Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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)


Booker, M. Keith. "Annihilation (Directed by Alex Garland, 2018)." Comments on Culture (ND)

Čapek, Jan. "Strange Days in the Anthropocene: The Inhuman in "The Colour out of Space" and Annihilation." Supernatural Studies 6.1 (Fall 2019) ["This article considers the different ethical effects of extra-terrestrial forces entering the milieu of the Earth in H. P. Lovecraft’s 1927 story “The Colour out of Space” and Alex Garland’s 2018 film Annihilation. The article first introduces Lovecraft’s concept of the “cosmic” and, following his proposition of the cosmic indifference toward the Human, identifies cosmic forces as “inhuman,” incompatible with the Human. It then considers the significance of anthropocentric ethics and relatively recent critiques found in É. M. Cioran’s concept of the “void” or the introduction of the spatiotemporal territory of the “Anthropocene.” The article then discusses the effects of the cosmic force in relation to Nature not as “supernatural” but as “supranatural” or “innatural.” Annihilation provides an example of inhuman yet supranatural cosmic occurrence, a proliferation of Nature. After considering the anthropocentric and cosmic significance of the motif of cancer, the article continues with a discussion of transformations of Nature, the Human, and their ethical relations. Lovecraft’s story, seen through a Marxist reading of themes of alienation, fatigue, and depletion, reveals its cosmic force to be inhuman and innatural, exemplifying the frightening materiality of capitalism itself. While both works share the premise of transformations brought by an extra-terrestrial force and exemplify how anthropocentrism affects our perception of it, each proposes vastly different effects of the intrusion."]

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."]

Crosby, S.L., et al. "Annihilation: A Roundtable." Gothic Nature #1 (September 2019): 256 - 281. ["It is a unique and beautiful film, but it is also an important film with a resonance beyond most other ‘sci-fi classic[s]’—at least from an ecocritical perspective—which is the reason we have decided to devote a ‘roundtable’ discussion to its analysis. In an age of devastating climate change and environmental disintegration, the film brings to a popular audience a cinematic version of the mind-altering ‘ecological awareness’ that theorists such as the author of the novel Annihilation consider essential to human survival. VanderMeer, of course, is a leading figure in the recent upsurge in cosmic horror literature termed ‘The New Weird’, and the ‘weird’, he points out, draws attention to how the human is inexorably ‘entwined’ with the material, nonhuman world. It thus confronts our self-destructive amnesia, our doomed ecophobic ‘attempt to transcend our material conditions’ which has only seduced us into suicide (Morton and VanderMeer, 2016: p. 58). The film, Annihilation, in its weirdness, may evoke such entanglement and, as the following reviews demonstrate, certainly causes us to reflect upon it."]

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."]

Kjaerullf, Caroline. "The Ambiguous Portrayal of Nature in Annihilation." Leviathan #7 (2021): 127 - 138. ["This article examines how Alex Garland’s science fiction horror film Annihilation (2018) works as a form of eco-media, and how it has potential to influence its audience in a positive direction. I argue that the portrayal of nature in the film, from the different horror genres at play, to the themes of disease, destruction and renewal, and the stunning but eerie visuals, challenge the conceptions we have of the environment and climate change, and invites the audience to rethink the relationship between nature and humans."]

Like Stories of Old. "The Problem of Other Minds – How Cinema Explores Consciousness." (Posted on Youtube: May 31, 2018) ["How have films engaged the problem of other minds? In this video essay, I discuss cinematic explorations into consciousness in the context of the cognitive revolution that has challenged many of the basic assumptions about what was for a long time believed to be a uniquely human trait." Uses Frans de Waal's book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?: "Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition--in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos--to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal--and human--intelligence."]

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."]

Michael Benton -- What is very interesting to me is the idea that the "new weird" genre is speaking to a 21st Century dis-ease sparked by an awareness of 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, February 22, 2024

ENG 102 2024: Resources #10

Conti, Paul. Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic. Sounds True, 2021. ["A Journey Toward Understanding, Active Treatment, and Societal Prevention of Trauma. Imagine, if you will, a disease—one that has only subtle outward symptoms but can hijack your entire body without notice, one that transfers easily between parent and child, one that can last a lifetime if untreated. According to Dr. Paul Conti, this is exactly how society should conceptualize trauma: as an out-of-control epidemic with a potentially fatal prognosis. In Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic, Dr. Conti examines the most recent research, clinical best practices, and dozens of real-life stories to present a deeper and more urgent view of trauma. Not only does Dr. Conti explain how trauma affects the body and mind, he also demonstrates that trauma is transmissible among close family and friends, as well as across generations and within vast demographic groups. With all this in mind, Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic proposes a course of treatment for the seemingly untreatable. Here, Dr. Conti traces a step-by-step series of concrete changes that we can make both as individuals and as a society to alleviate trauma’s effects and prevent further traumatization in the future. You will discover: The different post-trauma syndromes, how they are classified, and their common symptoms. An examination of how for-profit health care systems can inhibit diagnosis and treatment of trauma. How social crises and political turmoil encourage the spread of group trauma. Methods for confronting and managing your fears as they arise in the moment. How trauma disrupts mental processes such as memory, emotional regulation, and logical decision-making. The argument for a renewed humanist social commitment to mental health and wellness. It’s only when we understand how a disease spreads and is sustained that we are able to create its ultimate cure. With Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic, Dr. Conti reveals that what we once considered a lifelong, unbeatable mental illness is both treatable and preventable."]

Conti, Paul and Andrew Huberman. "Tools and Protocols for Mental Health." The Huberman Lab (September 27, 2023) ["This is episode 4 of a 4-part special series on mental health with Stanford and Harvard-trained psychiatrist Dr. Paul Conti, M.D. Dr. Conti explains what true self-care is and how our mental health benefits from specific self-care and introspection practices — much in the same way that our physical health benefits from certain exercise and nutrition habits. He describes how the foundation of mental health is an understanding of one’s own mind and the specific questions to ask in order to explore the conscious and unconscious parts of ourselves. He describes how this process can be done either on our own, through journaling, meditation and structured thought, or in therapy with the help of a licensed professional. He also explains how unprocessed trauma can short-circuit the process and how to prevent that, and the role of friendships and other relational support systems in the journey of self-exploration for mental health. People of all ages and those with and without self-introspection and therapy experience ought to benefit from the information in this episode."]

Coombs, Wayne. "Analysis: The Pharmaceutical Colonization of Appalachia." The Daily Yonder (February 7, 2018) ["To fight the opioid epidemic, first we need to identify the enemy. Research on the theory of historical trauma – affecting entire populations and regions – could point us toward more effective treatment."]

Eldeib, Duaa. "A Lab Test That Experts Liken to a Witch Trial Is Helping Send Women to Prison for Murder." Pro Publica (October 7, 2023) ["The “lung float” test claims to help determine if a baby was born alive or dead, but many medical examiners say it’s too unreliable. Yet the test is still being used to bring murder charges — and get convictions."]

Greenwell, Garth. "An Unquiet House: Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest." To a Green Thought (February 5, 2024) ["I wasn’t sure what I thought after seeing the film for the first time. All I knew was that something had happened to me: the film wouldn’t let me go, it was like a dark stain spreading in my interior. The film disquieted me in a way that felt more important than whether it was “good” or “bad,” certainly more important than any argument I might make justifying my response. I talked about it with friends. I bought the Martin Amis novel on which the film is putatively based (it’s also up for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, though it’s hardly an adaptation at all) and read it in a day. I went to the film again, this time not in a little art cinema but in the huge AMC in Times Square, my first time in that bizarre labyrinth of a space, where I felt a little like a lost figure in an Escher engraving, riding endless escalators up and up. Ten minutes into the movie—maybe it didn’t even take that long—I felt sure I was seeing something great."]

Hedges, Chris. "Let Them Eat Dirt." The Chris Hedges Report (February 8, 2024)  ["There was never any possibility that the Israeli government would agree to a pause in the fighting proposed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, much less a ceasefire. Israel is on the verge of delivering the coup de grâce in its war on Palestinians in Gaza – mass starvation. When Israeli leaders use the term “absolute victory,” they mean total decimation, total elimination. The Nazis in 1942 systematically starved the 500,000 men, women and children in the Warsaw Ghetto. This is a number Israel intends to exceed."]

Hedges, Inez. "Gaza Screened." Jumped Cut #62 (Winter 2023 - 2024) ["Perhaps nowhere on Earth is the power of film more striking than in its portrayal of the Gaza strip. The seismic shifts in Israeli policy, military intervention, and access rules that have affected this narrow stretch of territory, lying between Israel and Egypt along the Mediterranean sea, have resulted in a landscape so transformed and traumatized that fiction films from a few years ago become documentaries of what was, while documentaries evoke ravaged science fiction dystopias."]

Huberman, Andrew. "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."]

Huberman, Andrew and Kay Tye. "The Biology of Social Interactions and Emotions." Huberman Lab (February 5, 2024) ["In this episode, my guest is Dr. Kay Tye, PhD, Professor of Systems Neurobiology at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator. We discuss the neural circuit basis of social interactions and loneliness. We also discuss how animals and people establish themselves in a group hierarchy by rank and how the brain responds to dominance and subordination. Much of our discussion relates to how social media impacts our sense of social connectedness or lack thereof. The topics covered in this episode are directly relevant to anyone interested in the neuroscience of mental health, work-life balance, abundance versus scarcity mindset, and interpersonal dynamics."]

Kafer, Gary. "There is No A.I." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023 - 2024) [Review of Kate Crawford, The Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2021: "The first chapter, “Earth,” examines the mineral mining practices that underpin the construction of computational systems. In chapter two, “Labor,” Crawford examines the forms of workplace surveillance that enervate data systems—including digital pieceworkers, Amazon warehouses, and assembly lines—all of which subject the body to temporal management.
"Data” is the subject of the third chapter, which tracks how datasets are built from harvesting personal information and transformed into pattern recognition models. Chapter four, “Classification,” focuses on how that data is used to construct taxonomies of social differences like race and gender within machine learning systems. Next, Crawford turns to “Affect,” recounting the history of scientific attempts to create universal mappings of facial expressions that now subtend the development of emotion detection systems by tech industries. The final chapter turns to the “State” to explore how the private AI industry is taking an active role in reshaping government activities, including policing and warfare.
Crawford’s atlas concludes with a discussion of “Power” and the possibility for justice, which is followed by a brief coda exploring the role of “Space” as the ultimate frontier of AI’s imperial project."]

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Okja (South Korea/USA: Bong Joon-Ho, 2017)


 Okja (South Korea/USA: Bong Joon-Ho, 2017: 120 mins)

"Bong Joon-ho (Ongoing Filmmaker Archive." Dialogic Cinephilia (October 4, 2023)

Booker, M. Keith. "OKJA (2017, Director Bong Joon-Ho)." Comments on Culture (2019)

Camia, Giovanni Marchini. "Okja is an Intelligent, Ambitious Blockbuster." The Film Stage (May 20, 2017)

Jones, Matthew. "The Case for Animal Rights: A Defense of Tom Regan." Philosophy in Film (October 24, 2020) [On Tom Regan's 1987 book The Case for Animal Rights and Bong Joon-Ho's 2017 film Okja.]

Taubin, Amy. "Free Range." Film Comment (July/August 2017) ["With Okja, Bong Joon Ho creates his most dramatically protean adventure yet—a work of interspecies friendship, galloping satire, and monstrous truths."]

Tsui, Curtis. "The Evolution of a 'Superpig': Designing Okja, from Start to Finish." The Current (July 14, 2022) ["A tale about a girl’s bond with her beloved “superpig”—an animal she must eventually rescue from the clutches of the evil corporation that genetically engineered her—Okja provided a new challenge: its shy titular creature needed to be a source of affection, not fear, inviting touching and cuddling while also maintaining a massive heft that would prove attractive to the greedy food industry. And because of the real-world setting of the film, which moves from the tranquility of the South Korean mountains to the commotion of New York City, Okja would need to seem plausibly realistic, yet also unlike anything existing in nature. The following images chart the evolution of the creature, as Bong and Jang tackled initial design concepts, incorporated feedback from collaborators, and continued to refine details until they arrived at the lovable superpig we see on-screen."]

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

ENG 102 2024: Resources #9

Beydoun, Khaled A. "What is Islamophobia?" American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear. University of California Press, 2018. ["The term “Islamophobia” may be fairly new, but irrational fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims is anything but. Though many speak of Islamophobia’s roots in racism, have we considered how anti-Muslim rhetoric is rooted in our legal system? Using his unique lens as a critical race theorist and law professor, Khaled A. Beydoun captures the many ways in which law, policy, and official state rhetoric have fueled the frightening resurgence of Islamophobia in the United States. Beydoun charts its long and terrible history, from the plight of enslaved African Muslims in the antebellum South and the laws prohibiting Muslim immigrants from becoming citizens to the ways the war on terror assigns blame for any terrorist act to Islam and the myriad trials Muslim Americans face in the Trump era. He passionately argues that by failing to frame Islamophobia as a system of bigotry endorsed and emboldened by law and carried out by government actors, U.S. society ignores the injury it inflicts on both Muslims and non-Muslims. Through the stories of Muslim Americans who have experienced Islamophobia across various racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines, Beydoun shares how U.S. laws shatter lives, whether directly or inadvertently. And with an eye toward benefiting society as a whole, he recommends ways for Muslim Americans and their allies to build coalitions with other groups. Like no book before it, American Islamophobia offers a robust and genuine portrait of Muslim America then and now."] 

Blitzer, Jonathan. "What the Media Misses by Focusing on the Southern Border." On the Media (February 2, 2024) ["Jonathan Blitzer is a staff writer at The New Yorker covering immigration. He’s observed that the last three American presidents have each faced a humanitarian emergency at the southern border — in 2014, 2019, and 2021 — but each of these crises is experienced by the American public as a separate, unrelated incident. In his new book Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here, he traces the broader historical and geopolitical root causes of the unique moment of mass migration to the United States that we’re witnessing today. Brooke speaks with Blitzer about how the causes of the mass migration to the United States from Central America over the past decade stem back to the 1980s and the Cold War."]

Blitzer, Jonathan and James Serwer. "Is a Constitutional Crisis Brewing in Texas." On the Media (February 2, 2024) ["Amid a surge of migrants at the southern border and following a Supreme Court ruling that did not go in his favor, Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week released a defiant statement declaring the border crisis an "invasion." The governor borrowed language from the Texas Declaration of Secession, written on the cusp of the Civil War, to claim that the federal government had breached the contract between the United States and the states by not enforcing laws at the border. Since then, Donald Trump has spoken out in support of Abbott, along with twenty-five other GOP governors. This week, Brooke speaks with Adam Serwer, staff writer at The Atlantic, about the consequences of Abbott borrowing neo-secessionist language from the Confederacy, and the potential for a brewing constitutional crisis. Plus, Jonathan Blitzer, immigration reporter for The New Yorker and author of the new book, Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here, on the media framing of the humanitarian emergencies at the border."]

Burton, Tara Isabella. "How Personal Branding Became an American Religion." On the Media (February 3, 2024) ["In January 2020, Equinox launched an ad campaign with the zeitgeist-capturing slogan, “Make Yourself a Gift to the World.” The message wasn’t just for devotees of luxury gyms. In the digital age, branding yourself, or actively defining a unique and “authentic” personal identity, is the new norm. Writer and social critic Tara Isabella Burton explores how we got here in her new book, “Self- Made: Creating Our Identities from Da Vinci to Kardashian.” Burton’s background is in history and theology. To her mind, our current obsession with personal identity and self-creation has deeply religious roots."]

"Busted: America's Poverty Myths." On the Media (5 part series: September 28 - October 28, 2016) ["On the Media’s series on poverty is grounded in the Talmudic notion that 'We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.' Brooke Gladstone traveled to Ohio to learn from people living the varied reality of poverty today, and to unpack the myths that shape our private presumptions as well as our policy decisions. In each episode, we feature the voices and complex stories of individuals, as well essential context from scholars, to lay open the tales we tell ourselves."]

Chayka, Kyle. "About the Filter World." On the Media (January 31, 2024) [In Micah Loewinger's introduction to this interview, he shared this personal anecdote: "Before I landed a job at this show, I worked for a few years, on and off, at a couple record stores around New York City. And some of my favorite albums to this day, were recommended to me by my coworkers. Men and women who I consider to be archivists –– not just of old formats like vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes –– but of underappreciated artists and niche genres. A knowledge of music history that can only come from a lifetime of obsessive listening, research, and curation. Nowadays, I pay for Spotify. I try to learn about music off the app and then save it for later listening on Spotify, but sometimes I find myself just letting its recommendation algorithm queue up the next track, and the next. And it definitely works. Spotify has helped me discover great music, but it’s never been as revelatory as a personal recommendation from a friend or an expert at a record store or an independent radio station. This feeling … that I’ve traded convenience for something deeper is what made me want to read Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture by Kyle Chayka, a staff writer at the New Yorker."]

Pointer, Nandi. "The Woman King: a disruptive, unruly site of countervisuality." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023/2024) ["This paper examines how and to what ends The Woman King challenges Hollywood’s longstanding patterns of representing Black people, particularly Black women. Through visual and textual analysis of the film itself as well as reference to media coverage and interviews with filmmakers and cast, I argue that The Woman King is a disruptive yet unruly site of countervisuality. Although these two words are often used interchangeably, I use the terms disruptive and unruly in distinct ways in my analysis: disruptive, causing a radical change to the normative paradigm of filmmaking and visual representation, yet unruly, not amenable to discipline or control, in that this film was received very differently by Black and white audiences. Following Mirzoeff (2011), I define countervisuality as asserting the right to look in a way that seeks to challenge what Fanon (1961) referred to as the “aesthetic of respect for the status quo” (p. 3-4). The Woman King disrupts the status quo, marking a forward decolonial orientation, thus representing a site of disidentification in Hollywood, as Muñoz (1999) theorized."]

Rengifo, Alci. "Love in the Shadowland of Myth: Rainer Sarnet’s November." Riot Material (March 2, 2018) ["Cinema has the capacity to become a conduit for dreams and nightmares, combining both into something the ancients could have scarcely imagined- the physical manifestation of myth. If critics such as Roland Barthes and Octavio Paz are correct, then the ritual of cinema or television has replaced the pagan rituals of old. Yet the primitive force of myth remains embedded in human expression, no matter if the medium has changed. Estonian filmmaker Rainer Sarnet’s new film, November (2017), is pure myth, a fairy tale lifted from the page and given life by moving images, the reverie of cinematography and the atmosphere of music. It is imagined and produced with a vivid sense of time and place, yet creating an environment outside of time. And like all myths, its grand and magical flourishes are decorations for a story that is simple in its evocation of human feelings, desires and experiences."]

West, Stephen. "Adam Smith Part 1 - Specialization." Philosophize This!  #48 (January 17, 2015)  ["... we begin our discussion of Adam Smith and how specialization has enabled each of us to live like a king, whether we realize it or not. First, we find out why Stephen is that weird guy who sits alone in the bar smiling to himself. Next, we take a look at what an hour of work buys today versus 200 years ago, and consider how this changes our ideas about wealth. Finally, we find out how pursuing our own self-interests ultimately benefits society and allows us to accomplish more together."]

Wulf, Andrea. "The Philosophers Who Invented the Modern Self." To the Best of Our Knowledge (January 25, 2024) ["Just over 200 years ago, a group of renegade German writers and philosophers came together in a small town and forever changed who we think we are. Andrea Wulf tells this story in her book "Magnificent Rebels: The First Romantics and the Invention of the Self." They created a new vision of what it means to have a unique and personal identity. It's also a scandalous story, with these charismatic geniuses hopping in and out of bed with each other."]

Get Out (USA: Jordan Peele, 2017)


 Get Out (USA: Jordan Peele, 2017: 103 mins)

Writer-director Jordan Peele announced himself as a gifted horror filmmaker straight out of the gate with his first feature, a hilarious satire of white liberalism in contemporary America that sits comfortably as a modern genre classic. The simple set up of young Black man Chris Washington (played memorably by Daniel Kaluuya) visiting his white girlfriend’s family is exquisitely handled to reveal deep-rooted racism. With Twilight Zone vibes, Peele crafts an ambience of paranoia and discomfort as Chris sinks deeper into a place where he feels like he is losing his mind, when in fact it is everyone around him who wants to steal it. A cutting social commentary on appropriation and ownership. – Katherine McLaughlin

Appen, Joe Von and Erik McClanahan. "Get Out / I Don't Feel at Home In This World." Adjust Your Tracking #141 (March 9, 2017)

Archer, Ina Diane. "Get Out." Film Comment (March 3, 2017)

Arıkan, Yağız. "Get Out." Film Critique (2018) ["When we see a horror film, we usually have a faint idea on the style or the content. We expect to be scared or surprised by a creepy clown, a monster or a killer. In the horror film "Get Out" by Jordan Peele, we do get surprised, not by one of the mentioned above but with an unexpected message on racism, and on our society. In this video, I explain how this message is portrayed, and if he really stays true to the roots of the horror genre."]

Bakare, Lanra. "Get Out: The Film That Dares to Reveal Liberal Racism in America." The Guardian (February 28, 2017)

Benton, Michael. "Jordan Peele (Ongoing Filmmaker Archive)." Dialogic Cinephilia (September 12, 2023)

Booker, M. Keith. "GET OUT (2017): DIRECTOR JORDAN PEELE." Comments on Culture (ND)

Breznican, Anthony. "Black Storytellers Are Using Horror to Battle Hate." Vanity Fair (August 3, 2020) ["After Get Out, movies such as Antebellum, the upcoming Candyman retelling, and other tales of terror and the macabre are part of a cultural exorcism centuries in the making."]

Butler, Bethonie. "The Brilliant Casting of Jordan Peele's Get Out." The Washington Post (March 9, 2017)

Chack, Erin. "22 Secrets Hidden in Get Out That You May Have Missed." Buzz Feed (March 3, 2017)

Colburn, Randall. "Horror and Race: How Jordan Peele’s Get Out Flips the Script." CoS (February 26, 2017)

Daniel, James Rushing. "'Another One for the Fire': George A. Romero on Race." The Los Angeles Review of Books (July 25, 2017)

Dowd, A.A. "Jordan Peele shifts from comedy to horror with the smart, cutting Get Out." A.V. Club (February 23, 2017)

Hancock, James, Mikhail Karadimov and Marcus Pinn. "Jordan Peele's Get Out & The Social Thriller." Wrong Reel #238 (February 28, 2017)

Harris, Brandon. "The Giant Leap Forward of Jordan Peele's Get Out." The New Yorker (March 4, 2017)

Harris, Cydnii Wilde. "Get Out as the Horror Black Films Face in the Foreign Market." (Posted on Youtube: March 14, 2018)

Hoberman, J."A Real American Horror Story." The New York Review of Books (March 13, 2017)

Hughes, Brooke Dianne-Mae. "Our Sunken Place: 'Post-Racial' America in Jordan Peele's Get Out." M.A. Thesis for the Department of English at State University of New York at Buffalo, NY: June 2018.

Jones, Matthew. "Politicizing the Horrific: How American Anxieties Play Out on Screen." Philosophy in Film (March 25, 2017)

Keetley, Dawn. "Get Out: Political Horror." Jordan Peele's Get Out: Political Horror. The Ohio State University Press, 2020: 1-22. 

Lawrence, Novotny. "White mansions, black bodies: Get Out and the New Age slave plantation." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023/2024) ["This article is divided into three sections, the first of which discusses Hollywood films’ presentations of slave plantations as inspired by the Lost Cause Tradition, demonstrating the ways in which mainstream cinema has depicted, distorted, and policed the “right ways” to exist as Black. The second section focuses on independent cinema’s presentation of what I refer to as the Panoptic plantation, a horrific construct that reveals the depths of slave states’ surveillance and control of Black bodies. The article concludes by detailing how Get Out is endemic of what I assert is an original and frightening construct of slavery and plantations that functions as a harrowing metaphor for contemporary racism and the ways in which it polices and haunts Black bodies."]

Lyonhart, Jonathan D. "Peele’s Black, Extraterrestrial, Critique of Religion." Journal of Religion & Film (October 2023) ["While Jordan Peele’s films have always held their mysteries close to the chest, they eventually granted their viewers some climactic clarity. Get Out (2017) used an 1980s style orientation video to clear up its neuroscientific twist, while Us (2019) had Lupita Nyongo’s underworld twin narratively spell out the details of the plot. Yet Nope (2022) refuses to show its hand even after the game is over, never illuminating the connection between its opening scene and the broader film, nor a myriad of other questions. As such, critics complained that it stitched together two seemingly incongruent plots without explanation; one where a chimp attacks the crew of a successful Hollywood show, the other where an alien organism haunts a small ranch in the middle of nowhere. In this paper, I will argue that a theological interpretation of Nope helps explain some of these mysteries at its center, while revealing Peele’s underlying religious critique and its place within his broader oeuvre."]

Mooney, Shannon. "Sticking to the Script: Constructions of Sonic Whiteness in Get Out and Sorry to Bother You." Supernatural Studies 7.2 (131-154) ["This article places Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) into conversation with Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You (2018) in order to explore how both films represent whiteness as a penetrative sonic force that can be both heard and recognized. I explore how these two films challenge the popular notion that whiteness, unlike Blackness, is an empty and neutral signifier; instead, these films present whiteness as a racial category that possesses distinct sonic registers. Through their engagements with neoslavery, minstrelsy, and racial passing, these films parody the ways that Blackness has become socially and culturally constructed as “sounding” a certain way, and instead depict whiteness as something that can be aurally recognized and imitated. Through probing at their constructions of sonic whiteness, both Get Out and Sorry to Bother You problematize how popular audiences have been trained to hear (as well as see) race and respond to a longer history of the racialization of sound."]

Morris, Wesley and Jenna Wortham. "Get OutS-Town, and What To Do With Our Racial Past." Still Processing (April 13, 2017)

Nolan, Amy. "The Sunken Place and the 'Electronic Elsewhere' of Jordan Peele’s Get Out." Supernatural Studies 7.2 (2022) ["One of the most compelling uses of analog technology in
contemporary horror thus far is Jordan Peele’s use of the television as reflection of and portal to the Sunken Place in Get Out (2017). From the time that the television was invented, the combination of sound and image has magnified the ghostly possibilities of reproduction. According to Jeffrey Sconce, “the paradox of visible, seemingly material worlds trapped in a box in the living room and yet conjured out of nothing more than electricity and air, [wherein] the ‘electronic elsewhere’ generated by television was thus more palpable and yet every bit as phantasmic the occult empires of previous media’” (126). Peele shows us the “electronic elsewhere” by connecting the Sunken Place to the analog television set as a signifier of protagonist Chris Washington’s repressed memory of his mother’s death. The television becomes an extension of the national nightmare and personal trauma that overshadow Chris’s adult life. Get Out is a distinctive, twenty-first century story, yet it draws from earlier horror films that focus on humanity’s relationship with technology."]

Novak, A.M. "Not Your Trophy: Deer Imagery in Jordan Peele's Get Out." Vague Visages (March 22, 2017)

Oliver, Toby. "Interview with Get Out Cinematographer." Following Films (March 7, 2017)

Palis, Elena M. "The Brand of Peele."  Film Quarterly (December 12, 2023) ["Jordan Peele’s third feature film, Nope (2022), reenergized the already substantive circulation of “Peele” as auteur-star signifier. In their generic, political, and aesthetic coherence, Peele’s directorial features satisfy the classical auteur theorization of a knowable author and “authority.” Yet central to Peele’s signature films are resolute unpredictability, character shape-shifting, and narrative misdirection, epitomized by body snatchers in Get Out (2017), tethered doppelgängers in Us (2019), and aliens camouflaged by clouds in Nope. As an ironic manipulation of auteur knowability, Peele’s motif of deceptive, equivocal ontology requires a more complex understanding of Peele’s authorship, one that also takes into account Peele’s extrafilmic roles as producer, showrunner, and star persona."]

Parham, Jason. "Get Out Proves The Only Way To Battle White Supremacy Is To Kill It." Fader (March 8, 2017)

Peele, Jordan. "Jordan Peele Gets Into Horror." Still Following (March 2, 2017) ["It’s not hard to explain the premise of “Get Out.” A woman (Allison Williams) takes her boyfriend (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her parents (Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford). He’s black, she and her parents are white — like, liberal white, good white. They’re totally down. What’s complicated to talk about with this film — the No. 1 movie in the country, by the way — is where the racial horror and the comedy take us and where they come from. It’s funny, scary, shocking and sad."]

Phillips, Maya. "Sorry to Bother You and the New Black Surrealism." Slate (July 18, 2018) ["Like Get Out and Atlanta, Boots Riley’s gonzo satire realizes the best way to depict black people’s reality is to depart from it."]

Pott, Julia. "My Mom's Amazing Voicemail Review of Get Out." Talkhouse (May 10, 2017)

Ratcliff, Travis Lee. "The Legacy of Paranoid Thrillers." (Posted on Vimeo: June 2017) ["Paranoid thrillers are constant in cinema's history, but at any given moment they reflect our specific anxieties back to us and reveal how we feel about our institutions. Here, I explore how paranoid thrillers crystalized as a genre in American cinema and examine the possibility of a contemporary renaissance in conspiracy fiction."]

Subissati, Andrea and Alexandra West. "Where is My Mind: The Stepford Wives (1975) and Get Out (2017)." The Faculty of Horror #67 (November 27, 2018) ["This month, Andrea and Alex tackle two films whose hearts lie in the darkest, most secret parts of suburban utopia. In Bryan Forbes’ The Stepford Wives and Jordan Peele’s Get Out, we follow protagonists who are socialized to make room for the privileged and examine what happens when they strike back."]

Wynter, Kevin. Critical Race Theory and Jordan Peele's Get Out. Bloomsbury, 2022. ["This book provides a concise introduction to critical race theory and shows how this theory can be used to interpret Jordan Peele's Get Out. It surveys recent developments in critical race studies and introduces key concepts that have helped shape the field such as Black masculinity, white privilege, the Black body, and miscegenation. The book's analysis of Get Out situates it within the context of the American horror film, illustrating how contemporary debates in critical race theory and approaches to the analysis of mainstream Hollywood cinema can illuminate each other. In this way, the book provides both an accessible reference guide to key terminology in critical race studies and film studies, while contributing new scholarship to both fields."]

Thursday, February 8, 2024

ENG 102 2024: Resources #8

Blumenthal, Max. "Killing Gaza 2.0 an interview with Max Blumenthal." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023 - 2024) ["On December 14, 2023, Max Blumenthal, author of several books on Palestine/Israel and the editor of Grayzone news, who with Dan Cohen made the film Killing Gaza about the 2014 Israeli attacks on Gaza, spoke at the Community Church of Boston about the current situation. The Jump Cut editors have recast his talk as an interview."]

Hedges, Inez. "Introduction: Seeing Gaza Differently." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023-2024) ["The air, land, and sea blockade of Gaza is now in its 16th year. Children that were 5 and 6 years old when the blockade started are now in their 20s and trying to plan their professional futures within the travel limits set by Israel and Egypt. According to OCHA (the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), even before the outbreak of new hostilities between Hamas and Israel, of the more than 2.3 million people living in Gaza, 26 % of the workforce was unemployed, including 38% of youth; 75% of the population required food aid; over 90 % of the water was undrinkable and had to be purified. Residents were subjected to rolling electricity blackouts. Since the start of the blockade, Gaza has endured four major bombing attacks by Israel, in 2009, 2014, 2021 and just now in 2023. Despite all this, Gaza has refused to be reduced to the world’s image of suffering and disaster. Women worked to support their families (see the UNRWA video by Motaz Azaiza, https://www.instagram.com/p/CrMBXJLglOW/). Talented musicians took up the violin. Families enjoyed time at the beach. Young people learned computer skills—there is no blockade in cyberspace. Children played hide-and-seek, soccer, hopscotch—and sometimes made sorties to throw stones at soldiers manning the border crossings."]

Huh, Minj. "Embodied allegory in Sorry to Bother You: art, performance and movement in neoliberal capitalist ruins." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023 - 2024) ["In this paper, I examine how Riley brings art and politics together in Sorry to Bother You, specifically through embodied allegory. Such a deployment of allegory in recovering the bodies of the marginalized—in this case racially- and gender-marked laborers—resonates with how Annabel Patterson in Fables of Power (1991) shifts our attention towards Aesop as a “philosopher of materialism and the body” (38), an essential facet of Aesop which has long been eclipsed by “the legend of the witty Aethiopian slave” (34). To be sure, many episodes in Aesopian fables function as a critique of unequal power relations. The political message of these fables grasps wage laborers’ attention to this day when the urge to liberate oneself from the social hierarchy is still founded in capitalism, whose internal mechanism has an uneasy proximity to enslaved labor in pre-capitalist societies. I propose that Sorry to Bother You is a viable fable for this day and age, alerting us to the possible subversion of official values and dominant culture, and at the same time, encouraging us to attend to another device of allegory, which is the historical situatedness of its current author."]

Jasechko, Scott, et al. "Rapid groundwater decline and some cases of recovery in aquifers globally." Nature (January 2024) ["Groundwater resources are vital to ecosystems and livelihoods. Excessive groundwater withdrawals can cause groundwater levels to decline, resulting in seawater intrusion, land subsidence, streamflow depletion and wells running dry. However, the global pace and prevalence of local groundwater declines are poorly constrained, because in situ groundwater levels have not been synthesized at the global scale. Here we analyse in situ groundwater-level trends for 170,000 monitoring wells and 1,693 aquifer systems in countries that encompass approximately 75% of global groundwater withdrawals. We show that rapid groundwater-level declines (>0.5 m year−1) are widespread in the twenty-first century, especially in dry regions with extensive croplands. Critically, we also show that groundwater-level declines have accelerated over the past four decades in 30% of the world’s regional aquifers. This widespread acceleration in groundwater-level deepening highlights an urgent need for more effective measures to address groundwater depletion. Our analysis also reveals specific cases in which depletion trends have reversed following policy changes, managed aquifer recharge and surface-water diversions, demonstrating the potential for depleted aquifer systems to recover."]

Karlawish, Jason and Aaron Kesselheim. "A Disease of Humanity: The Problem of Alzheimer's." Open Source (June 24, 2021) ["Alzheimer’s disease, the hushed nightmare version of old age, is on the wrong side of medical news again. The headline shocker this month was that the watchdog Food and Drug Administration had approved an anti-Alzheimer’s drug from the pharma giant Biogen. The treatment called aducanumab has no record of success and a first-round price-tag per patient of $55,000 per year. Our keynote guest Aaron Kesselheim has the inside story of the FDA’s retreat from regulation. Then Jason Karlawish will join us from the front line of Alzheimer’s treatment. The riddle this hour is what makes the last stage of human life so demanding and so difficult." Jason Karlawish's new book is The Problem of Alzheimer's: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It."]

Lawrence, Novotny. "White mansions, black bodies: Get Out and the New Age slave plantation." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023/2024) ["This article is divided into three sections, the first of which discusses Hollywood films’ presentations of slave plantations as inspired by the Lost Cause Tradition, demonstrating the ways in which mainstream cinema has depicted, distorted, and policed the “right ways” to exist as Black. The second section focuses on independent cinema’s presentation of what I refer to as the Panoptic plantation, a horrific construct that reveals the depths of slave states’ surveillance and control of Black bodies. The article concludes by detailing how Get Out is endemic of what I assert is an original and frightening construct of slavery and plantations that functions as a harrowing metaphor for contemporary racism and the ways in which it polices and haunts Black bodies."]

Like Stories of Old. "The Problem of Other Minds – How Cinema Explores Consciousness." (Posted on Youtube: May 31, 2018) ["How have films engaged the problem of other minds? In this video essay, I discuss cinematic explorations into consciousness in the context of the cognitive revolution that has challenged many of the basic assumptions about what was for a long time believed to be a uniquely human trait." Uses Frans de Waal's book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?: "Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition--in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos--to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal--and human--intelligence."]

McGrath, Callum. "Looking to the other side: Dismantlement and reimposition of borders in Sicario and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada." Senses of Cinema #108 (January 2024) ["Two films that engage in ideas of the permeability of the US-Mexico border are Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015) and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005). This article will explore how these films either reimpose or dismantle the border. To construct these arguments, an analysis of cinematic techniques will be undertaken for each film, with a focus on mise-en-scène. It will be argued that the negative depiction of Mexico in Sicario reimposes border ideology. Subsequently, the article will assert that The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada instead dismantles the border division. In both texts, however, there are challenges and nuances to these arguments, as will be explored. These include border permeability in instances that are beneficial to the hegemony of the US in Sicario, and some aspects of Mexico’s romanticised portrayal that reinforce a divide in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada."]

Milton, Chris. "Rosemary's Baby: The World as Coven." Bright Lights Film Journal (July 27, 2023) ["Rosemary’s Baby has been seen as eerily prescient, predictive, but in fact it looked back; Polanski already knew evil and horror, and specifically the horror of the giant covens of Nazi Germany and communist Eastern Europe. For just as the “banality of evil” can be reversed to the “evil of banality,” so “collective madness” can be reversed to the “madness of the collective,” and this is the true theme of this film. Rosemary’s Baby is about the glamour of evil, misogyny, the absolute unknowability of others, however intimate, and their potential for betrayal; but above all it is about the evil of ideologies, conformism, the inherent evil of joining in."]

Pelan, Tim. "Trickle Down Robonomics—The Predatory Capitalism of ‘RoboCop.’" Cinephilia & Beyond (August 21, 2023) ["RoboCop, Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 American debut, was a prescient satire on Reagan-era American values and predatory capitalism, with Omni Consumer Products (OCP) contracted to run the police force in crumbling Old Detroit, whilst ramping up a tank-like robotic enforcement program (ED 209) to militarise the war on crime. This OCP action is in advance of the gentrification of Detroit’s rebirth as “Delta City,” complete with 2 million jobs. But number two executive Dick Jones’ project has a few “glitches” and hungry underling Dick Morton (Miguel Ferrer) has a backup plan—RoboCop, an anonymous cybernetic cop, loyal to the company. All he needs is a “volunteer,” transferring suitable candidates into the worst precinct in town to be declared legally dead—their contracts say they are property of OCP when gunned down on duty. Dick is also in cahoots with sociopathic criminal Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) to feast upon the migrant workforce that will be assembled to create the new utopia."]

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Arrival (USA: Denis Villeneuve, 2016)

Arrival (USA: Denis Villeneuve, 2016: 116 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)."]

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."]

Booker, M. Keith. "Arrival (2016, Director Denis Villeneuve)." Comments on Culture (NP)

Cassidy, Brendan, J.D. Duran and Richard Newby. "Arrival, Top 3 "Thinking" Sci-Fi Movies, The Deathly Hallows Part 2 ." InSession Film (November 15, 2016)

Chiang, Ted. "Story of Your Life." (Original novella published in 1998 in Starlight 2 that the film is adapted from)

Desowitz, Bill. " How Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson Found a New Musical Language for Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival." IndieWire (November 21, 2016)

Eggert, Brian. "Arrival (2016)." Deep Focus Review (November 11, 2016)

Jones, Matthew. "Arrival (2016): Will We Understand Aliens When (If) They Arrive?" Philosophy in Film (December 18, 2019)

Kermode, Mark. "Arrival: A Poetic Vision of Contact With Aliens." The Guardian (November 13, 2016)

Laczkowski, Jim, et al. "Denis Villeneuve." The Director's Club #140 (December 17, 2017) ["Now Playing Network Master of Ceremonies (and Director's Club founder) Jim Laczkowski joins us for this episode which has us looking at the films of French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve! With Jim's help, we look at how Villeneuve brings his unique combination of thoughtfulness, pathos, family focus, and strangeness to dramas, genre thrillers, and films across the sci-fi spectrum. Includes lots of spiders and one talking fish."]

Lane, Anthony. "The Consuming Fervor of Arrival." The New Yorker (November 14, 2016)

Lapointe, Tanya. The Art and Science of Arrival. Titan Books, 2022. ["Official retrospective companion book to the Paramount film Arrival starring Amy Adams, Jereny Renner and Forest Whitaker, featuring concept art, sketches, behind-the-scenes photography and interviews with key creative and scientific team members. Since its release in 2016, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival, based on the Hugo-nominated short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, has embedded itself firmly in the minds of moviegoers around the world. The film garnered many accolades, including nine BAFTA nominations and eight Academy Award® nominations, proceeding to win an Oscar® for Best Sound Editing and a BAFTA for Best Sound. Since then, the film has generated larger conversations within the cultural landscape of academia including film, philosophy, and linguistics. In The Art and Science of Arrival, author and producer Tanya Lapointe revisits the film and its legacy with the production’s key team members. This lavish hardback volume recounts the genesis of this modern classic, from Ted Chiang’s short story The Story of Your Life to its premiere in Venice and its subsequent eight Academy Award(R) nominations. It explores the film’s concept of non-linear time, and showcases the remarkable concept art that brought the aliens, their ships and their startling logogram language to life."]

Like Stories of Old. "The Problem of Other Minds – How Cinema Explores Consciousness." (Posted on Youtube: May 31, 2018) ["How have films engaged the problem of other minds? In this video essay, I discuss cinematic explorations into consciousness in the context of the cognitive revolution that has challenged many of the basic assumptions about what was for a long time believed to be a uniquely human trait." Uses Frans de Waal's book Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?: "Hailed as a classic, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? explores the oddities and complexities of animal cognition--in crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, chimpanzees, and bonobos--to reveal how smart animals really are, and how we've underestimated their abilities for too long. Did you know that octopuses use coconut shells as tools, that elephants classify humans by gender and language, and that there is a young male chimpanzee at Kyoto University whose flash memory puts that of humans to shame? Fascinating, entertaining, and deeply informed, de Waal's landmark work will convince you to rethink everything you thought you knew about animal--and human--intelligence."]

Muller, and Nate Zoebl. "Arrival (2016)." Psycho Drive-In (November 13, 2016)

Roark, David. "Alien and Time: The Philosophy of Arrival." Balder & Dash (December 8, 2016)

Statt, Nick. "How the short story that inspired Arrival helps us interpret the film’s major twist." The Verge (November 16, 2016)

StudioBinder. "Denis Villeneuve & His Cinema of Ambiguity — Directing Styles Explained." (Posted on Youtube: April 6, 2020) ["Denis Villeneuve movies are made to confuse you. At every opportunity — in the story, in the cinematography, editing, and music, Villeneuve wants to keep you guessing. Watching Denis Villeneuve movies is to be placed in an environment of uncertainty. And that’s what makes them so interesting. In films like Enemy, Prisoners, Polytechnique, Blade Runner 2049, and Arrival, Villeneuve consistently creates awe and wonder with images and sounds we’ve never seen before. In Enemy, Adam (Jake Gyllenhaal) must confront the possibility that he is more than a single person. In Sicario, Kate (Emily Blunt) is pushed into the world of drug cartels by a tight-lipped company man (Josh Brolin) and a near-silent assassin (Benicio Del Toro). In Prisoners, Keller (Hugh Jackman) ventures into murky moral territory to find his kidnapped daughter. In Arrival, Louise (Amy Adams) and Ian (Jeremy Renner) are tasked with bridging the communication gap between beings from another dimension. In all these movies, the characters find themselves in new worlds without answers. In this video, we’ve cracked the code on Villeneuve’s love of ambiguity and we explain how his directing style works across 7 areas of focus including sound, color, production design, and more. Villeneuve creates movies that can be enigmatic but there’s no denying that he is a film artist in complete control of his medium. If you’re studying directing, cinematography, editing, or pursuing ANY career in filmmaking, there are a ton of lessons to be learned from Denis Villeneuve. This is the ultimate breakdown of Denis Villeneuve’s directing style."]

Monday, February 5, 2024

ENG 102 2024: Resources #7

Coffee, John C. "How Corporations Get Away With Crime." Capitalisn't (July 22, 2022) ["When it comes to corporate rulebreaking, data from 2002 to 2016 reveals that the US government arranged more than 400 "deferred protection agreements" as a means of deterrence. Under these, a company acknowledges what it did was wrong, pays a fine, promises not to misbehave for a period of time -- and thus is largely let off the hook. Columbia Law School Professor and author of "Corporate Crime and Punishment: The Crisis of Underenforcement", John C. Coffee, says these have done little to deter future wrongdoing. Coffee joins Luigi and Bethany, both of whom have also extensively researched and exposed corporate wrongdoing, to discuss how to reform aspects of enforcement, such as self-reporting mechanisms, internal investigations, independent external auditors, whistleblowers, and even shame and humiliation."]

The Consilience Project. "Democracy and the Epistemic Commons."  The Consilience Project (February 27, 2021) ["Democracy cannot function without an epistemically healthy public sphere that makes it possible for democratic self-government to achieve successful outcomes, maintain its legitimacy, and avoid runaway concentrations of power in society. The institutional structures responsible for maintaining our epistemic commons have faltered. Only a new movement for cultural enlightenment can harness the energy needed to reboot and revamp our ailing institutions—or generate new ones entirely—and thereby restore our democracy." Video adaptation on Youtube]

Family Budget Calculator Economic Policy Institute (ND) ["EPI’s Family Budget Calculator measures the income a family needs in order to attain a modest yet adequate standard of living. The budgets estimate community-specific costs for 10 family types (one or two adults with zero to four children) in all counties and metro areas in the United States. Compared with the federal poverty line and the Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets provide a more accurate and complete measure of economic security in America."]

Faux, Zeke. "Crypto: SBF and Beyond." Capitalisn't (November 16, 2023) ["In his new book "Number Go Up," Bloomberg News investigative reporter Zeke Faux takes readers on a wild ride through the world of cryptocurrency, from its origins in the dark corners of the internet, its meteoric rise to mainstream popularity, and finally its equally precipitous fall. A few days after the 'convicted' verdict in the trial of beleaguered crypto entrepreneur Sam Bankman-Fried (SBF), Faux joins Bethany and Luigi to make a case for why we should judge cryptocurrency by what it has done and not what it can do. They discuss whether it is too soon to write crypto off, what larger commentary it offers about capitalism, and why Luigi, who teaches a popular MBA course on fintech, feels "crypto is money that can only be created by computer scientists who don't understand history.""]

Fawaz, Ramzi. "The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics (New York University Press, 2016)." New Books in Literary Studies (August 17, 2023) ["Ramzi Fawaz, the Romnes Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Published by NYU Press in 2016, The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics is his first book. In 2022, Ramzi published Queer Forms, for which he was interviewed by Lilly Goren for the New Books in Political Science channel. He is also the co-editor of Keywords for Comics Studies, with Deborah Whaley and Shelley Streeby, both with NYU Press. Ramzi’s recently published articles include “Legions of Superheroes: Diversity, Multiplicity, and Collective Action Against Genocide in the Superhero Comic Book,” in Social Text; and wrote the introduction to “Queer About Comics,” a special issue of American Literature, with Darieck Scott. A bit about the book: In 1964, noted literary critic Leslie Fiedler described American youth as "new mutants," social rebels severing their attachments to American culture to remake themselves in their own image. 1960s comic book creators, anticipating Fiedler, began to morph American superheroes from icons of nationalism and white masculinity into actual mutant outcasts, defined by their genetic difference from ordinary humanity. These powerful misfits and "freaks" soon came to embody the social and political aspirations of America's most marginalized groups, including women, racial and sexual minorities, and the working classes. In The New Mutants: Superheroes and the Radical Imagination of American Comics (NYU Press, 2016), Ramzi Fawaz draws upon queer theory to tell the story of these monstrous fantasy figures and how they grapple with radical politics from Civil Rights and The New Left to Women's and Gay Liberation Movements. Through a series of comic book case studies--including The Justice League of America, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and The New Mutants--alongside late 20th century fan writing, cultural criticism, and political documents, Fawaz reveals how the American superhero modeled new forms of social belonging that counterculture youth would embrace in the 1960s and after. The New Mutants provides the first full-length study to consider the relationship between comic book fantasy and radical politics in the modern United States."]

Gawad, Aisha Abdel. "No Safe Place to Grieve: The Trauma of Muslim Americans Living Under Surveillance." Lit Hub (January 29, 2024) ["For the past four months, Palestinians have been begging the world to see a child as a child, a journalist as a journalist, a hospital as a hospital. I’m faced with the ugly realization that those decades of war against Arab and Muslim bodies have not ended. Part of that war is not only dehumanizing us so we can be killed en masse abroad, but also criminalizing us so we can be silenced at home."]

Hack, Matt. "Ambivalent cops and institutional eyes: the neoliberal police state in Japanese animation." Jump Cut #62 (Winter 2023-2024) ["This essay will examine police fiction in Japanese animation or “anime,” focusing on two series connected to Japan’s experience of neoliberalism. As David Harvey (2007: 198-206) famously theorized, the neoliberal phase of capitalism has worked to close off alternatives, often resorting to authoritarian methods. Neoliberalism’s dominance rests not only on policies of privatization, deregulation, and crisis manipulation, but also on the cultivation of a particular relation to the world that becomes “rational” in social institutions governed by neoliberal logics. In Michel Foucault’s (2008: 277-278) formulation, neoliberal governmentality situates the “individual subject of interest within a totality which eludes him [sic]” but “nevertheless founds the rationality of his egoistic choices.” Building on Foucault’s work, Wendy Brown (2015: 35-41) argues that this “neoliberal reason” recasts thought and action as individual “investments” that must adapt to the demands of an essentialized, all-consuming market. Collective politics and democratic organization are thereby erased from public discussion (201-203). Like Harvey, Brown associates neoliberal reason with authoritarianism, since “we are human capital not just for ourselves, but also for the firm, state, or postnational constellation…concerned with their own competitive positioning” (37). I will use Brown’s term “neoliberal reason” throughout the essay to describe this mode of experience that internalizes individual self-management and acceptance of authoritarian systems as the only rational way of seeing the world."]

Huberman, Andrew. "How to Stop Headaches Using Science-Based Approaches." Huberman Lab (February 6, 2023) ["In this episode, I discuss the causes and treatments of different types of headaches, including tension headaches, migraines, sinus and cluster headaches, as well as menstrual and other hormone-based headaches. I describe how to distinguish between the different headache types and how to select the right treatment, including prescription-based and non-prescription-based treatments, behavioral and nutrition-based approaches. I also explain the evidence and mechanisms supporting the use of omega-3 fatty acids, high dose creatine, peppermint oil, turmeric, acupuncture and more. Additionally, I touch on traumatic brain injury, the causes of photophobia, aura, and the link between spicy foods and thunderclap headaches."]

Huberman, Andrew and Robert Lustig. "How Sugar & Processed Foods Impact Your Health." The Huberman Lab (December 18, 2023) ["In this episode, we address the “calories in- calories out” (CICO) model of metabolism and weight regulation and how specific macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates), fiber, and sugar can modify the CICO equation. My guest is Dr. Robert Lustig, M.D., neuroendocrinologist, professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and a bestselling author on nutrition and metabolic health. We cover how different types of sugars, specifically fructose, sugars found in liquid form, taste intensity, and other factors impact insulin levels, liver, kidney, and metabolic health. We also explore how fructose in non-fruit sources can be addictive, acting similarly to drugs of abuse, and how sugar alters brain circuits related to food cravings and satisfaction. The discussion then shifts to the role of sugar in childhood and adult obesity, gut health and disease, and mental health. We delve into how the food industry uses refined sugars to create pseudo foods and the implications of these on the brain and body. This episode is replete with actionable information about sugar and metabolism, weight control, brain health, and body composition. It ought to be of interest to anyone seeking to understand how specific food choices impact the immediate and long-term health of the brain and body."]

Palis, Elena M. "The Brand of Peele."  Film Quarterly (December 12, 2023) ["Jordan Peele’s third feature film, Nope (2022), reenergized the already substantive circulation of “Peele” as auteur-star signifier. In their generic, political, and aesthetic coherence, Peele’s directorial features satisfy the classical auteur theorization of a knowable author and “authority.” Yet central to Peele’s signature films are resolute unpredictability, character shape-shifting, and narrative misdirection, epitomized by body snatchers in Get Out (2017), tethered doppelgängers in Us (2019), and aliens camouflaged by clouds in Nope. As an ironic manipulation of auteur knowability, Peele’s motif of deceptive, equivocal ontology requires a more complex understanding of Peele’s authorship, one that also takes into account Peele’s extrafilmic roles as producer, showrunner, and star persona."]