[quote="Joseph Jon Lanthier (highlights mine)"]Much like Fritz Lang’s M, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty begins with violent death that’s aurally suggested rather than seen, and concludes with a woman’s ambiguously symbolic tears. These disorienting overloads of affect bookend a deceptively rational police-procedural thriller, cataloguing the steps taken by a steely CIA operative (Jessica Chastain) to hunt down Osama bin Laden through a political decade defined by torture and mishap. Hyperkinetic drama trumps context throughout; discussion of Operation Cyclone and even Islam is riskily absent, as though Bigelow were writing history with lightning. The code-named characters meanwhile behave like they’re auditioning for HBO; Chastain’s self-proclaimed “motherfucker” of an agent, who scrawls angry notes on her male superior’s office window (a.k.a. “the glass ceiling”), has an anemically sketched inner life. Yet all of these vernacular tropes form a shrewd, daring rouse. In a move worthy not only of Lang but of Brecht, Bigelow has politicized her pop aesthetics. Her compulsively watchable film brings a global exchange of unthinkable pain down to earth while still retaining the essence of its ineffability. Zero Dark Thirty is ultimately about unknowable cost—not only the cost of keeping a worldwide hegemony afloat with grisly violence, but the cost of maintaining a worldwide entertainment industry with facsimiles of the same.[/quote]
So [i]Zero Dark Thirty[/i] (that’s the same [i]Zero Dark Thirty[/i] that [url=http://nymag.com/movies/reviews/zero-dark-thirty-hobbit-2012-12/]David Edelstein[/url] describes as “borderline fascistic”) is the [i]Starship Troopers[/i] of its generation, and only JJ Lanthier here with his cromulent prose and incoherent metaphors can tell! Who knew? And if you were one of the millions of people who made the connection between [i]Zero Dark Thirty[/i] and German Expressionism – and how could you not? – JJ has you covered there, too. He knows a lot about cinema, you see.
Oh, Slant. It’s this kind of nose-upturned, art-school-socialist pedantry you just can’t fake; and yet, it’s the kind of smug, rigorously pretentious provocation that makes you (occasionally) worth reading.
Whoever said that critiquing mediocrity is the real test of one’s critical facilities had it right: pointing out good things about particularly good work and bad things about particularly bad work certainly requires skill, but in those cases you start out with enough momentum to hit the ground running right away. Explaining why unremarkable work is unremarkable, though… that’s difficult. You have to make your own momentum, and it’s that strenuous process that teaches you the material components of the thing you’re putting together from scratch. Not having clear binary classifications of “good” and “bad” to fall back on – that’s what forces you to examine just how you distinguish between the two in the first place.
[may expand this post into a full essay at some point in the future]
You know, the more I consider it the more I think that the great and terrible thing about the American cultural ethos is the way in which its subjects are constantly enflamed with the desire for “more”. On the one hand, more power, more wealth, more pleasure; on the other, more freedom, more opportunity, more equality. Both sides of the coin engender a warlike mindset, a life of constant striving doomed never to live up to an imagined ideal; yet both produce world-changing developments. Americans never doubt for a second that simply by being alive, simply by being human, they are entitled to the best the world has to offer. It’s what makes them lead lives of perpetual alienation, anxiety and rage, yet at the same time what imbues them with the iron will to realize ambitions. Would that the ambitious capitalists and snarling social critics might realize they are fruit of the same spiritual tree; and that both in tandem make America the greatest – not the most good, perhaps, but the greatest – nation on Earth.
The following is the beginning of a scene I started on a few weeks ago for a creative writing study I’m taking at the moment. Some nice weather and a little Google searching gave me a flash of inspiration for a place to put the two characters I’ve been developing for the class. I ended up liking the setup so much that I couldn’t bear the thought of ruining it by trying to take it somewhere. I still have no idea where I would (or should) really go with this, honestly, though I may revisit it at some point. Any suggestions, writing comrades?
As they walked along the boulevard in the late afternoon Jack found himself preoccupied by the gulls swooping back and forth overhead. With their wings stiff and outstretched they looked something like small hang gliders, remote-controlled objects manipulated by an unseen hand for the purpose of accentuating the scenery. In fleeting moments it was hard, and then easy, and then again quite difficult to believe, to personally accept, that each was an autonomous being capable of thought, pain, pleasure and mortality. Hands planted tenuously in the pockets of his slightly baggy jeans, he surveyed the gulls and the clouds and the bright blue sky as he wandered over the walkway, in his mind attempting to pick apart their manifold mysteries one at a time.
Lydia, however, was looking forward, gazing at the people trickling past. Old men, young girls, everything in between – it was spring now, the wind having left behind the cutting daggers of its wintry ways and adopting instead the texture and consistency of warm breath rolling across pedestrians’ faces, and as such it was only to be expected that many pedestrians would take to the streets to appreciate the sensuous favor. Her heels clicked as she stepped on the wooden boards and her green dress rustled in the breeze as she sailed forward.
To the glance of the casual observer they may have appeared to be walking side-by-side, but in fact Lydia was the leader of the two, Jack falling slightly behind and every so often looking down from the skies to double-check the path and the directional cues laid out by his sister, so as to be sure he was still on the proper path.