists hired to misrepresent research or commit fraud in order to protect their employers’ corporate interests. As Martin reported, research by biostitutes was used to make the (misleading) case that opioids could treat pain without the risk of addiction. Purdue Pharma, which manufactures OxyContin, and McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, which distribute that drug and other opioids, suppressed research that showed how addictive opioids are, and they began to push doctors to write more prescriptions on behalf of the “needs” of consumers.  In particular, Papantonio said, distributors targeted the nation’s poorer communities, including industrial cities with high unemployment rates, such as Detroit, and economically-stressed mining communities, as in West Virginia. Such mercenary practices not only impacted the individuals who became addicted, they also ravaged the finances of the targeted cities and counties. As Papantonio told The Empire Files, the opioid crisis has required local government expenditures for everything from new training for emergency medical responders, to the purchase of Naloxone (sold under the brand name Narcan) for treating opioid overdoses, to the expansion of dependency courts to handle the cases of neglected or abused children, and the retooling of jails as de facto rehabilitation centers—all of which have come out of city and county budgets. In his Empire Files interview, Papantonio estimated that the cost for a “typical community” fell between “ninety and two hundred million dollars—that’s just the beginning number.”]

Alter, Adam. "The Rise of Addictive Technology." Radio West (March 5, 2018) ["Marketing professor Adam Alter begins his new book by noting that Steve Jobs didn’t let his own children use an iPad, a product he invented, because he was worried they’d get addicted to it. That’s what Alter’s book is about: our increasing addiction to technology. These days, we aren’t just hooked on substances, like drugs and alcohol. We’re addicted to video games, social media, porn, email, and lots more. Alter joins us to explore the business and psychology of irresistible technologies."]

Amer, Karim, Emma Briant and Brittany Kaiser. "The Weaponization of Data: Cambridge Analytica, Information Warfare & the 2016 Election of Trump." Democracy Now (January 10, 2020) ["We continue our conversation with the directors of The Great Hack, Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, as well as former Cambridge Analytica employee Brittany Kaiser and propaganda researcher Emma Briant, about Cambridge Analytica’s parent company SCL Group’s history as a defense contractor. “We’re in a state of global information warfare now,” Briant says. “How do we know if our militaries develop technologies and the data that it has gathered on people, for instance, across the Middle East … how do we know when that is turning up in Yemen or when that is being utilized by an authoritarian regime against the human rights of its people or against us? How do we know that it’s not being manipulated by Russia, by Iran, by anybody who’s an enemy, by Saudi Arabia, for example, who SCL were also working with? We have no way of knowing, unless we open up this industry and hold these people properly accountable for what they’re doing.”"]

Anderson, Justin. "Who Will Take on the 21st Century Tech and Media Monopolies?" FAIR (April 10, 2018) ["After decades of regulatory neglect, Big Tech is finally coming under the microscope."]

Arnoff, Kate. "Trump Curbs the Circulation of Science." On the Media (May 31, 2019) ["Last weekend, The New York Times reported on a host of aggressive new obstacles placed by Trump administration to stymie the dissemination of federal climate research. One new rule prevents certain agencies from publishing findings after 2040. A second will omit the National Climate Assessment's "worst case scenario" projection. And finally, a panel of climate deniers will oversee and regulate the release of all federally funded climate research. In this interview, Bob speaks with Kate Aronoff, who recently wrote about these regulations for The Guardian. She explains how these alarming new restrictions fit into the Trump administration's larger pattern of limiting public access to the truth about the climate."]

Ashcroft, Richard, David Healy and Emily Jackson. "Brave New World." The Philosophy Forum (March 2, 2019)  ["In this age of utopian technologies, we can design mechanical limbs for amputees and chemically engineer happiness for depressives. From the fluoride in our water to genetically modified babies, scientific advances pose complex new ethical questions. We explore the major bioethical issues of our time. Is philosophy braced for this brave new world? Are scientists and engineers morally obliged to design a utopia? Or are things best left to ‘nature’? Speakers: Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Bioethics, Queen Mary University of London; David Healy, Professor of Psychiatry, Bangor University; Emily Jackson, Professor of Law, LSE."]

Barry, Sarah, et al. "Enzymes." In Our Time (June 1, 2017)  ["Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss enzymes, the proteins that control the speed of chemical reactions in living organisms. Without enzymes, these reactions would take place too slowly to keep organisms alive: with their actions as catalysts, changes which might otherwise take millions of years can happen hundreds of times a second. Some enzymes break down large molecules into smaller ones, like the ones in human intestines, while others use small molecules to build up larger, complex ones, such as those that make DNA. Enzymes also help keep cell growth under control, by regulating the time for cells to live and their time to die, and provide a way for cells to communicate with each other."]

Beck, Ulrich and Bruno Latour. "How To Think About Science (Part 5)." Ideas (February 11, 2015) ["Few people ever apply a name that sticks to an entire social order, but sociologist Ulrich Beck is one of them. In 1986 in Germany he published Risk Society, and the name has become a touchstone in contemporary sociology. Among the attributes of Risk Society is the one he just mentioned: science has become so powerful that it can neither predict nor control its effects. It generates risks too vast to calculate. In the era of nuclear fission, genetic engineering and a changing climate, society itself has become a scientific laboratory. In this episode, Ulrich Beck talks about the place of science in a risk society. Later in the hour you'll hear from another equally influential European thinker, Bruno Latour, the author of We Have Never Been Modern. He will argue that our very future depends on overcoming a false dichotomy between nature and culture."]

Benjamin, Medea and Trevor Timm. "Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control." Law and Disorder (July 9, 2012) ["Earlier this year, human rights advocates, robotics technology experts, lawyers, journalists and activists gathered to bring detailed up to date information about the widespread and rapidly expanding deployment of both lethal and surveillance drones, including drone use in the United States. We hear excerpts of 2 presentations delivered at the drone conference in Washington DC titled Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control."]

Benjamin, Ruha. "The Social Dimensions of Science, Technology and Medicine." Northwestern Digital Learning Project #12 (June 5, 2019) [" Dr. Ruha Benjamin, a professor of African-American studies at Princeton University and the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier and the forthcoming Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. She has studied the social dimensions of science, technology, and medicine for just over 15 years and speaks widely on issues of innovation, equity, health, and justice."]

Berger, John J. Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science. Berkeley, CA: Northbrae Books, 2013. [Available in the BCTC Library]

Bigger Stronger Faster (USA: Christopher Bell, 2008: 105 mins) ["In America, we define ourselves in the superlative: we are the biggest, strongest, fastest country in the world. Is it any wonder that so many of our heroes are on performance enhancing drugs? Director Christopher Bell explores America’s win-at-all-cost culture by examining how his two brothers became members of the steroid-subculture in an effort to realize their American dream."

Binney, William. "Growing State Surveillance." Democracy Now (April 20, 2012) ["In his first television interview since he resigned from the National Security Agency over its domestic surveillance program, William Binney discusses the NSA’s massive power to spy on Americans and why the FBI raided his home after he became a whistleblower. Binney was a key source for investigative journalist James Bamford’s recent exposé in Wired Magazine about how the NSA is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. The Utah spy center will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, cellphone calls, Google searches and other personal data. Binney served in the NSA for over 30 years, including a time as technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned that the NSA’s data-mining program has become so vast that it could “create an Orwellian state.” Today marks the first time Binney has spoken on national television about NSA surveillance. This interview is part of a 5-part special on state surveillance."]

Blase, Martin. "Missing Microbes." Radio West (April 28, 2014) ["Your body is host to about 100 trillion bacterial cells that form your microbiome, the complex ecosystem of microorganisms on which your life depends. Today, our microbiomes are threatened by a loss of species diversity that could be our undoing. In a new book, Dr. Martin Blaser argues that our obsession with hygiene and overuse of antibiotics has bleached our microbiomes, making them weak and making us more susceptible to dangerous new diseases."]

Bonneval, Karine, Paco Calvo and Tom Greaves. "Plants." The Forum for Philosophy (April 2019) ["Philosophers have long assumed that plants are inferior to humans and animals: static, inert, and unreflective. But recent scientific advances suggest that we may have underestimated plants. They can process information, solve problems, and communicate. We explore what plants can teach us about intelligence and agency, and ask whether plants think."]

Harris, Tristan and Aza Raskin. "Mr. Harris Zooms to Washington." Your Undivided Attention (May 10, 2021) ["Back in January 2020, Tristan Harris went to Washington, D.C. to testify before the U.S. Congress on the harms of social media. A few weeks ago, he returned — virtually — for another hearing, Algorithms and Amplification: How Social Media Platforms’ Design Choices Shape Our Discourse and Our Minds. He testified alongside Dr. Joan Donovan, Research Director at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media Politics and Public Policy and the heads of policy from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The senators’ animated questioning demonstrated a deeper understanding of how these companies’ fundamental business models and design properties fuel hate and misinformation, and many of the lawmakers expressed a desire and willingness to take regulatory action. But there’s still room for a more focused conversation. “It’s not about whether they filter out bad content,” says Tristan, “but really whether the entire business model of capturing human performance is a good way to organize society.” In this episode, a follow-up to last year’s “Mr. Harris Goes to Washington,” Tristan and Aza Raskin debrief about what was different this time, and what work lies ahead to pave the way for effective policy."]

 Huberman, Andrew. "ADHD & How Anyone Can Improve Their Focus." Huberman Lab (September 13, 2021) ["In this episode, Dr. Huberman discusses ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): what it is, the common myths, and the biology and psychology of ADHD. He discusses both behavioral and pharmacologic treatments for ADHD and brain-machine interface tools. Dr. Huberman also discusses behavioral training protocols that can improve focus in people with ADHD and those without ADHD and for people of different ages. He discusses the role of dopamine in coordinating ‘default-mode’ and ‘task-related’ neural networks, attentional “blinks” (lapses of attention) and how to overcome them, and the role of actual blinks in time perception and attention. Finally, Dr. Huberman reviews some of the prescription and over-the-counter compounds for increasing focus, such as Adderall, Ritalin, Modafinil and Armodafinil, the racetams, Alpha-GPC and phosphatidylserine and the role of diet for managing ADHD (and the controversies of diet for ADHD).
The role of cell phones/technology in ADHD and ADHD-like challenges with focus are also discussed. Throughout, both basic science and clinical scenarios, as well as applicable tools and resources, are covered."]

---. "Healthy Eating & Eating Disorders – Anorexia, Bulimia, Binging." Huberman Lab (September 6, 2021) ["In this episode, Dr. Huberman discusses what drives hunger and satiety and the role our brain, stomach, fat and hormones play in regulating hunger and turning off the desire to eat more. He also addresses how protein is assimilated better early in the day than it is later in the day and why those using intermittent fasting might want to shift their feeding window to earlier in the day. Then he delves into the topic of disorders of eating: Anorexia Nervosa, where people starve themselves and Bulimia Nervosa, where people binge and purge their food. Dr. Huberman discusses some common myths about Anorexia, such as the role of media images increasing the rates of Anorexia and the myth of the “perfectionist” anorexic. He also reviews the symptoms and the brain and chemical systems disrupted in this condition. He explains how anorexics become hyperaware of the fat content of foods and develop reflexive habits of fat-hyperawareness. Then Dr. Huberman discusses the most effective treatments ranging from family-based models to those that target the habitual nature of low-fat/calorie food choices. He also discusses new, more experimental clinical trials on MDMA, Psilocybin and Ibogaine for Anorexia and both their promise and risks. Dr. Huberman reviews the latest work on binge eating disorder and brain stimulation, drug treatments and thyroid disruption in Bulimia and why the treatments for Bulimia are so similar to those for ADHD. Finally, he discusses “cheat days,” body dysmorphia and the growing list of novel forms of eating disorders from start to finish. As always, science and science-based tools are discussed."]

---. "Understanding and Conquering Depression." The Huberman Lab #34 (August 23, 2021) ["This episode, I explain what major depression is at the biological and psychological level and the various treatments that peer-reviewed studies have revealed can help prevent and treat depression. I explain the three major chemical systems that are altered in depression: norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. I discuss genetic predispositions to depression and how stress, thyroid hormone and cortisol play a role in many forms of depression. I also discuss inflammation as a common feature of many depression symptoms. I review 8 specific science-supported protocols for treating and avoiding depression, including EPA fatty acids (which have been shown to rival certain prescription treatments), how exercise protects against depression, studies of creatine, adjusting dopamine balance and more. I also discuss the results of ongoing clinical trials for ketamine and psilocybin for depression, how these compounds work and finally, I review how ketogenic diets can help in certain cases of depression, especially treatment-resistant major depression."]

McNamee, Roger. "Roger McNamee on his quest to stop Facebook." Berkeley Talks (July 30, 2021) ["In episode 120 of Berkeley Talks, longtime venture capitalist Roger McNamee discusses how he, an early investor in Facebook and former adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, came to realize the damage caused by the social media giant and others like it, and how he’s committed to try to stop them. McNamee, author of the New York Times bestseller Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe (2019) spoke with Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy, in February 2021."]

Thursday, September 9, 2021

8 1/2 (Italy/France: Federico Fellini, 1963)

 8 1/2 (Italy/France: Federico Fellini, 1963: 138 mins)

“Even if I set out to make a film about a fillet of sole, it would be about me.”
--Federico Fellini

Criterion Collection: 8 1/2 [DVD page/resources]

Affron, Charles, ed. 8 1/2. Rutgers University, 1987.

Ballin, Dima, David Kleiler and J.P. Ouillette. "Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963)." The Rear Window (April 2018) 

Brubaker, Philip. "Death is a Beautiful Woman: All That Jazz, 8 1/2, and a Different Kind of Femme Fatale." Fandor (January 9, 2018)

Gilliam, Terry. "Dreams: 8 1/2." (Transcript from BBC2: November 27, 1995)

Hanson, Matt. "Federico Fellini's Phenomenal Films." The Smart Set (July 1, 2021)

Juliano, Sam. "That Painless Truth: Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2.″ Wonders in the Dark (November 20, 2010)

Kezich, Tullio. "8 1/2: When 'He' Became 'I'." Current (December 3, 2001)

Knapp, Chris. "Growing Up Together: Love Through the Eyes of Fellini." The Paris Review (March 11, 2014)

LoBrutto, Vincent. "The Personal Film: 8 1/2." Becoming Film Literate: The Art and Craft of Motion Pictures. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005: 129-135. [BCTC Library: PN1994 L595 2005]

Malcolm, Derek. "Federico Fellini: 8 1/2." The Guardian (April 22, 1999)

Manacas, George. "Federico Fellini: Images and Archetypes." Out of Balance (no date)

Maraini, Tony. "Chatting about Other Things: An Interview with Federico Fellini." Bright Lights Film Journal (November 11, 1999)

Sesonske, Alexander. "8 1/2: A Film with Itself as Its Subject." Current (December 3, 2001)

Shanahan, Antonio. "Great Directors: Fedeco Fellini." Senses of Cinema (July 19, 2002)

"Sight & Sound Poll 2012: ." Current (October 5, 2012)

Smalley, G. "8 1/2 (1963)." 366 Weird Movies (August 1, 2012)

"Everyone lives in his own fantasy world, but most people don't understand that. No one perceives the real world. Each person simply calls his private, personal fantasies the Truth. The difference is that I know I live in a fantasy world. I prefer it that way and resent anything that disturbs my vision." (Fellini in I, Fellini, ed. by Charlotte Chandler, 1995 source link)

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Annihilation (UK/USA: Alex Garland, 2018)

Annihilation  (UK/USA: Alex Garland, 2018: 115 mins)

“We have many theories, few facts.” -Dr. Ventress (in the film Annihilation)

"[T]he longer I stared at it, the less comprehensible the creature became. The more it became something alien to me, and the more I had a sense that I knew nothing at all—about nature, about ecosystems." — The biologist in the novel Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, 175

I classify "weird fiction" as not necessarily a genre-in-itself, instead it operates in the interstices of mainstream genres, creating through poetic prose, vivid imagery, hallucinatory experiences, existential angst, dream logic and shocking stories, a powerful effect upon the reader, provoking them to start to see the mundane world with a slant. If you look at the etymology of 'wyrd' it originates as the "power to control destiny" (no doubt in a magical or ritual sense) and morphs to the latter "weird" meaning of "unearthly" or strange. These stories stay with you, taking root deep inside your consciousness, reverberating like the ripples of a deep pond disturbed by a thrown rock and provoke you to rethink what you have always taken for granted. There is a commercial genre called "the new weird" (also an older pulp magazine "weird" usually involving cosmic horror) and some of these books/authors would be slotted into my broad genre classification here (many are not), but in the spirit of actual weirdness I include other books/films that operate under the aesthetic classification described above without being marketed as "new weird." The disturbance to perceived reality also may take place through a decoding/encoding process that challenges and restructures (exposing the myths and inconsistencies) of dominant narratives (also see situationist détournement). The purpose is to expose the cracks in the foundations of controlling narratives, destabilizing them through weird narratives that shake the assured assumptions of its adherents. The concepts of carnivalesque revelry and the dialogic nature of consciousness as developed by Mikhail Bakhtin are equally important, in that they involve the reversal of a dominant order and/or an exposure of the fantasy of the controlling order, in the process revealing the many perspectives/voices that are silenced/masked. As disturbing as these can be for many, perhaps the most problematic aspect of many weird narratives would be the decentering of humans (as the center of the universe) and explorations/recognitions of non-human perspectives. Importantly, in the context of my own American culture, this also involves narrative & theoretical displacement of our hegemonic way of seeing & being as the baseline for thinking about and understanding the world. In film studies there has also been a classification of Mind Fuck films which would be included here. All of these can provide a cathartic release from the anxiety/terror of the really fucked-up, weird situation we are living through and the twisted creatures that our at the helm of planet earth. [Editorial note: my definition was written during the COVID-19 Pandemic]. Under no circumstance is weird meant in a derogatory way.  Anyone who does a deep dive into science, especially theories of consciousness and reality, knows that science is seriously weird. I appreciate works that challenge our constructed reality, pushing us to see that there is not just one way. Also it should be understood that what seems weird to some may seem obvious and normal to others. One of the great benefits of learning across time and space/places is that it can, following Bertolt Brecht, "make the familiar strange." -- Michael Dean Benton (May 2020; revised September 2021)


Carter, David. "Annihilation: Depression, Destruction and Transformation." A Place for Film (March 19, 2018) ["It’s one of those rare semiotic films where multiple readings have been applied by viewers and all of those readings are supported by what the film brings to the table. It’s a story about dealing with the psychological and physiological trauma and stress of cancer within yourself or a loved one. It’s about how our relationships with our loved ones change as we all change as people. However as I sat there in the theater on my second viewing of the film there was a theme and reading that rung out to me like my head was caught in a bell: depression and how it causes you to self-destruct and how you can become something new amidst the rubble of who you once were."]

Christion, Valley. "Annihilation: The Alienation of Desire."  The Artifice (October 10, 2018)  ["In Annihilation, novel author Jeff VanderMeer and film director Alex Garland both took special pains to avoid falling into this trope. Both the Crawler and the mimic are utterly and truly alien in the respect that they lack a projection of human desire; as the viewer, we don’t know what they want. This is a major plot point in both the movie and the film, as the ambiguity of the alien is a major piece of the immersive whole."]

Eggert, Brian. "Annihilation." Deep Focus Review (February 23, 2018) ["Fission occurs when cells replicate and then divide. The process involves a single cell that splits itself in two, thereby negating its original form in service of two distinct cells. Growth and healing rely on this otherwise violent act, which signals Nature’s impulse to self-destruct in order to create. It’s a theme that prevails throughout Annihilation, writer-director Alex Garland’s film of Jeff VanderMeer’s 2014 novel. A microscopic view of cell division recurs as the film’s central motif, lovingly integrated into Garland’s visual and narrative choices. But the horrible beauty of the Kantian sublime dominates this intelligent, aesthetically wondrous production, leaving the viewer with much to contemplate about our human biases toward the essence of creation. (After all, while the rapid growth of, say, bacteria in the human body has been described as a disease, it’s a time of prosperity in the microcosm of the bacterial world.) Conceptual as such ideas may be, Garland never forgets to mirror them with human drama. Indeed, within Annihilation‘s visceral yet thoughtful science-fiction context, his characters undergo fission to either self-destruct or become something new."]

Hicks, Luke. "Making Something New: Tracing the Complex Brilliance of Annihilation." Film School Rejects (February 27, 2020)  ["Do I begin down the snaking path of humanity’s obsession with the unknown and turn left at the disquieting display of self-destruction? Or should I fork right at philosophical reflections on biology? Do I start towards its status as one of the few intelligent, dignifying female-driven films to come out of Hollywood in the past decade (four of the five most significant roles held by women, known and unknown, queer and straight, and of different ethnicities, varied worldviews)? And if so, which track do I take when the trail divides into dismantling patriarchal gender norms and theories of forthcoming human evolution? I could exhaust one hundred different ways out with similar thoughts before touching on themes of ecological ethics or technological development. And if I was hospitalized in the process due to exhaustion, I’d be upset that we never breached the intersecting conversations between suicide, mimesis, interanimation, marriage, filtered vision, the metaphysical, and annihilation."]

Nicolini, Kim. "Annihilation: Alex Garland’s Bad Trip Through Dis-ease and Over-Reproduction." Counterpunch (March 2, 2018) ["There are a lot of reasons to join Garland’s journey into a shaky world where reproduction leads to destruction and where the further you go into the film the further you will find yourself separated from any known reality (just as the further the main characters delve into the ominous and alien Shimmer, the further they come unglued). At one point in the film, female scientist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) questions whether all the women who reside at the film’s center have lost their minds. After watching the film, you may very well ask yourself the same thing. But that is the power of the film. By provoking the audience to lose their minds, toss all rational thought to the wind, and deconstruct the most primal notions of stability, this sci-fi horror film unveils the fears that seep through collective humanity like a terminal illness and show the unnatural and terrifying impact of human intervention with the natural world."]

Raup, Jordan. "‘Annihilation’ is Beautiful, Horrifying Sci-Fi with a Bold Imagination." The Film Stage (February 21, 2018) ["More terrifying than any creature Hollywood could dream up is the unraveling of one’s mind—the steady loss of a consciousness as defined by the memories, motivations, and knowledge built up from decades of experience and reflection. With Annihilation, Alex Garland’s beautiful, frightening follow-up to Ex Machina, he portrays this paralyzing sensation with a sense of vivid imagination, and also delivers a cadre of horrifying creatures to boot."]

Robinson, Tasha. "Annihilation is the most thoughtful science fiction movie since Arrival."  The Verge (February 23, 2018) ["But it’s a mark of success for the film that even knowing the outcome doesn’t disperse the tension. Annihilation is a portentous movie, and a cerebral one. It’s gorgeous and immersive, but distancing. It’s exciting more in its sheer ambition and its distinctiveness than in its actual action. And by giving away so many details about the ending up front, writer-director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) seems to be emphasizing that Annihilation isn’t about who-will-live dynamics, or the fast mechanics of action scenes. It’s about the slow, subdued journey Lena and the others take into the unknown, and how it affects them emotionally."]

Statt, Nick. "How Annihilation changed Jeff VanderMeer’s weird novel into a new life-form." The Verge (February 28, 2018)  ["Alex Garland’s Annihilation, the mind-bending science fiction journey into the world of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach books, is an astounding film. It’s smart and daring and almost as satisfying to talk about as it is to experience firsthand. It’s even more astonishing considering its source, a seemingly unadaptable, utterly bizarre novel. But Garland found a way to make the film into its own creature. His version is simultaneously faithful in spirit and shockingly bold in its departures in plot and theme."]

"Weird Fiction." Horror Pod Class #2 (January 31, 2018) [Michael Benton -- What is very interesting to me is the idea that the "new weird" genre is speaking to a 21st Century dis-ease with the impossibility of truly knowing reality. Propaganda, disinformation & official lies instantaneously and repeatedly disseminated through ubiquitous screen technologies, radically transforming science/technology/theories that even leave those that devote their lives to a particular discipline overwhelmed, and a general distrust from the general population in their traditional experts/leaders. This is played out vividly in Vandermeer's trilogy and Garland's film as the main characters struggling to understand/survive the transmutating Area X/The Shimmer are scientists/soldiers.  ]

VIDEO ESSAY | Annihilation / Solaris: Refractions of the Self from Mike Odmark on Vimeo.

The Unloved - Annihilation from Scout Tafoya on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

ENG 281: Fall 2021 - List of Films Available for Extra Credit Responses and Deadlines

[Dates are the last day I will accept a response for credit. Send them as a word file attachment.]

My Octopus Teacher (Craig Foster, et al: 2020)  9/16/21

Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond, 2021) 9/20/21

Candyman (Nia DeCosta, 2021) 9/21/21

Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015) 9/22/21

The Matrix (Lily and Lana Wachowski, 1999) 9/23/21

Arrival (Denis Villeneuve, 2016) 9/24/21

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017) 9/28/21

In the Earth (Ben Wheatley, 2021) 9/29/21

Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995) 9/30/21

Carrie (Brian DePalma, 1976) 9/31/21

Judas and the Black Messiah (Shaka King, 2021) 10/1/21

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974) 10/2/21

Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2014) 10/3/21

Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2015) 10/4/21

Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999) 10/5/21

Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski, 2012) 10/6/21

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006) 10/7/21

The Florida Project (Sean Baker, 2017) 10/8/21

The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993) 10/9/21

The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015) 10/10/21

Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, 2018) 10/11/21

Tesla (Michael Almereyda, 2020) 10/12/21

The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006) 10/13/21

Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2011) 10/14/21

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July, 2006) 10/15/21

Little Miss Sunshine (Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, 2006) 10/16/21

Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) 10/17/21 

Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler, 2013) 10/18/21

Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971) 10/19/21

Breathless (Jean Luc-Godard, 1960) 10/20/21

Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954) 10/21/21

Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002) 10/22/21

The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018) 10/23/21

Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005) 10/24/21

Boys Don't Cry (Kimberly Pierce, 1999) 10/25/21

Layer Cake (Matthew Vaughan, 2004) 10/26/21

Titane [Julia Ducournau, 2021] [Releasing 10/1, but not sure when the Cannes Film Festival top award winner will show up in the Bluegrass, so due by 10/27/21] 

Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997) 10/28

The Last Duel [Ridley Scott, 2021] [Releasing 10/15, due by 10/29]

20th Century Women (Mike Mills, 2016) 10/30/21

Dune (Denis Villeneuve, 2021) [Releasing in theaters 10/22, response due by 11/8)

The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson, 2021) [Releasing in theaters 10/22, due by 11/9]

Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, 2021) [Releasing in theaters 10/29; due by 11/15]

The Harder They Fall (Jeymes Samuel, 2021) [Releasing in theaters 11/3, due by 11/17]

The Beta Test (Jim Cummings and P.J. McCabe, 2021) [Releasing in theaters 11/5, due by 11/19]

House of Gucci (Ridley Scott, 2021) [Releasing in theaters 11/24, due by 12/3]

The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, 2021) [Releasing in theaters 1/17 and available on 12/1 on Netflix, this will be the last option and it must be submitted by 12/4]

Students doing 5 extra credit responses for final requirement:

Alexander Giagios

Addison Peavely 1 (My Octopus Teacher)

Benjamin Miller

Emily Caldwell

Eric Hayes 3 (My Octopus Teacher; Candyman; Censor)

Isaac Cothern 1 (Ex Machina)

Justin Moya 2 (My Octopus Teacher; Candyman)

Kristen Fuchs 1 (My Octopus Teacher)

Madison Weiss 1 (My Octopus Teacher)

Mika Pasqual 2 (My Octopus Teacher; Arrival)

Tiffany Madden

Timothy Skidmore 

Weston Lamb 

Students doing the end-of-the-semester essay:

Dayne Chrisco

Emily James

Kris Traynor (why Martin Scorsese is wrong about superhero and comic book films not being cinema)

(Eric Hayes - got a credit for the question option - waiting on response to where I should place it)

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Moonlight (USA: Barry Jenkins, 2016)


Moonlight (USA: Barry Jenkins, 2016: 110 mins)

Adams, Amy, et al. "Watch Isabelle Huppert, Emma Stone, Amy Adams & More Discuss Acting in 50-Minute Roundtable."  Film Stage (January 30, 2017) [" Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Emma Stone (La La Land), Amy Adams (Arrival), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Annette Bening (20th Century Women), and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures)."]

Als, Hilton. "Moonlight Undoes Our Expectations." The New Yorker (October 24, 2016)

Art of the Title. "Know Your 2017 Below-the-Line Oscar Nominees." The Film Stage (January 30, 2017) ["The major below-the-line categories are Cinematography, Production Design, Sound Editing/Mixing, Visual Effects, Costume Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling . On the best productions (including those that the Academy labels Best Picture), the work of these crucial visual elements often blend together so seamlessly that it's hard to pick their creators' work.Thankfully, Art of The Film has created a series of supercuts called Oscars in One Minute that isolate the work of these artists so we can fully recognize their importance and beauty within each respective production."]

Atad, Corey. "Talking with Moonlight's Trevante Rhodes: For this young actor, reflecting on a breakthrough role, it's all about the empathy." Keyframe (October 20, 2016)

Bastién, Angelica Jade. "The Empathy Machine: Why Moonlight Isn’t Universal and That’s a Good Thing." cléo 5.1 (2017)

Bordwell, David. "Fantasy, flashbacks, and what-ifs: 2016 pays off the past." Observations on Film Art (January 2, 2017)

Brody, Richard. "The Unbearable Intimacy of Moonlight." The New Yorker (October 28, 2016)

Buder, Emily. "Moonlight: Barry Jenkins on Why the Exquisite Film Nearly Killed Him." No Film School (October 10, 2016)

Clark, Ashley, Violet Lucca and Amy Taubin. "Identity." Film Comment (January 17, 2017) ["Ideology and aesthetics have somehow come to be positioned opposite one another—in film criticism, should one be privileged over the other? This episode of The Film Comment Podcast discusses how race, ethnicity, and other markers of identity factor into film criticism and cinema generally. FC Digital Editor Violet Lucca unpacks the topic with Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor to FC and Artforum, and Ashley Clark, FC contributor and programmer, in a conversation that spans multiple decades of film history—from Taxi Driver to OJ: Made in America to Notting Hill to I Am Not Your Negro, to the canceled Michael Jackson episode of Urban Myths starring Joseph Fiennes."]

Clifton, Derrick. "Why Moonlight Should Win Best Picture at the Oscars." NBC News (January 24, 2017)

Collins, K. Austin. "The Radical Intimacy of Moonlight." The Ringer (October 18, 2016)

Eggert, Brian. "Moonlight (2016)." Deep Focus Review (November 20, 2016)

Jasper, Marykate. "These Tone-Deaf Reviews of Moonlight and Hidden Figures Are Why We Need Critics of Color." The Mary Sue (February 19, 2017)

Jenkins, Barry. "Moonlight." IndieWire Filmmaker Toolkit (October 21, 2016)

Kacprzak, Mikolaj. "Behind Moonlight." (Posted on Vimeo: March 2017)

Koski, Genvieve, et al. "In the Mood for Love / Moonlight, Part 1." The Next Picture Show #51 (November 22, 2016) ["Inspired by one of the year’s biggest indie sensations, Barry Jenkins’ MOONLIGHT, we’re looking at another highly romanticized tale of unrequited love: Wong Kar-wai’s beautiful 2000 film IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. In this half, we talk about how affecting LOVE’s central non-love-story is - and why - and consider how the film reflects Wong’s improvisational methods and his desire to create a dreamlike return to the Hong Kong of his childhood."]

---. "In the Mood for Love / Moonlight, Part 2." The Next Picture Show #52 (November 24, 2016) ["Our discussion of lyrical portraits of unrequited love turns its attention to Barry Jenkins’ MOONLIGHT, the look and feel of which—the final third in particular—recalls the bittersweet tone of Wong Kar-Wai’s IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. We share our reactions to MOONLIGHT, and consider the two films’ shared qualities, including their use of unusual framing and the thematic importance placed on food."]

Marinacci, Alesso. "Moonlight and Wong Kar Wai." (Posted on Youtube: Posted January 28, 2017)

May, Kate Torgovnick. "How Color Helps a Movie Tell a Story." TED (April 5, 2017)

Mayer, Sophie. "In Praise of Soft Cocks." cléo 5.1 (2017)

McDonald, Soraya Nadia. "New American Songbook." Film Comment (January/February 2020) ["Composer Nicholas Britell nurtures storytelling melodies into being that are acutely attuned to the contemporary moment."]

Ramos-Taylor, Zachary. "The Intimate Look." (Posted on Vimeo: March 2017)

Schotz, Mal. "How to Praise Moonlight." Situation Critical (November 5, 2016)

Scott, A.O. "Moonlight: Is This the Year's Best Movie." The New York Times (October 20, 2016)

Shoard, Catherine. Should Critics of Moonlight Be Hounded for Having an Opinion." The Guardian (February 22, 2017)

Sims, David. "Moonlight is a Film of Uncommon Grace." The Atlantic (October 26, 2016)

Smith, Nathan. "Chopped and Screwed: This hip-hop subgenre could be the best thing that's happened to movies in years." Keyframe (March 21, 2017)

Swinney, Jacob T.  "Reoccurring Imagery in Moonlight." (Posted on Vimeo: March 2017)

Tallerico, Brian. "The Best Films of the 2010s: Moonlight." Roger Ebert (November 6, 2019)

---. "Moonlight." Roger Ebert (October 21, 2016)

Zaman, Farihah and Nicolas Rapold. "Song of Myself." Film Comment (September/October 2016) ["Barry Jenkins confirms his talent with a heartwrenching and gorgeous portrait of a man grappling with his sexuality in a rough corner of Miami"]

 PICK ONE from Catherine Grant on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Romania: Cristian Mungiu, 2007)


4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Romania: Cristian Mungiu, 2007: 113 mins)

Bjelić, Dušan. "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days at the moment of neoliberal catastrophe." Jump Cut #58 (Spring 2018)

Cho, Seongyong. "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days." Roger Ebert (April 3, 2019)

Eggert, Brian. "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days." Deep Focus Review (March 3, 2008)

Jones, Kristin M. "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days." Film Comment (February 2008)

Kasman, Daniel. "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (Mungiu, Romania)." Notebook (January 31, 2008)

Mungiu, Cristian. "Oppression and Abortion in Mungiu's '4 Months'." Fresh Air (February 7, 2008)

Parvulescu, Consantin. "The cold world behind the window: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Romanian cinema’s return to real-existing communism." Jump Cut #51 (Spring 2009)

Ratner, Megan. "Stunted Lives: Unsettling and Unmissable. Bright Lights Film Journal #59 (February 2008)

Roman, Denise. "Film Notes: Three Romanian Movies (On Belonging and Corporeality in the New Wave of Romanian Cinema)." UC Los Angeles: UCLA Center for the Study of Women. (April 1, 2008)

Smith, Damon. "Once Upon a Time in Romania." Filmmaker (Winter 2008)

Taylor, Ella. "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days: Late Term." The Current (Jan 25, 2019)

Adam Curtis: Documentary Filmmaker/BBC Journalist

 Archives on/by Adam Curtis and his documentaries:

Thought Maybe: Adam Curtis' Films

Wikipedia: Adam Curtis

The Guardian: Adam Curtis

Resources by/about Adam Curtis and his documentaries:

"Adam Curtis, the contrarian documentarian (part 1 of two)." Media Funhouse (October 16, 2013)

"Adam Curtis, the contrarian documentarian (part 2 of two)." Media Funhouse (October 17, 2013)

Adams, Tim. "Anonymity is a shield for bigotry; if you don’t believe me, ask Schopenhauer." The Guardian (February 14, 2021)

Atkinson, Michael. "Archival Trouble: The fiction-free science fiction of Adam Curtis." Moving Image Source (February 16, 2012)

Ball, Norman. "The Power of Auteurs and the Last Man Standing: Adam Curtis' Documentary Nightmares." Bright Lights Film Journal #78 (November 2012)

Can't Get You Out of My Head (BBC: Adam Curtis, 2021: 6 episodes) ["Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World is a six-part series that explores how modern society has arrived to the strange place it is today. The series traverses themes of love, power, money, corruption, the ghosts of empire, the history of China, opium and opioids, the strange roots of modern conspiracy theories, and the history of Artificial Intelligence and surveillance. The series deals with the rise of individualism and populism throughout history, and the failures of a wide range of resistance movements throughout time and various countries, pointing to how revolution has been subsumed in various ways by spectacle and culture, because of the way power has been forgotten or given away."]

Curtis, Adam. "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace." Little Atoms (May 20, 2011)

---. "The Baby and the Baath Water." The Medium and the Message (June 16, 2011)

---. "Bugger." The Medium and the Message (August 8, 2013)

---. "The Curse of TINA." The Medium and the Message (September 13, 2011)

---. "Paradiabolical." The Medium and the Message (January 30, 2013)

---. "TV needs 'new tools' to tell its stories." The Guardian (August 22, 2012)

Harrison, Phil. "Massive Attack: 'You resurrect ghosts when you bring something back from the past.'" The Guardian (February 6, 2021) ["Robert Del Naja, of the Bristol pioneers, talks about the power and danger of nostalgia as well as his work collaborating with Adam Curtis."]

Knight, Sam. "Adam Curtis Explains It All." The New Yorker (January 28, 2021)

Obrist, Hans Ulrich. "In Conversation with Adam Curtis." E-Flux #32 (February 2012)

Ronson, Jon. "In Conversation with Adam Curtis." Vice (January 15, 2015)

Stewart-Ahn, Aaron. "How Adam Curtis' film Bitter Lake will change everything you believe about news." Boing Boing (March 19, 2015)