Damned kids

She already has it all figured out.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching adaptations of John Wyndham’s classic SF novel The Midwich Cuckoos. The first of these was 1960’s Village of the Damned (they sure weren’t going to stick with Wyndham’s title). This was followed by the Cold War parable Children of the Damned (1964), a film very different in tone. Then John Carpenter took a turn with an uninspired remake of the original in 1995. I guess the 1960 version is the best of these, and the only one really worth watching. None of the movies, however, really digs into the main theme of Wyndham’s book, which has to do with a battle for survival between incompatible species.


The last picture show

Last week I went out to see a movie in a cinema for the first time in close to fifteen years. The movie was Blade Runner 2049, and you can read my notes on it here. But I thought I’d write something on my response to the moviegoing experience. These are my notes.

It was expensive. My ticket cost $14.99. This was for a mid-range matinee. Mid-range meaning between a “general” showing ($11.99) and the deluxe treatment ($22.99). The deluxe pricing is for a theatre with larger seats that, I am told, jerk around and vibrate to match any turbulence on screen. People actually pay more for this!

Yes, I said 3D. I didn’t want to see this movie in 3D, but at the time I wanted to go it was the only format available. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie in a theatre in 3D. The latest 3D craze only started after I gave up on moviegoing.

I found it to be an annoying gimmick, but you can’t just take off the glasses and watch the movie normally. I know because I tried. About the only time where the 3D impressed me was a shot looking into a room through a window that was wet with rain. But I don’t know if my noticing the effect added anything to my enjoyment of the scene.

The volume was a physical force. I mean the gunshots were so loud I literally felt them in my teeth and in my stomach. Making matters worse, the bass was making a speaker in the ceiling vibrate noisily every time the soundtrack got really loud. Had no one complained about this? Did the theatre managers not know? I mean, the rattling was really annoying.

Remarkably, despite being so loud I still couldn’t hear some of the muttered dialogue. There was a scene at the beginning where someone said something to Ryan Gosling that seemed really important but I couldn’t make out a word of it. When they flashback to the same scene later in the film I really strained to catch what was being said but missed it again. I don’t blame my hearing. As I say, the speakers were set way too loud. It’s just that so few actors seem capable of delivering their lines clearly. At home I always watch movies with the subtitles on.

Matinees aren’t very popular, even on weekends, but even so there were only seven other people in attendance. Someone behind me said to their friend that it was like a “private showing.” Normally this would make me happy, but it’s hard not to feel like I was taking part in an antique ritual. And really, even given the eye-popping big-screen visuals I would have much preferred staying at home.

Denis Villeneuve

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the movies of Denis Villeneuve. I like his work, but think that he needs to start choosing some better projects to work on. His one great movie thus far, Enemy, is also the only one with a really strong script. Even Blade Runner 2049 struck me as deeply flawed just on the level of its basic concept. Anyway, here’s the line-up:

Incendies (2010)
Prisoners (2013)
Enemy (2013)
Sicario (2015)
Arrival (2016)
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

The new plantation

From The Attention Merchants (2016) by Tim Wu:

Ultimately, the public had struck a grand bargain with Facebook – not exactly knowingly, but not with full cognizance either. Having been originally drawn to Facebook with the lure of finding friends, no one seemed to notice that this new attention merchant had inverted the industry’s usual terms of agreement. Its billions of users worldwide were simply handing over a treasure trove of detailed demographic data and exposing themselves to highly targeted advertising in return for what, exactly? The newspapers had offered reporting, CBS had offered I Love Lucy, Google helped you find your way on the information superhighway. But Facebook?

Well, Facebook gave you access to your “friends.” And now, much of the energy formerly devoted to blogs or other online projects was now channeled into upgrading one’s Facebook profile and, with it, the value of Facebook itself. In this way, the public became like renters willingly making extensive improvements to their landlord’s property, even as they were made to look at advertisements. Facebook’s ultimate success lay in this deeply ingenious scheme of attention arbitrage, by which it created a virtual attention plantation.

Something old, something new

First comes love . . .

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching a couple of takes on the Lonely Hearts Killers case of Martha Beck and Raymond Fernandez. The story was most famously adapted by Leonard Kastle in The Honeymoon Killers (1970), which retains all of its original power as a low-budget cult satire. Less well known, but still well worth checking out, is Fabrice Du Welz’s Alleluia (2014), which is a darker contemporary interpretation.