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Archive for April, 2014

Maximum Bob.

“You don’t end up with a face like this if you’re hard, do ya? This comes from having too much mouth and nothing to back it up with. The nose has been broken so many times.” R.I.P. Bob Hoskins, the tough guy with a heart of gold, 19422014.

Best known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, The Long Good Friday, and Mona Lisa (also featuring a young Clarke Peters) stateside, Hoskins had a number of memorable supporting turns over the years — Pink’s manager in The Wall, J. Edgar Hoover in Nixon; Jet Li’s handler in Unleashed, and one of the two Central Services guys in Brazil — and was always a touch of class in a production, even in drek like Super Mario and Snow White and the Huntsman. He will be missed.

Return of the Force?

“‘We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.'”

The Star Wars Episode 7 cast is announced, and, give credit where due, this is pretty auspicious (although heavily male) bunch. Along with all of the original gang — minus Lando — and the previously-rumored Adam Driver, Episode VII also includes John Boyega (the break-out star of Attack the Block), Daisy Ridley (don’t know her), Oscar Isaac(!, a.k.a. King John/Llewyn Davis), Andy Serkis(!, mutant master of CGI), Domhnall Gleeson (increasingly ubiquitous son of Brendan, late of About Time and Anna Karenina), and the venerable Max Von Sydow(!!! Needs no introduction, and it is a rush in itself to see him get his place next to Cushing, Guinness, Jones, and Lee.)

With all the usual caveats — Into Darkness, lens flares, etc. etc. — that’s a damned exciting cast. (Ok, so was MacGregor, Neeson, Portman, Jackson, and Stamp fifteen years ago, but let’s not talk about that.) Now how ’bout getting Frances McDormand, Saiorse Ronan, Viola Davis or somesuch in for additional support?

Update: Could well be damage control, but late word is there’s more to come. “Several sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that director J.J. Abrams has another substantial role to fill — and it’s a female part. No further details are known.”

Beats, Rhymes, Life to Bling-Bling-Bling.

“Whereas ‘My Adidas’ highlighted consumer items, ‘Picasso Baby’ is all about unattainable luxury, fantasy acquisitions. Within the first ten words of the song, Jay Z ensures that no one in his audience can identify with the experience that he’s rapping about…hip-hop has become complicit in the process by which winners are increasingly isolated from the populations they are supposed to inspire and engage…[I]t’s a significant turnaround and comedown for a music that was, only a little while back, devoted to reflecting the experience of real people and, through that reflection, challenging the power structure that produces inequality and disenfranchisement.”

In a six-part-series for Vulture, The Roots‘ Questlove explains, in his view, how hip-hop has failed black America. [Part 1.] Only two parts in, but so far he’s dead on. I know I’m turning forty this year, so there’s probably no small amount of Get-Off-My-Lawn involved. But, imho of course, something went wrong when commercial hip-hop took the hyper-consumerist turn awhile ago.

Back in the day, you had East vs. West coast (if I got to choose a coast, I got to choose the East — I live out there, so don’t go there), the Pan-racial, regular guy optimism of the Native Tongues; the history- and political-minded hip-hop of Public Enemy, Gangstarr, X-Clan, KRS-One; the skewed pop-culture funhouse of the Wu-Empire, rappers like Slick Rick, Nas, & Rakim working their own unique thing.

Now, some of Kanye’s experimenting aside, the hip-hop mainstream — from my admittedly limited perspective — seems to be mainly concerned with needle boats. “Who’s to blame? It’s hard to say. Certainly, Puff Daddy’s work with the Notorious B.I.G. in the early ’90s did plenty to cement the idea of hip-hop as a genre of conspicuous consumption.”

Then again, as a few people pointed out in the comments, the evolution of hip-hop from diversity to commodity isn’t happening in a vacuum. The music world, in most any genre, seems to be in a really bad way these days. But again, this is always the aging person’s lament. Now Get Off My Lawn.

Are You Sarah Con…Wait, Never Mind.

“The new algorithm condenses each face it ‘sees’ into a small image to position the eyes, nose, and corners of the mouth in consistent locations. Then, it further divides the image into small, overlapping squares and mathematically charts each square’s unique characteristics, allowing it to compare two images…The GaussianFace algorithm emerged from the test a champion, beating humans’ 97.35 percent average performance.”

Per Discover, computers can now identify faces better than humans can. “The algorithm could someday be used in myriad applications including security, image retrieval, and biometric credentials for our computers and mobile devices.” Among other things.

Can It, Walter.


Found while digging up the Barton Fink trailer for the link below: A super-cut of large men howling in Coen movies. Note: There’s some grisly violence (and spoilers) from Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing included therein.

Gone with the Whiskey.

“The memo..[is] candid in its assessment of the writers’ strengths and weakness. Of William Faulkner, who had written a few screenplays in the early 1930s, the anonymous memo author notes that he was now living in Mississippi but ‘can fly anywhere in his own plane.’ On the downside, Faulkner was ‘not very reliable in his plane nor his habits.'”

But has he taken a stab at the rasslin’ form? Rebecca Onion of Slate birddogs this memo to David O. Selznick on possible Gone with the Wind screenwriters. The quip above reminded me of Mencken’s review of Lewis’s Elmer Gantry, from the dissertation: As good as Babbitexcept the last 30,000 words, which you wrote in a state of liquor.”

Trust Elvis…Except in Bed.

History repeats the old conceits, the glib replies, the same defeats (except in bed): A tumblr of Elvis Costello lyrics turned into fortune cookies. Your science-fiction twin probably got a better one.

Stick the Landing.


The traditional superhero three-point-landing gets a supercut. If you haven’t broken your hand or legs on impact, remember to fling your head back for maximum cool.

Net Neutrality? Try Net Neville Chamberlain.

“The FCC has a very simple way to create simple, fair and enforceable rules to protect innovation, free speech and commerce. It lacks the courage and (perhaps) political capital to re-grant itself this power. Lacking this power, the FCC is…allow[ing] Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to create slow and fast lanes…The FCC wants to call this ‘net neutrality.’ It’s nothing of the sort and the proposal needs to be killed. It’s a bargain that will kill innovation on the net.”

At Medium, Ryan Singel explains how Obama’s FCC is giving up on Net Neutrality and endangering the future of the Internet. “Simply put, the FCC is too scared of the big telecoms to do the simple thing and reclassify your ISP as a common carrier. (The midterms are coming up.)…We have to make it clear that destroying the internet in order to save it is not an option, and we can’t and won’t let that happen.”

To be clear, Obama’s FCC, under both Julius Genachowski and now Tom Wheeler, has been completely chicken-shit on this issue from Jump Street. The answer is and has always been to reclassify ISPs as telecommunications services, which they obviously are. But, instead, Genachowski tried to placate the Comcasts of the world and split the baby on this issue in 2010. The result was so ridiculous that the Court rejected his entire plan, and now Wheeler — a former cable lobbyist — is completing the cave.

This also counts as a(nother) blatant and egregious broken promise from President Obama — one so bad that Nancy Pelosi has already broken ranks. Here’s Obama in 2007: “‘The answer is yes, I am a strong supporter of Net neutrality.’…Obama added that companies like Google may not have gotten started without a ‘level playing field’ and pledged to make sure Net neutrality ‘is the principle that my FCC commissioners are applying as we move forward.'” (Cartoon by Cagle.)

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