Saturday, April 18, 2009

Is (fill in the blank with the name of a dead person everyone knows is dead) dead?

OK, I heard in the audiocommentary or maybe it was an interview supplement on the new DVD edition of Wes Craven's Last House on the Left that the film was given this title because no went to see the film when it was shown with its original title.  Something about the word "last" seems to hook audiences.  Also appears to be the case as well as with the "death of" whatever, at the moment.  But consider Mark Twain's title "Is Shakespeare Dead?"  It's kind of funny, both comic and weird.  How can it be a question? What does it mean?  Is Twain serious?  Twain doesn't address the title in his book, which is about the authorship question.  And then we have the death of various isms, like Marxism in Derrida's Spectres of Marx (is Marxism dead?).  Derrida ends his postscript-mortem essay on Foucault "To Do Justice to Freud" (which turns out to be a line Foucault wrote) by twice using the metaphor for keeping the questions Foucault raised "alive."   My favorite example is in  Son of Frankenstein when Igor (Bela Lugosi) says joyously that he is "alive dead," but the people who tried and final to execute him by hanging  are "dead dead" (because he had the monster kill them in retaliation).  

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Strangeness of Cinephilia

I was watching Marathon Man again for the umpteenth time yesterday and it dawned on me after all these years that the music was composed by the same guy who did the soundtracks for Klute and All the President's Men.  And then I remembered that I had seen Marathon Man many times when it first came out because I was living in Buffalo then (I spent a semester in grad school there before returning to Berkeley); the movie theaters there were few in number and showed the same film for what seemed like incredibly extended periods of time.  Because I loved going to the cinema so much, I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Tenant, Marathon Man, and Carrie repeatedly.  I realize now that I developed as a consequence my ability to do a close reading of a film as I watch it.  I remember surprising a friend who gone with me to Carrie by giving her my reading of the film as we got up from our seats after the film ended. I don't know if that was the first time I saw Carrie or not. Still, it was a repetition of the same that is no longer doable now that one repeats a viewing of a film on DVD or Blu-ray. 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Image Quality versus Image Delivery

DVDs and Blu-rays are most frequently evaluated in terms of image quality, that is, the resolution and density of the digital image. the higher the resolution, the better the image.  The importance of the delivery system is less often commented on, but deserves attention since screen sizes, projectors, and kinds of screens all make a huge difference.  To give one example, I have been watching DVDs on a 52" LCD with a Sony Blu-ray player that I had seen before on a 32" cathode ray TV set.  I generally feel like I am watching a new film.  I can see all kinds of things I missed the previous viewings.  One thing I appreciate about the reviews at is that the reviewers list the specs of the equipment they use to watch the DVDs and Blu-rays they review.  I hope that info becomes standard practice for reviewers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Did I really meet I.F. Stone?

When I was 18, I did my European vacation alone by thumb and eurorail pass.  When I was in Venice, I took a boat one night from one island area to another and this old guy introduced himself to me and said he was I.F. Stone.  We talked during the boat trip, but I didn't really believe him.  I didn't ask him for ID, but I thought to myself that he was some old guy trying to pick me up thinking he could do better by impersonating I.F. Stone.  But maybe I was just being paranoid and he really was I.F. Stone.  But maybe he really was I.F. Stone trying to pick me up!  I would have gone on my merry way alone in any case.  I got to wondering today because Harper's has a post about its I.F. Stone memorial award.