All you have to do is wander into a newsagents and the glossies will scream at you ‘CHERYLS WEIGHT PLUNGES AS ASHLEY PLAYS AWAY!!!’, or ‘OMG BRITNEY PUTS ON 2ST!!!” or something. Well, I made those titles up, but close enough. To be frank I’m sick of seeing Cheryl Coles face. I went to the shop earlier and I remember thinking that the ‘reporting’ of Cheryl Coles personal life resembles a lame soap opera plot. I do read the occasional celebrity magazine but I think I just like to read smutty trash for my own amusement. In reality, the real lives of these people are torn over by people all over the world like vultures. information (true or false) about their personal lives is a commodity to be sold. They have no privacy, but instead suffer constant speculation, scrutiny and criticism. Such is the nature of celebrity culture in this era. When there is so much money to be made off these people why respect their privacy? Why show any respect at all when you can destroy someones family life or reputation just by publishing a story so that you might sell a few more copies? These celebrities are expected to conform to an aesthetic ideal that only exists within the world of fashion, beauty and advertising, most of which reaches its audience through these magazines.

The documentary on Karen Carpenter shows this – the speculation, the criticism, the expectations to conform to an aesthetic ideal. Pressure. Be thin. Consumers of celebrity culture enforce this. On a similar note, I’m sure you’ve all seen the Martin Bashir/Michael Jackson documentary ‘Living with Michael Jackson’ wich can be viewed at http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/living-with-michael-jackson and the Lil Wayne Documentary ‘The Carter’ http://www.onlinemovie4u.net/2009/11/lil-wayne-carter-documentary-2009.html.


Use-Value

30Mar10

Use-value is the physical value of a commodity in use, that can only be realised through consumption. Marx says that the “utility of a thing makes it a use-value”. I did not attend the screening of Dogtown and Z-boys, but I can see the link between use-value and skateboarding culture. Skating culture became something that anyone could buy into. It became mainstream. Marx writes that “Use-value is the immediate physical entity in which a definate economic relationship -exchange value – is expressed.” A commodity must have a use-value, but use-value is independent of whether or not something is a commodity. In the case of Dogtown, the attitude and subculture of the skateboarders exhibited use-value to the generations of youths to which it spread.


I watched The Hurt Locker after hearing much critical acclaim in the media. At the time it was the run up to the Oscars and it was featured prominantly in the line-up of nominations. I was also quite interested in the fact the the film was about an ongoing war – the Iraq war, which began in 2003. It’s not often that I’ve seen or heard of a film about a war that hasnt ended, unless the war has been going on for decades.

The portrayal of any war in the media has been a hugely debated topic since Vietnam. Having grown up in Northern Ireland I myself remember seeing soldiers on the streets and being in bombscares. I remember watching the news every night and hearing of riots in Belfast, shootings and murders and bombs. My parents and grandparents remember the worst days of The Troubles and I can only thank my lucky stars that I did not grow up in that dark period. Last year I read an interesting book detailing the reporting of The Troubles in the British media called ‘Ireland: The Propaganda War – The British Media and the Battle for Hearts and Minds’ by Liz Curtis, which I found equally enlightening and disturbing.

What I find most interesting about the portrayal of war is that the occupying countries media will usually support the war on the basis that they are uniting to fight a dangerous enemy (read: terrorism) and that they are seeking to improve the lives of those whose country they are occupying. In the UK there was and is widespread vocal opposition to the war itself in the media, yet unfaltering support for the soldiers involved in the war. The urge to ‘Support our Troops’ or even ‘Our boys’ is frequently heard. In America there was and is and is much oppositon to the War, except for in the right wing media, where opposing the war is seen as ‘UnAmerican’.

The Hurt Locker is unlikely to affront America, as it has a distinct lack of commentary on the ethics of the war and is a positive depiction of a soldier. Therefore its acclaim at the Oscars and in the media doesn’t surprise me. I wonder if an anti-America anti-war film would have received such a good reception?

However it was interesting to see the Iraq war as depicted from the point of view of a soldier. I was also struck by the films focus on the bravery and character of the protagonist rather than the political debate over the war. The film had a gritty realism in its cinematography, and I didn’t think that the film was glorifying the life of a soldier too much until the end, when the protagonist returns for another rotation and some heavy rock music comes in to accompany him walking slowly through the desert – which which made me laugh to myself.


Time is created by us. It is a self imposed constraint, a method employed by humans so we can measure our lives and organise ourselves. As I write this post, the clock reads 02.42 – quite late. In a few hours or so daylight will come and announce the impending day, and people will be woken up by their alarm clocks so that they can attend appointments, meetings and go to work.
So we live our lives by time. It presses on us, dictates to us what we can and can’t do and when we can and can’t do it, and we run with it. There are only three concepts in time – the past, the present and the future. The present is forever becoming the past and the future, the future is forever becoming the past. It is now 02.52.

Time is said to be subjective – yet it is a standard measured unit. In my opinion time will always be fixed, yet how that time is processed by the brain of the person in question is subjective. I Thought La Jetee was quite a good exercise in examining how the human brain processes time through visual imagery and sound. I was impressed especially at not only how old the film is, but how influential. I was unaware of the origins of Twelve Monkeys (1995) until I watched La Jetee.

Time travel is a concept that has been in modern culture for a long time. In La Jetee, I thought it was interesting how a montage of still images could give the impression of the passage of time when accompanied by some kind of linking sound – in this case the narrative and low-key whispering.
It made me think about how my brain processes the succession of time and events – how I perceive movement and just how little frames can convey the passage of time. I wonder if the experience of time as derived from La Jetee varied from person to person in that lecture theatre. Whether or not some of us found it quite tedious and drawn out or found it fleeting. It is entirely possible that a few of us were filling in the gaps in the frames and lack of fluidity with our own idea of passing time, making it seem longer. My theory for this is that if more gaps in the film were filled by the processing of an idea of time in someones brain, then this processing would make the film seem longer in real time.

The content of the film was also rather sombre. The Nazi-ish scientists, the horror of the experiments and the sense of death that prevailed throughout differ from other portrayals of the same concept. La Jetee in its age, innovation and execution, contrasts hugely with depictions of time travel in popular culture such as the Back to the Future trilogy and Doctor Who. It is now 03.47.


Watching Love is the Devil, I was not initially convinced that the Francis Bacon inspired mise-en-scene worked. The darkness and distortion of form was bewildering and it took some adjustment before I appreciated what the director of the film was trying to achieve. By the time I had finished watching, I had grown to like the strange angles, use of colour and symbolism employed throughout the film, and its association with the character of Francis Bacon as depicted throughout – a mean, cruel, sadistic and self centred man, his sagging skin and self serving nature repulsive and his prolonged torture of his lover distasteful and strange. I began to see the aesthetic qualities of the film as fitting, the very look and pace of the film was intended to be Francis himself – his work and his personality. Like a surreal carricature.

Love is the Devil

I think it is very hard to describe fully your own aesthetic preferences. I think the best that you can come up with is a very narrow selection of examples of things that you find aesthetically pleasing, as the term applies to every aspect of cognitive thought and reception of the world around us. I don’t think I can adequately talk about my aesthetic preferences by providing a small selection of pictures on this blog, but here is a picture that I find pretty anyway.

Sumi-e cherry blossoms
In general my aesthetic preferences lean more towards the feminine and pretty. I dislike the colour red, though I cannot fully explain why. Something about it affronts me, most likely its hostility. I feel like the colour red clashes and does not belong, but I’m fascinated by it. Lately I’ve been drawn to the colours blue, purple, pink, white and gold. I like contrast and balanced composition, simple lines and curved shapes. It is these qualities that I will pick out of the everyday and the mundane, and notice in my surroundings.


Last week I watched Coffee and Cigarettes – a decidedly indie and unusual little film realeased in 2003 by Jim Jarmusch. An unconventional narrative method defines the movie –  an hour and 35 minutes of stiff, distinctly plotless and dragged out conversations in stark black and white, with the intention of  highlighting the general awkwardness of social conversations, and which are littered with unrefined and in my opinion stiff shots of restaurant tables, cups of coffee and people dragging on cigs, which seek to emphasise the recurring theme which ties together every short – coffee and cigarettes. Now I could go on about how cliched and pretentious a recurring theme this is, not to mention superficial, but I think I’d go on a rant. It annoys me how presumptious this film is, to assume that a series of aimless shorts of people smoking and drinking coffee in various locations gives a sense of western urbanity.

Coffee and Cigarettes

Though it could be argued that the stiffness and general slowness of some of the editing adds to the sense of social awkwardness within the somewhat shallow and unimportant conversations, and is therefore important and interesting because it rejects conventional Hollywood editing in favour of a a less commerical and therefore more artistic narrative, it made my viewing experience very exasperating. After 20 minutes I found myself praying that every short would be the last, and was disappointed when each new title screen appeared.  The superficiality and utter drollness of the majority of the film aside, I don’t exactly believe that the format is necessarily a bad thing, but that it does not work for a feature film, as it is simply not engaging enough to hold a viewers attention for a long period of time. In my opinion the film would have benefited from losing many of the more unremarkable scenes.

Its not all bad, though. Coffee an Cigarettes did indeed have some redeeming features – appearances from actors such as Steve Coogan, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett late in the film caught my attention long after I had stopped concentrating or listening, and the movie did have sparing moments of humour which saved some of the scenes and made viewing a bit more bearable. Overall I wouldn’t say I particularly enjoyed the film, or that I would watch it again. It was simply too long to carry off a lack of plot, I feel that the black and white didn’t add much to the film, and that it possibly detracted from the personality of the characters,  that a lot of the scenes didn’t have enough humour or punch to be notable or memorable, and that it was devoid of any kind of meaning. Disappointing.