2001: A Space Odyssey had its world premiere 50 years ago today. I plan to have much more content commemorating the Semicentennial of this masterwork throughout the year, but in the meantime and in order to mark the anniversary of the premiere, check out 2001: A Book Odyssey from Paolo Granata which showcases 2001 book cover designs created by more than 180 students from the University of Toronto.
Of course, my take on the Clarke book is summed up by Heywood Floyd in the film: “More specifically, your opposition to the cover story…”
- Media theorist and ludologist Ian Bogost recently penned some thoughts on Facebook’s development platform (referred to as “Facebook’s bleak new feudalism” in the title of Kotaku’s repost of the original piece):
The short truth is this: Facebook doesn’t care if developers can use the platform easily or at all. In fact, it doesn’t seem to concern itself with any of the factors that might be at play in developers’ professional or personal circumstances. The Facebook Platform is a selfish, self-made altar to Facebook, at which developers are expected to kneel and cower, rather than a generous contribution to the success of developers that also happens to benefit Facebook by its aggregate effects.
- Jeffrey van der Goot at Been Playing argues for “more Kubrickian and Lynchian narratives in video games“:
A lot of reactions to the narrative of [Bioshock] Infinite that I encountered were that it “didn’t make sense,” and that it was “being weird for the sake of being weird.”
Those reminded me of criticisms leveled at two of my favorite filmmakers: David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. I think these comments arise because Infinite doesn’t go all the way, it hesitates. It tries to stick to conventional logic. It strews about Voxaphones to explain its abstractions.
- Shujaat Syed at Player Effort writes about “making linear story telling interesting in video games by acknowledging the fourth wall”:
At their core, video games are authoritarian. They have rules that need to be followed, and you are restricted to the game play systems and a story the programmers and designers have created. However, compared to other forms of media, they offer a breadth of freedom that is unmatched. I will not be speaking about the freedom of exploration. What I will be talking about is the freedom of creating a different type of narrative that is only possible through video games by breaking the 4th wall between the game and the player. This is one of our mediums greatest advantage, however, very rarely, is this power explored. With video games, we can have truly powerful forms of narrative, but at most we get ideas that could theoretically work as movies. Open-world sandbox games can dodge this because the player is free to create their own narrative alongside the main plotline, and this is a concept that is entirely unique to video games. It’s the linear story-based games where the narrative is usually much harder to distinguish than what you would get from a book or movie.
- Miles Klee at The Daily Dot reports on an app “that gamifies your boring sex life”:
In addition to registering your decibel levels (I’m hoping mine will get a boost from the garbage truck always idling outside my window), Spreadsheets will also monitor your overall duration, frequency, and somehow, thrusts per minute. Apparently this does not require supplementary electrodes.
What’s more, you can unlock “badges” and the like. For example, to meet the “Hello Sunshine” achievement, worth 10 points, you must take on the ultimate challenge of our time: “perform morning sex.”
- William Saletan at Slate shows how media coverage has misrepresented Juror B29’s comments on the Zimmerman trial verdict:
The reports are based on an ABC News interview with Juror B29, the sole nonwhite juror. She has identified herself only by her first name, Maddy. She’s been framed as the woman who was bullied out of voting to convict Zimmerman. But that’s not true. She stands by the verdict. She yielded to the evidence and the law, not to bullying. She thinks Zimmerman was morally culpable but not legally guilty. And she wants us to distinguish between this trial and larger questions of race and justice.
ABC News hasn’t posted a full unedited video or transcript of the interview. The video that has been broadcast—on World News Tonight, Nightline, and Good Morning America—has been cut and spliced in different ways, often so artfully that the transitions appear continuous. So beware what you’re seeing. But the video that’s available already shows, on closer inspection, that Maddy has been manipulated and misrepresented. Here are the key points.
- This follows Zimmerman filing suit against NBC for defamation:
In the recording heard by NBC viewers, Zimmerman appeared to volunteer the information, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”
Edited out was the 911 dispatcher asking Zimmerman if the person he was suspicious of was “black, white or Hispanic,” to which Zimmerman had responded, “He looks black.”
- John Nolte at Breitbart thinks that CNN’s coverage of the Zimmerman case establishes the network as “the most disgraced name in news”:
Though Zimmerman and his attorneys have filed a lawsuit against NBC News for the malicious editing of the 911 tape, what CNN did is far worse.
NBC News was attempting to make Zimmerman look like a racial profiler. CNN, on the other hand, was attempting to make Zimmerman look like an enraged outright racist (there was no racial angle in ABC’s fraud). It also took CNN far longer to retract their story than either NBC or ABC.
Moreover, on its own airwaves, CNN would allow the complete fallacy that Zimmerman had said “fucking coon” to live on.
- Dan Laughey offers an idiosyncratically British perspective on “royal baby” media coverage:
Pulling teeth doesn’t do justice to the painful viewing experience accompanying this sort of news manufacture – making news from no news. Even the daily palaver known as Changing the Guard was spun to look like an integral prelude to the long-awaited arrival. And the waiting went on, and on, and on, and the longer it went on, the more desperate and dull the coverage became. Sometimes people complain about the high salaries enjoyed by news presenters, especially the public service variety, but by golly they earnt their crust trying, albeit failing, to sustain the suspense.
- In the New York Review of Books, Martin Scorcese discusses “reading the language of cinema”:
Light is at the beginning of cinema, of course. It’s fundamental—because cinema is created with light, and it’s still best seen projected in dark rooms, where it’s the only source of light. But light is also at the beginning of everything. Most creation myths start with darkness, and then the real beginning comes with light—which means the creation of forms. Which leads to distinguishing one thing from another, and ourselves from the rest of the world. Recognizing patterns, similarities, differences, naming things—interpreting the world. Metaphors—seeing one thing “in light of” something else. Becoming “enlightened.” Light is at the core of who we are and how we understand ourselves.
Or consider the famous Stargate sequence from Stanley Kubrick’s monumental 2001: A Space Odyssey. Narrative, abstraction, speed, movement, stillness, life, death—they’re all up there. Again we find ourselves back at that mystical urge—to explore, to create movement, to go faster and faster, and maybe find some kind of peace at the heart of it, a state of pure being.
- The Guardian provides an update on Hollywood’s summer of doom:
Despite stormy forecasts, Hollywood appears to be too unwieldly or too unwilling to shift direction towards smaller, cheaper pictures. Guests at Comic-Con learned about upcoming studio productions including Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Thor 2, Fantastic Four 3 and a reboot of Godzilla. The director Joss Whedon came to the event to lament that “pop culture is eating itself” and called for “new universes, new messages and new icons”. He then revealed the title of his next film to be Avengers: Age of Ultron.
- Also in the Guardian, John Naughton writes that Edward Snowden is not the story:
Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight seems to have escaped most of the world’s mainstream media, for reasons that escape me but would not have surprised Evelyn Waugh, whose contempt for journalists was one of his few endearing characteristics. The obvious explanations are: incorrigible ignorance; the imperative to personalise stories; or gullibility in swallowing US government spin, which brands Snowden as a spy rather than a whistleblower.
- Lauren Granger at memeburn reports on YouTube’s first ever Geek Week:
The video site is aiming to showcase some geek culture by pronouncing 4-10 August its first ever ‘Geek Week’ and promoting some of the genre’s top channels which cover everything from sci-fi to comics, gaming and superheroes. To do this, its own channel will be featuring videos from users like Nerdist, the official Doctor Who channel, MinutePhysics and more than a hundred others, with every day of the week hosted by a different user. It’ll even include the first trailer for the new Thor movie, The Dark World.
- Chris Cagle at Category D writes about the new documentary Blackfish and “the effaced spectator”:
That said, things kept nagging me. Blackfish does raise some valuable secondary issues – how SeaWorld markets itself, how labor issues are at stake in addition to environmental ones – but as a spectator I kept wanting the film to pursue lines of analysis that it would suggest but never develop.
In short, if there’s an ur-ideology to the American progressive documentary, it’s that demand-side drivers of political situations (Gramsci’s hegemony, ideology, what have you) don’t matter, it’s merely the supply side of oligopoly, big money, and corporate control. Or to be less political, as a film scholar I can’t help but notice than in a film about the business of spectacle, the spectator is both crucial (SeaWorld viewers provide the vital footage of the incidents) and completely effaced.
- Matthew Manarino at New Media Rockstars looks at 10 years of AdSense:
And what of the YouTube creator? How has AdSense helped or hindered their careers? In most cases, the advertising structure has been a blessing to creators as it’s allowed them to launch careers solely through YouTube. AdSense gave us a new type of celebrity for a new generation.
Creators have had their fair share of AdSense woes in the past, though. Last year, one of YouTube’s biggest names, Ray William Johnson,entered a very public dispute with Maker Studios. Johnson claimed that Maker Studios was holding his AdSense account “hostage” even after he had terminated his contract with them.
- Scott Nye, a Rogerebert.com contributor, has just discovered the lampshade hanging trope:
If you watch big budget entertainments, there’s no escaping these sorts of moments. The trope familiar to the Scooby-Doo generation, in which a few nagging uncertainties are resolved with a “there’s just one thing I don’t understand” kickoff, has now become a motif. Characters must constantly address questions on behalf of a too-curious audience awash in complexly-plotted mega-stories. The movies are trying to plug leaks in a boat before the whole thing sinks—never quite repairing it, but doing just enough to get by.
- Here is the TV Tropes page on Lampshade Hanging.
- Cyborgology contributor Britney Summit-Gil writes about remediation and violence against women in the Game of Thrones tv series:
What I’m talking about here is the unavoidable shift that occurs when content is remediated—that is, borrowed from one medium and reimagined in another. In this case, the content of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) is remediated to Game of Thrones, the HBO television series. Some of the differences in this instance of remediation seem pragmatic—remembrances are turned into scenes of their own, dialogue is shortened, characters omitted or altered for the sake of brevity and clarity. I am no purist, and I recognize that with remediation comes necessary alteration for the content to suit the new medium. But other differences speak volumes about our cultural biases and expectations surrounding those with socially-othered bodies—like Tyrion, Sam, and, of course, women. What can we say about these differences? And perhaps more importantly, what do they say about us?
- At BFI Nick Wrigley posted a look at some of Stanley Kubrick’s favorite films, with insight from Jan Harlan:
Why does it matter what Kubrick liked? For years I’ve enjoyed unearthing as much information as I can about his favourite films and it slowly became a personal hobby. Partly because each time I came across such a film (usually from a newly disclosed anecdote – thanks internet! – or Taschen’s incredible The Stanley Kubrick Archives book) I could use it as a prism to reveal more about his sensibilities. My appreciation of both him and the films he liked grew. These discoveries led me on a fascinating trail, as I peppered them throughout the 11 existing Kubrick features (not counting the two he disowned) I try to watch every couple of years. I’m sure a decent film festival could be themed around the Master List at the end of this article…
- Roger Ebert ruffled some feathers a few years ago when he declared that “video games can never be art”.
One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.
- Ebert later clarified that he believed “anything can be art,” but video games cannot be “high art”. Among those who disagreed with Ebert’s assessment was film director Clive Barker. Ebert responded to some of Barker’s points in an article. Part of Barker’s comments dealt with the importance of critics to video games:
Barker:“It used to worry me that the New York Times never reviewed my books. But the point is that people like the books. Books aren’t about reviewers. Games aren’t about reviewers. They are about players.”
Ebert: A reviewer is a reader, a viewer or a player with an opinion about what he or she has viewed, read or played. Whether that opinion is valid is up to his audience, books, games and all forms of created experience are about themselves; the real question is, do we as their consumers become more or less complex, thoughtful, insightful, witty, empathetic, intelligent, philosophical (and so on) by experiencing them?
- The idiosyncrasies of video game reviews themselves have become so well known that game reviews are practically considered a genre (see this satirical take from Something Awful: If films were reviewed like video games). Earlier this month video game designer Warren Spector wrote a blog post titled Where’s gaming’s Roger Ebert? In the post Spector argues that gaming journalism and criticism currently is geared toward specialized groups like developers, publishers, academics, and hard-core gamers, but not “normal people”:
What we need, as I said in an earlier column, is our own Andrew Sarris, Leonard Maltin, Pauline Kael, Judith Crist, Manny Farber, David Thomson, or Roger Ebert. We need people in mainstream media who are willing to fight with each other (not literally, of course) about how games work, how they reflect and affect culture, how we judge them as art as well as entertainment. We need people who want to explain games, individually and generically, as much as they want to judge them. We need what might be called mainstream critical theorists.
And they need a home. Not only on the Internet (though we need them there, too), not just for sale at GDC, but on newsstands and bookstore shelves – our own Film Comment, Sight and Sound, Cahiers du Cinema. Magazines you could buy on the newsstand. Why? Because currently, criticism of this – what little we have of it – reaches only the already converted. To reach the parents, the teachers, the politicians, we need to be where they shop. Even if you never pick up a film magazine, the fact that there are obviously serious magazines devoted to the topic makes a difference in the minds of the uninitiated.
- James Cullinane of Gameplanet offers an alternative question: Where is gaming’s Stanley Kubrick?
To wonder aloud when or where the Roger Ebert of games criticism will emerge is wrongheaded. First, we must ask where is our Scorsese, our Hitchcock, our Coppola, our Tarantino? Where is gaming’s Stanley Kubrick?
A precious few developers may already be taking those first, intrepid steps along that road. Once these new developers are ascendant, once “adult” is no longer just a byword for “graphic” on this medium, perhaps then we can start to discuss a new critical grammar for games, and begin the search for its greatest practitioner.
- When The Last of Us was released in June it received overwhelmingly positive reviews, including one declaring it the “Citizen Kane moment” of video games (the “Citizen Kane of video games” has since become a meme in its own right). This is not a new comparison, as IGN called Metroid Prime the Citizen Kane of video games in 2009:
The game industry is not waiting for its formative masterpieces to materialize from the hazy future. They’re here, right now, walking among us. The future was 2002, and in many ways we have yet to surpass it. Like Citizen Kane, Metroid Prime is a landmark in both technical innovation and pure creativity.
- Writing in the Financial Post, Chad Sapieha says that video games will never have a Citizen Kane moment. Interestingly, his argument isn’t based on the artistic merits of video games, but rather on the particularities of the medium: video games become obsolete with technological advancements. A film made in the 1940s may still be available to view on DVD or other format, but a video game released just twenty years ago likely exists as only a memory.
I’d go so far as to suggest that, over time, many games released today will end up sharing more in common with stage productions than books or movies or music. They will be appreciated in the moment, then eventually disappear. People will write about and record their experiences, and those words and videos will continue on to posterity, acting as the primary means by which they are remembered by gamers of the future.
What I’m saying is simply this: Video game “classics” should be viewed as a breed apart from those of other entertainment mediums. Any attempts at comparison are fundamentally flawed thanks to unavoidable expiration dates imposed by the unstoppable evolution of hardware and advancements in game design.
- Ryan Perez at Venture beat writes that Citizen Kane’s influence should stay out of video games:
Our medium is a fantastic vessel than can go places and do things others cannot. Games don’t need to beckon reflection or emotion in order to be good, and I don’t require validation from other people for the hobby to seem like a worthwhile use of my time. Indeed, Citizen Kane is incredible. It’s beautiful, thought-provoking, and inspiring … and film can keep it. Video games don’t need any of it; they never have and never will.
- Finally, Nathan Grayson at Rock, Paper, Shotgun sees the discourse about gaming’s Ebert, Citizen Kane, Kubrick, etc. as evidence of gaming’s inferiority complex:
The problem with gaming’s incessant desire to be just like big brother Hollywood is multifarious and exceedingly annoying – like a thousand-headed hydra puffing away on an equal number of vuvuzelas. Have games or games criticism earned a place in the rarefied pantheon of unanimously beloved “mainstream” art? No, not really. Would it be cool if we had a Citizen Kane or, as Warren Spector suggests, an Ebert? I guess so.
But everyone waiting for those shining beacons of cultural acceptance to descend from on-high utterly fails to understand two key points: 1) in this day and age, creating direct analogs to those landmarks is actually impossible, and 2) games and games criticism are in the midst of a renaissance. An unstoppable explosion of evolution and creativity. The formation of an identity that is, frankly, far more exciting than film. Why aren’t we championing that to everyone with (or without) ears? Why are we instead breathlessly awaiting the day our medium suddenly and inexplicably conforms to somebody else’s standard?
- The film Last Action Hero opened twenty years ago today. I saw the movie in theaters and loved it as a child. Having been a fan of Terminator 2 (which came out a few years earlier) Last Action Hero elaborated on the boyhood fantasy of having your own personal Ah-nuld, just like John Connor and his robot pal. Over the years I developed an all new appreciation for the film as an original and endearing work of metafiction. To mark the anniversary Calcum Marsh at Esquire posted this piece about why the movie is “better than you remember”:
And even better is the film’s conception of movie morality, which it twists into a biting satirical treatise: Rather than suggest, once the fictional characters break free into the real world, that reality has rules and consequences that the film world doesn’t, Last Action Hero does just the opposite, serving up hard truths about the uncaring streets of modern-day New York. “In this world,” observes a villain named Benedict (Charles Dance), “bad guys can win” — a point he summarily proves by shooting a local mechanic in cold blood, loudly announcing the murder and looking disappointed when he hears no screams or sirens. Last Action Hero suggests that while the movies may seem like heedless spectacles, it’s the moral chaos of our own world that’s really dire. That’s quite a thesis for a comedy made for kids.
- This fascinating LA Weekly article details one man’s “reality TV racket”:
What the host didn’t know is that K.T. was actually 31-year-old Ken Tarr, a budding mastermind of the reality TV hoax. Over the past five months, working out of his modest Los Angeles apartment, Tarr had talked his way onto eight different shows taped in five different cities — each time cloaked in a different persona. He’d become a dissonant saboteur in the machinery of sleaze that sprawls across our televisions.
- Writing for CNN, Douglas Rushkoff declares NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a “hero”:
We all know the feeling of surrendering to the embedded biases of our devices. We let our cell phones ping us every time there’s an incoming message and check our e-mail even when we’d best pay attention to what’s going on around us in the real world. We text while driving. Likewise, without conscious restraint, government agencies can’t help but let the growing power of big data draw them into ever more invasive forms of surveillance on a population whose members simply must include those who intend harm on the rest. This is just how everything runs when it’s left on “default” settings.
- Lastly, Space.com has posted this fantastic infographic looking at 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The spaceships of 2001 were designed by Frederick I. Ordway III, chief science adviser; Harry Lange, illustrator and concept artist (who later would design spaceship interiors for “Star Wars”) and Tony Masters, production designer on “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Dune” and other films. Real-life spacecraft contractors including IBM, Honeywell, RCA and General Electric were consulted for their predictions of the technology of 35 years in the future.