Angry Robot

Axe Cop

greatest comic ever? Written by a five-year-old. (via)

Should We Accept That Indie Film Is Now A Hobby Culture?

by Ted Hope, who produced some of the most significant indie films of the 90s.

How Steve Jobs 'out-Japanned' Japan

on Apple vs. Sony. Apple’s recent ascent has amazed me – Apple could now buy Sony with cash it has sitting around. (via)

Scene from Enthiran (The Robot)

dear sweet lord I need to see this film.

Interviews > David Mamet

from this badly punctuated interview you will get Mamet’s views on marriage, the knowledge that he wrote a script entitled “Joan of Bark,” and his choice for greatest document in western civilization (Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, for a pretty amazing reason).

Oscar Gold

Some people overcome this by engaging with the Oscars purely as a wagering opportunity, and I would have thought I could get behind that. Why not study the ill-formed critical patterns of the unemployed actors in the Academy voting bloc, and grimly profit in your office pool? But once you read this piece by the AV Club’s Noel Murray and Scott Tobias, you’ll have trouble doing so. As Tobias says:

When a film gets deemed “Oscar-worthy,” it’s the furthest thing from critical advocacy. All it means is that a particular film has qualities that Oscar voters traditionally find attractive—a middlebrow sense of grandeur, a message that seems risky without actually being provocative, name stars emoting like crazy, and the potential for at least modest success at the box office. If the [Oscar Prognosticators] have any effect on the process, it’s really to enforce (rather than challenge) the status quo: Instead of doing something good for humanity, like asking voters to consider some movie or performance that really moved them, they’re filtering everything they see for the same “Oscar-worthy” qualities that have made the awards such a useless barometer for cinematic excellence throughout history.

So Oscar Prognosticators (critics and other pundits who obsess over which films will do well at the Oscars) are not just harmless fools who can be ignored. They are diverting attention away from more worthy cinematic product, toward well-made but ultimately forgettable Oscar-bait projects (often before anyone has seen the films). Which in turn leads the producers and distributors of film to concentrate on producing Oscar bait.

Consider the inevitability of The King’s Speech and its 12 nominations this year. The first thing any of us rubes hear is the marketing campaign, which is already crowing about the film’s Oscarworthiness, quotes supplied by the Oscar Prognosticators. We go see it because of this.

Yes, I watched it the other day, despite my aversion to Oscar bait. I watched it perhaps because I enjoy being that crank who will spit on the film you loved the most this year, and tell you all the things you should have watched if you were a real cineaste like myself. Perhaps I watched it because conversations about the merits of films that all parties present have seen are more rewarding than those where the parties exchange lonely lists. (But then again, I can’t force you to watch Dogtooth.)

Yes, it is very well made, with great direction, a great script, and excellent performances. Yes, it is the uplifting tale of a courageous Oscar-nominated protagonist triumphing over adversity with the help of a quirky, Oscar-winning supporting actor. And of course I loathed it, unfairly but inevitably for what it represents, and for what it lacks – challenge, experiment, provocation of thought, hard truths that are not immediately resolved, openings into which our thoughts and feelings might seep and mix in new ways.

Only in the most Forrest Gumpish world could this be considered the best film made this year. And of course any film we choose to watch is a choice to not watch any number of films, films that may actually be the best film of the year.

But we will never know.

You see what I mean about bitterness.

Oscar nominations 2011: the full list

I’m pretty sure I should just ignore the whole damn thing, but what the hell: the nominations. At least Winter’s Bone picked up a few, and Dogtooth is up for best foreign.

Why 3D doesn't work and never will. Case closed.

Walter Murch writes a letter to Ebert about the perceptual problems with 3D. I don’t like 3D either; it’s unnecessary – our brains do a fine job interpreting 2D films as 3D worlds. Half an hour into Tron I forgot it was 3D at all.

IBM Centennial Film: They Were There

By Errol Morris, commissioned by IBM

The Cheap Video LED Light Shootout

Nice to see some decent results from affordable lights. Kinos are like $1200+.

The plight of the time salesman

selling time rather than achievements to your employer rewards wasting time – true. A couple caveats: “get better at ignoring forgettable tasks” is dangerous advice. And asking for more tasks is almost always good for the employee in the long run.

Spray-on liquid glass is about to revolutionize almost everything

God damn. Next, we get our flying cars.

!@$#ing for a living

good idea


The flow state depends on the goals of the individual matching the situation in which she finds herself. The task itself must have clear goals and immediate feedback. It must also be matched to the individual’s abilities. If the task is too hard, stress is the result; if too easy, the subject gets bored. As the author states:

The optimal state of inner experience is one in which there is order in consciousness. This happens when psychic energy—or attention—is invested in realistic goals, and when skills match the opportunities for action. The pursuit of a goal brings order in awareness because a person must concentrate attention on the task at hand and momentarily forget everything else. These periods of struggling to overcome challenges are what people find to be the most enjoyable times of their lives … A person who has achieved control over psychic energy and has invested it in consciously chosen goals cannot help but grow into a more complex being. By stretching skills, by reaching toward higher challenges, such a person becomes an increasingly extraordinary individual.

The book spends some time talking about autotelic personalities, the type of person most likely to enter flow frequently. These are essentially self-starters, those who are motivated intrinsically rather than by external rewards. While anyone can enter flow, the autotelic person has the ability to order his own consciousness – to choose how to focus attention. This kind of person is thus able to enjoy situations that would break other people. Csíkszentmihályi brings up many examples of prisoners who survive their ordeal by coming up with games and other activities to keep their minds busy.

That’s an underlying theme to the book – that happiness is something that is produced by the mind, not by external situations. If you think you have to wait for certain situations to happen for you to be happy, you’re missing out. I was actually surprised at how concerned this book is with happiness; I suppose I expected more of a science-of-consciousness approach, which is definitely present, but a lot of discussion of happiness occurs.

There are also many, many examples, no doubt gleaned from the thousands who were interviewed. But I found it a bit much at times, and the book felt a bit padded. Once you get the general principles, you don’t necessarily need to have examples of flow in teenagers, children, poor people, crazy people, bankers, the blind etc. etc. I guess I realized early on that in the terms of the book, I’m an autotelic personality who is in flow quite often. So maybe it wouldn’t seem so obvious and familiar to other readers.

The other flaw is the author’s rather judgmental tone, especially with regards to media. Reading is a great source of flow, apparently, along with art, music etc. But watching television is the anti-flow boogieman, brought up whenever Csíkszentmihályi needs a counter-example. It makes the book seem dated: maybe in 1975 (when some of the original research started), TV was a wasteland of unchallenging trash, but in the era of The Sopranos, The Wire and Mad Men it seems a foolish generalization.

To take it a step further, my post about focus had some mention of of attention restoration theory and the necessity of involuntary attention – an undirected, relaxed state which is apparently necessary to recharge directed attention. Although the article it was from mentions TV as perhaps “too absorbing” to qualify, it would be interesting to hear attempts to integrate flow theory with that of attention restoration.

It’s a decent book, and the theory at its core is true to my experience anyway. I’m interested in pursuing this line of research further, so I’ll be reading more about attention, and presumably reporting back. Attention seems worthy of attention.

Royal Pingdom » Internet 2010 in numbers

there are 825 million net users in Asia vs. 266 million in North America. Plus many more interesting numbers.

Aperture #1 Grossing Product on App Store

Apple dropped the price on Aperture from $200 to $80. The linked article is a little partisan, but it is indeed an interesting development. One thought though – if the Mac App Store lacks upgrade pricing (like the iOS store), it would mean it will cost another $80 to update to the next version.

LISTMAS – Best Movies of 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Perhaps Banksy’s greatest work of art yet? This obviously provoked some thinking on my part . Interestingly, it’s an excellent film whether it’s true or not, which isn’t something you’d say about most documentaries.


Saw this at the festival last year, but I guess it counts as having been released this year, blah blah. Anyway, it’s endlessly inventive, a surprisingly versatile parable about social control of belief.

Enter the Void

Same as above with regards to the festival. This is a frustrating film as its formal rigour is paired with subpar characterization and plotting. But the technique alone makes it one of the most memorable films of the year.


Theory: the best films about war this decade have been documentaries. Restrepo isn’t an issues doc – it’s verite with some great interview footage mixed in. The subject is a single platoon of US soldiers in a particularly hostile valley in Afghanistan. It’s extremely powerful, and thought-provoking as a result of its immersiveness rather than any undue provocation by the filmmakers.

Winter’s Bone

This will haunt you. Ostensibly it’s about a poor teen in Missouri trying to find her deadbeat dead, and thereby finding crystal meth corruption everywhere in her extended family. But it evokes feelings of America’s decline. Perhaps the first US post-apocalyptic film set in the present.

Shutter Island

It was a strong year for psychological thrillers and also mindfuck movies, and Shutter Island is a masterful example of both. Scorsese is the shit, yo. Also, the music selections are absolutely fantastic.


This is pretty riveting. In scope and topic, it feels similar to Sodeberg’s Che films. However, the Carlos story is less a war movie than a spy thriller.

A Prophet

Damn, son. This one is rough. It’s not as bleakly prisonish as the first 20 minutes’ murder-during-hash-for-blowjob exhange would have you believe, however. It’s really more of a mob movie, and certainly one of the best I’ve seen in the past decade.


This was definitely my favourite comedy of the year. It’s technically a rom-com, a genre I hate, but it leaves out all the emotional manipulation and just feels honest. Which I felt was quite an achievement.

Two films that I either grudgingly like or amiably begrudge

The Social Networkas I posted earlier, I admired it as expertly crafted, a near-perfect film that totally missed the significance of its subject.

Inception – Enjoyed it greatly during the watching, but thinking about it later it gradually fell apart. It’s a film about dreams that feels nothing like dreaming. I wanted to say “it’s a film about explaining rules” but that’s unfair as it is certainly not as bad as that makes it sound. It’s a good film that appears great on first watch.

Films that might be on this list had I seen them

Marwencol, Tamara Drewe, Another Year, Blue Valentine