Friday, August 30, 2013

Who criticizes the critics?

An apologia for criticism. 

What criticism is: Criticism is the conversation surrounding a work of art. A growth medium in which art thrives.
What it ain't: Marketing.

Criticism can be art. Art can be (and often is) criticism. Artists are their own best (or worst) critics. If you write a rough draft and edit it, that’s a critical process. You’re saying, OK, here’s my story. How can I make it better?

Good artists create for readers/viewers/listeners with active critical intelligence. As opposed to drooling spuds.
Not being a moron, when you read a story, watch a movie, listen to a concert – if you’re actively engaged in the experience, you’re not a passive blob, you’re taking the art apart and putting it back together. Where the artist is coming from; what they’re trying to say; the structure of how they’re saying it. Your mind is digging it. Contrariwise, if you’re immersed in a song/film/story that sucks, your brain (if it still functions) is asking itself WHY does this suck? Laziness? Dishonesty? Cowardice?  You're a critic, kid.

Good artists create art to show bad artists how it's done.
Artists make art to celebrate what they think is cool and throw stones through the glass houses of artists they hate. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the movies of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriquez are mirrors of the movies they love and hate. I.e.: criticism. 

Every artistic movement is, implicitly, a criticism of the last artistic movement.
Consider the subset of written science fiction. The Futurians came along and said, “Hey. Here’s how you write science fiction. We’ll show you how it’s done.” Then the New Wave writers did the same. Then the Cyberpunks … Etc.

The beating heart of every artistic movement is FANDOM.  
A universal truth, baby. Look at ANY band of the happy few who changed things. The underground cartoonists of the '60s. The nouvelle vagues filmmakers. Tarantino and Rodriguez. You !@#ing name it. Any artistic movement, any time. The core band of artists really loves a certain kind of art – and really hates the other stuff.

What dopes think: Criticism is negative.
What the cool kids think: Criticism is art's life's blood.

The last thing any artist wants is an audience of drooling chuds who think their excrement doesn't think. The last thing any artist needs is uncritical acceptance. 

Mad magazine basically taught me everything I know about story structure and honest storytelling.)
So, Harlan Ellison, Roger Ebert, Pauline Kael aren’t out to stomp on delicate flowers.
the growth medium surrounding a work of art. Criticism

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Through a Lens, darkly

Letters to the editor:

Attention humans. To the people of St. Petersburg.
We, the Nthrkk, have been prisoners on your miserable world for millennia. We speak as concerned citizens. At long last, our interdimensional portal the “Lens”  was nearing completion. But you, in your ignorance St. Petersburg voters have cancelled it for “aesthetic reasons.” In your stupidity, you have closed the doorway of our escape from your primitive prison planet. Sadly, your limited intellects could not comprehend our infinite anger. Take heart that we do not wish to destroy your world, only leave it. Yet know that we shall lay your world to waste if you do not change your minds. How sad. The Lens represents a fine aesthetic statement in the spirit of Dale Chihuly. It’s something that would change our city, change the perception of our city, and something that we could all be proud of. We urge you now the citizens of St.Petersburg to reconsider. Let the Lens be built. For your sake. And ours. For everyone’s sake.

Sincerely –
The Nthrkk

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The World's End

Righty-right. Let's discuss The World's End. Directed by Edgar Wright, written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, co-starring
guess who? Pegg and Wright and their loose ensemble. Probably catered by Pegg and Wright. My take?

Hilarious movie, kids. Let's get one thing straight right up front. The World's End is not a repeat of Wright and Pegg's last two hits
Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz — parodies of the zombie and cop film genres, respectively. This is a parody of paranoiac sci-fi films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Stepford Wives. If you take the joke on its own damn terms, it's pretty funny.

Starting out, The World's End doesn't wear its genre badge on its sleeve. You'd think it's another coming-of-middle-age comedy, and for the first 40 minutes or so you'd be right. Simon Pegg plays Gary King, an aging bad boy determined to relive (and rewrite) a failed triumph of his adolescence. Once upon a time in 1990, the lad and his mates attempted to do a 12-pub crawl (consuming a pint in each pub) after graduating from the Brit equivalent of High School in their sorry home town of Newton Haven. (The town's only claim to fame: it was home to the UK's first roundabout.) They fell short in 1990; King hopes to go the distance in 2012. Through trickery, cajoling and lies, King rounds up his middled-aged mates and they once again set forth on their 12-pub mission.

Somewhere along the line, the lads realize that the town's inhabitants (and pubs) are even more bland than they remembered. Sometime after that, they realize that Somebody Up There substituted a small percentage of the human population with blood-blooded, lookalike androids. (They only replace the few humans who won't play nice. Mostly, the aliens rule by technological bribery and goody-good example.) It's not so much an evil invasion as a bland one: The aliens are turning Newton Haven (and presumably the rest of the planet) into a chain in their intergalactic, corporate franchise. (Which explains why all the town's pubs are now blandly identical.) Now, the lads know what the aliens are up to and the aliens know they know. Chaos and chase scenes ensure. Nontheless, King, wanker that he is, insists on continuing the crawl to, well, The World's End the final pub on the list.

Great flick full of laugh-your-ass-off jokes. (Including plenty of sci-fi injokes for aging and unrepentent nerds.) The film lacks the underlying fear factor of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead  but that's part of the joke. The aliens aren't all that scary. They're a comforting shroud of compromise wrapping our planet up in all the adult restrictions King refuses to accept, immature wanker that he is. Turns out, he was right all along. Growing up really does suck, despite adult assurances that it's not the end of the world.

In the world according to Wright and Pegg, it actually is.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013


RIDICULOUSLY SHORT VERSION: 2145. The rich live in Elysium: an orbiting, Ringworld-style arcology -- basically, a gated community in space. There's a reason the rich are up there. Earth is an overpopulated, multicultural hellhole. (We see shots of the Earth from space. It's not totally dead, but it's getting there.) The deserts have eaten most of Africa and South Asia. The cities resemble the nasty parts of Johannesburg. No accident. The director is, of course, Neill Blomkamp, who made his name with that subversive Apartheid fable, District Nine. His latest fable is no less subversive -- or ballsy. In simple terms, a workingclass slob (played by Matt Damon) gets fried with radiation at the robot factory. Fatal dose: five days to live. In order to plug into the healing booths on Elysium, he gets a crimelord to wire him into an asskicking exoskeleton and fire him off to Elysium with the codes to the whole show in his head. He starts with selfish motives, then turns into a robo-Christfigure. Asskicking and self-sacrifice ensue. (Not to mention a few glaring plotholes.) No matter. It's a ballsy movie and an original vision. In the guise of a gee-whiz sci-fi movie, subversive Blomkamp gleefully slaps the one-percenters in the face. They, of course, funded his movie. Irony aside, it's still fun to watch.