THIS WEEK IN FRANKEN-NARRATIVES AND FRANKEN-FRANCHISES…MARVEL AND DISNEY EAT THE WORLD (with a VENTURE CAPITAL SHOUT OUT)…

Renowned Venture-Capitalist Marc Andreesen once said “software is eating the world”, and he’s right, but so are Franken-Franchises and Franken-Narratives.

As is customary here at NARRATIVE COLLAPSE, on a weekly basis we descend into the NARRATIVE LAB, where budding EXECUTIVE-CLASS DR. MOREAU’S of all stripe, asset-strip, vivsect, and then resurrect the PIECES of all your favorite narratives into gleaming new HYBRIDS…

Remember last week when I reported on FOUR DIFFERENT ROBIN HOOD’S IN DEVELOPMENT…Guess what, now there’s FIVE. But this one’s for TV…

…Remember TV, the creative OASIS where all the good adult drama had gone to survive and prosper? Sure you do. And prosper it has, fending off FRANCHISES left and right: Just ask BLOODLINE on NETFLIX, which had about 1/10 of the ratings that DAREDEVIL DID. Like I said last week: LONG-FORM DRAMA IS OVER ON TV, it’s just having a few final death spasms. But moving on…

Remember, SPIDER-MAN. He’s been gone for so long, you might not…But have NO FEAR. Not only is SONY thinking of casting ASA BUTTERFIELD in ANOTHER REBOOT (which is likely to ignore the entire ANDREW GARFIELD SERIES), but you’re also going to get a completely UNCONNECTED ANIMATED SPIDERMAN, from the brain-trust behind “The Lego Movie”, which somehow in a fascinating narrative knight’s move, managed to be about both BASHING CAPITAL and making you GO OUT AND BUY LEGO’s.

But to prove that HOLLYWOOD has a longer memory than I sometimes give it credit for, VINCE GILLIGAN of BREAKING BAD FAME, is going to offer us what we’ve all been HOWLING FOR: A REVISIONIST REMAKE OF JACK AND THE BEANSTALK…Because when you think WALTER WHITE and SAUL GOODMAN…You also think someone should give this guy a FAIRYTALE…

Remember “The Six Million Dollar Man” TV SHOW…sure you do, it introduced the world to LEE MAJORS. You don’t? That’s okay too, because he’s now “THE SIX BILLION DOLLAR MAN”…back from the dead and adjusted for INFLATION.

Nicolas Roeg’s “Don’t Look Now” is an acknowledged classic, finally earning a rightful spot in the vaunted CRITERION COLLECTION

…And they’re going to FRANKEN-REBOOT that one too.

“Don’t Look Now” is a MASTERPIECE, and unless Hollywood goes the route of DUCHAMP’S URINAL on this one and decides to spoof itself, I can only hope it dies on the table, like so many NARRATIVE EXPERIMENTS. In fact, the news of “Don’t Look Now” being touched rightly drove THE DISSOLVE INTO A FULL-ON APOPLEXY

And a side note, Don’t Look Now, is being RE-IMAGINED by the duo in charge of the “ESCAPE FROM NY” REMAKE as well. Clearly, ANDREW RONA and ALEX HEINEMAN are NECROPHILES PAR EXCELLENCE.

Oh…and that movie where BARBARA HERSHEY gets raped by a ghost (a lot), you’re getting A REMAKE OF THAT TOO

I THINK NETFLIX, REALLY, REALLY, DOESN’T WANT HAVE TO PLACE ADS…because they’re POTENTIALLY getting back into the MARVEL BUSINESS, and POTENTIALLY with RYAN PHILLIPE (who in an ironic twist, frequently sounds like FRANKEN-JOHN MALKOVICH). But don’t they REALIZE, the more EXPENSIVE these SHOWS GET, the more likely they are to have to place ADS to pay for their ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING?…

And finally, just to make your head spin, DISNEY announced it’s projected SLATE up to 2017, at the LasVegas CinemaCon convention, and here’s the breakdown reprinted in FULL (here’s a hint, FRANKEN-FRANCHIES and overall CORPORATE FRANKEN-FUSION (a NEW ONE) rule the day):

Nine sequels are in development, including: Avengers 2, Alice in the Looking Glass, Finding Dory, GotG 2, Toy Story 4, Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain America 3, Star Wars Episode VII and Star Wars: Episode VIII)

  • Four book adaptations: The Finest Hours, BFG, Ghost in the Shell, Doctor Strange.
  • Three remakes: The Jungle Book, Pete’s Dragon and Beauty and the Beast.
  • One film inspired by real events: Bridge of Spies.
  • One spinoff film: Star Wars: Rogue One.
  • Two movies inspired by a Disneyland/Disney World ride or experience: Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and Tomorrowland.
  • Four original films: Moana, Inside Out, Zootopia, and The Good Dinosaur.

 

CRITICISM COLLAPSE: GOSLING’S LOST RIVER ISN’T RUIN PORN, IT’S A POSTCARD FROM THE FUTURE…

Last night, as the riots in Baltimore and Ferguson symbiotically fed off each other’s fury, and reduced their twinned streets to post-apocalyptic MOVIE SETS, I watched Ryan Gosling’s much-derided and Cannes-shamed directorial debut “Lost River”, and once again it reinforces my opinion — if Cannes hates it, chances are at the very least it’s INTERESTING, and potentially a MASTERPIECE.

“Lost River” falls more on the INTERESTING side of the spectrum than on the mauled masterpiece, but I’d still take it over pretty much every film I’ve seen this year (outside of Michael Mann’s sensational and sensationally DISMISSED digital masterpiece “Blackhat“).

But a little on the story of LOST RIVER (both framing and NARRATIVE) before we get started:

Lost River was shot entirely amidst the RUINS of Detroit on a $5 million budget, and the film looks like it could have cost six or seven times that amount. The plot (as it exists, this isn’t a PLOT movie) is FAIRY-TALE BASIC: A land blighted by water and rot, a copper-scavenger son (shades of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’s Son), an evil banker who runs a VIOLENT UNDERWORLD in his off-hours (shades of “The Purge” and “Blue Velvet” here), and the main villain, BULLY, who has declared himself a KING, and wants to turn the remaining population into his terrorized subjects (he also cuts people’s lips off with scissors).

And as for the film itself: It has a real visual poetry, and although the aesthetics may be derivative, at least Gosling appears to have refined taste and studied classic and recent auteurs (David Lynch, Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Tarkovsky, Georges Franju, Nicolas Winding Refn (his frequent collaborator) Harmony Korine, Gaspar Noe, even John Hughes), unlike most current MAINSTREAM DIRECTORS whose film education seems to have been a deliberate misreading of all TONY SCOTT tried to do. And…

Let’s stick to TONY SCOTT for a second here, because he’s relevant to the discussion.

Scott started his career as a painter, moved into commercials and blockbuster film, but never lost his interest in avant-garde aesthetic technique, and would frequently utilize an outré visual style, but within the contexts of MAINSTREAM FILM. Now the argument many critics have, and it’s a fair one is: TONY SCOTT stripped the AVANT-GARDE POLITICS out of the AVANT-GARDE AESTHETICS; he hollowed them down to pure SPECTACLE. And I’ll admit that is a fair reading.

So why is this interesting to LOST RIVER?

Because the film’s biggest SIN in the eyes of most US and British critics is that it’s — “Ruin Porn“. (Side note: Ruin porn can also be bracketed by “Poverty Porn” — particularly when it takes place in “emerging markets”–, and the biggest practicer of “Poverty Porn” just won the Best Director Oscar this year.)

So why do I find the “Ruin Porn” charges way off the MARK: Because RUIN PORN implies that you’re taking advantage of PEOPLE’S SUFFERING by not CONTEXTUALIZING the IMAGES of RUIN, that you’re exploiting what the RUINS REPRESENT. And in the case of LOST RIVER, this couldn’t be more false.

First off, DETROIT’S RUINS are not an AESTHETIC TECHNIQUE you can co-opt and stick in a film — the RUINS are POLITICAL just by EXISTING. And Gosling does place them in a POLITICAL NARRATIVE. The film is all about saving your HOME, predatory bankers, and primitive capitalism in the face of industrial collapse. Truth be told, I think “Lost River” is more POLITICAL, than most so called “Political” films.

And that leads us to a bigger question: Why do so many CRITICS and COMMENTATORS want the Ruin Porn to be bracketed?

Because most critics hate the in-your-face NARRATIVE of the DETROIT RUINS that is inescapable: LIBERALISM failed. The collapse of DETROIT is a tough one to blame on CONSERVATIVES. DETROIT has been LIBERALIZED to death since 1965 (Unions and Democratic Rule).

However, and to be perfectly honest, the RUIN PORN and POLITICS aren’t the most interesting part of LOST RIVER is to me. Here’s what is:

You can now make a post-apocalyptic, third-world film for $5 million — in a CITY IN THE UNITED STATES.

You don’t need sets, CGI, a big crew…you just need to go to DETROIT. Certainly other films have taken advantage of Detroit’s tax breaks for filming (Real Steel, It Follows, Transformers 4), but they never SHOT THE CITY. GOSLING made a movie that looks better than most studio films, by literally just SHOOTING DETROIT, not for tax breaks, but as an embedded part of the narrative. However —

The scariest thing is there are more and more DETROIT’S to come.

HOLLYWOOD’S APOCALYPSE FEVER may finally be able to be contained in their favorite cost-cutting business model: FOUND FOOTAGE.

If Gosling wants to make a sequel, he won’t have long to wait — A few cities in California look ready for their close-up…

shenzhen speed as simultaneity

Meditation on the misconceptions of “Speed” in Shenzen…All the speed in the world won’t help DEMOGRAPHICS, but read on…

Shenzhen Noted

Shenzhen Speed has been taken up as a metaphor to describe the pace of life in the city, including the velocity at which buses race through the city. According to friends, Shenzhen buses cover more ground in less time than do buses in their hometowns, where apparently they meander from stop to stop and can take hours to cross an entire city. In contrast, in Shenzhen, crosstown buses make several loops in a day. However, as metaphor “Shenzhen Speed” may distort more than it illuminates the history of the city.  

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CELEBRITY COLLAPSE: STARS (AFFLECK, LaBEOUF, DOWNEY) REACT TO GENRE SLIPPAGE…

Celebrity is a GENRE all to itself, and once upon a time, when HOLLYWOOD mattered as a DISTINCT ENTITY — and not just as a tie-in to seven other media platform rollouts — there was a NARRATIVE that a star could FOLLOW to chart their progress and signs of decline.

Sort of like with with MOVIE NARRATIVE. There are certain rules that need to be obeyed so audiences feel like they just saw a “MOVIE”.

Ergo, there was a certain STAR comportment which telegraphed the MESSAGE to audiences — I am the PERSON you can trust to carry this “MOVIE”.

But there are no STARS anymore, because there are practically NO THEATRICALLY RELEASED MOVIES that exist in the classical sense of FILMS. A FILM being an artistic entity that could EXIST as a stand-alone piece. A one-timer that needed STARS to bring people in. The only MOVIES that matter TODAY create and pollinate a CROSS-OVER UNIVERSE of FRANKEN-FRANCHIES and FRANKEN-NOVELS.

STARS are unnecessary when the UNIVERSE and not the MOVIE is what brings people to the theater. And THREE CELEBRITIES (Ben Affleck, Shia LaBeouf, and Robert Downey Jr) are case studies in what happens to STARS when they realize they don’t EXIST.

CASE #1: BEN AFFLECK

COLLAPSE SYMPTOM: DENIAL

As a result of the Sony hacks posted on WikiLeaks, we know that Ben Affleck’s great-great-great-SOMETHING Grandfather was a slave-owner. But a little backstory:

Affleck was appearing on Henry Louis Gates’s PBS SHOW based upon genealogy, and after Gates unearthed the SLAVE NARRATIVE in Affleck’s family closet, Affleck asked for the information in the episode to be suppressed.

Now let’s be honest. This is SELF-IMPORTANCE pure and simple. The unveiling of this information and televised discussion (it’s PBS for Christ’s sake) wouldn’t have made a DENT in AFFLECK’s career. So why did it have to be covered up?

Because AFFLECK has constructed his identity on two NARRATIVES:

The outmoded role of the HOLLYWOOD STAR who has to be a BETTER PERSON than the people who attend his movies, otherwise why would they pay (SPECIAL EFFECTS, SHARED UNIVERSE, and MARKETING, Ben…)

And also, the HOLLYWOOD LIBERAL NARRATIVE, wherein one must fight injustice and hypocrisy (Affleck’s impassioned defense of Islam against LIBERALS less tolerant than himself), yet run and HIDE when HYPOCRISY comes back to BITE THEM. SEAN PENN, bless his soul, NEVER DOES THIS (see his non-defense of his poorly received OSCAR MOMENT).

What Affleck doesn’t seem to realize is that neither of these NARRATIVES exist anymore.

He’s basically trying to have WARREN BEATTY or GEORGE CLOONEY’S career (HOLLYWOOD STARDOM/POLITICAL ACTIVISM), but BEATTY dropped out 15 years ago (he saw the writing on the wall), and CLOONEY’s career when he first started (1997-1998), is IMPOSSIBLE to replicate today.

AFFLECK harbors the delusion that he is an integral part of the NARRATIVE of how his films are sold, and that he must project a certain IMAGE as part of said FILMIC ENTERPRISE. This belief is both woefully out of date and somewhat charming in its ANACHRONISM. Incidentally, it’s also probably why David Fincher (an unparalleled cinematic meta-mind-melder) wanted Affleck for the lead in “Gone Girl” — Ben has a genuine desire to be adored and admired…

…no matter WHAT has to get swept under the rug (definite shades of Nick Dunne). But what Affleck should have realized by starring in “Gone Girl” is that the media NARRATIVES have changed. Nothing stays under the RUG anymore. Better to be transparent…

CASE #2: SHIA LaBEOUF

COLLAPSE SYMPTOM: RECOVERING SCHIZO BUILDING A NEW NARRATIVE…

Shia has had some spectacular meltdowns as of late: wearing a bag on his head at the Nymphomanic premiere, getting kicked out — and later arrested — of “Cabaret”, to launching a bizarre performance art piece as an act of public apology (during which he claims to have been raped), and finally being charged with plagiarism for his short film, and then plagiarizing his apology

Phew…

In all honesty, there was something about LaBeouf’s meltdowns that seemed GENUINE to me. This was a man STRUGGLING with a demon beyond the normal pressures of STARDOM, a man searching for IDENTITY, searching for something outside the NARRATIVE the media gave him (TRANSFORMERS STAR goes WILD).

This wasn’t performance art of the JOAQUIN PHOENIX strain, which was a send-up of the inflated importance of CELEBRITY. The type of celebrity Phoenix was mocking with his art doesn’t exist anymore. LaBeouf’s meltdown had a truth hidden in the core of all the madness. He wanted to SAY SOMETHING, but could only find RECYCLED behavior and words…

And a section of a talk he gave at the Tribeca Film Festival put some of his project into context for me:

I turned to performance art, as I couldn’t find another container/platform/discipline for individual expression, self-presentation. I couldn’t contact the audience. Performance art tightens the space of relations and allows me to work in real time, as opposed to only synthetic time. It liberated me from the old constraints of genre and taxonomic systems (drama, thriller, comedy, mystery). It liberates me and allows me to work in broad complexities.

Now is some of this retro-image recovery? I don’t know. But what is sounds like is a performer looking to escape from MUSTY GENRES, both in his role as a celebrity, and as an ACTOR trapped in them.

Now is it going well seamlessly? No. But it’s no less MESSY than BEN AFFLECK desperately trying to shore up the OUTMOTED NARRATIVE he refuses to let die.

CASE #3: ROBERT DOWNEY, JR.

COLLAPSE SYMPTOM: BUDDHA

Robert Downey, Jr (RDJ affectionately) is a master of NARRATIVE. He’s literally turned himself into a FICTIONAL CONSTRUCT (Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes), but before becoming ahistorical and metallic, he had to do countless mea culpa narratives wherein he explained his decades-long descent into drugs and prison.

And he did it LIKE A CHAMP. Downey owned NARRATIVE, tamed it, and used it to turn himself into a COMIC-BOOK (likely in the hope people would leave him alone about his past).

But now the NARRATIVE NINJA just turned things around again, by walking out of an interview with a BBC REPORTER who wanted to use “The Avengers 2” press junket to probe Downey’s soul. But what Downey did was more radical than just walk out, he put Celebrity Media in it’s rightful place by saying:

There’s NO CELEBRITY JOURNALISM anymore, because there are NO STARS anymore. I’m not doing anymore rehashing, anymore mea-culpa’s, because that NARRATIVE is over. He basically told the interviewer HOW TO DO HIS JOB.

I don’t take this as Downey being petulant. I take it as Downey bearing the bad news to CELEBRITY JOURNALISTS: What we BOTH used to do is OVER. I refuse to be hamstrung to the old HOLLYWOOD NARRATIVE (wherein we have to rehash my past transgressions), because there is no HOLLYWOOD anymore…

…I’m IRON MAN and I’m here on a press junket as IRON MAN. That’s the new NARRATIVE. I’m not a STAR, I appear in a UNIVERSE, and that’s the NEW REALITY. And you need to get with it…

YOUR FAVORITE POSTS THIS WEEK:

Happy Sunday Collapsers:

So to usher us into next week, here’s your favorite MUTATIONS from this week:

WONDER WOMAN AND THE COLLAPSE OF “CHARACTER”: https://narrativecollapse.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/wonder-woman-collapse-how-the-term-character-is-the-most-misused-word-in-movies-with-a-slight-detour-in-necrophilia/

HBO IS LOOKING DIGITAL; NETFLIX LOOKING ANALOG: https://narrativecollapse.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/progress-collapse-hbo-embracing-digital-narrative-netflix-trending-analog/

AND BRET EASTON ELLIS: TOUR GUIDE OF THE COLLAPSE: https://narrativecollapse.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/a-guide-through-the-collapse-bret-easton-ellis/

A TOUR GUIDE OF THE COLLAPSE: BRET EASTON ELLIS…

Happy Friday Collapsers:

Since the weekend is when most of us have the spare time to hoover up longer-form content, I wanted to introduce my readers to one of the philosophical fathers behind NARRATIVE COLLAPSE, and recommend you dig deep into the archive I’ve highlighted below. His name:

BRET EASTON ELLIS.

Now if you know Mr. Ellis, it’s likely because of his nefarious, transgressive tome “American Psycho”, but if that’s all you know about him, you’re missing out, because Mr. Ellis has been charting the COLLAPSE since 2011 with his essay EMPIRE VS. POST-EMPIRE, in which he called an end to the GRAND CELEBRITY NARRATIVE using Charlie Sheen’s meltdown as his fulcrum.

The article is a devastating takedown of how around 2005 (an arbitrary date somewhat, but I’ll take it) the celebrity NARRATIVE (behaving, taking work and interviews seriously) ground to a halt, liberating certain stars (Sheen, John Mayer) and leaving others in the dust (Tom Cruise).

But ELLIS was only getting started.

His next broadsword against the conventional HOLLYWOOD NARRATIVE was “The Canyons”, a project birthed from Ellis and director Paul Schrader’s (YUP, that PAUL SCHRADER, mentioned on the WELCOME PAGE OF THIS SITE), frustration with the new economics of film financing, and having several of their projects fall apart. They GOT the fact that even INDIE FILMMAKING was beginning to mimic the BIG STUDIO NARRATIVE.

“The Canyons” was funded via Mr. Ellis, Mr. Schrader, and Braxton Pope (producer), with a generous helping coming in from Kickstarter (they were the first to take advantage of crowd-funding, Zach Braff, Spike Lee, and the Veronica Mars movie followed). The bulk of the actors were found through the online application LET IT CAST.

The second scorched-earth policy came when Ellis and Schrader cast Lindsay Lohan at the height of her burnout, and male porn star James Deen in the lead roles. They sent out the signal: We will touch you, ESPECIALLY, if a STUDIO WONT. Which is definitely not part of the NARRATIVE.

Then the New York Times visited the set, and the entire NARRATIVE of the film switched over to how Lindsay Lohan was out of control. Next, the film itself was attacked by the SXSW film festival claiming it was “cold and dead inside” (as if a work by Schrader and Ellis could be anything else?) and rejected by Sundance.

So the NARRATIVE kept MORPHING. FIRST, the project was a RENEGADE GUERILLA OP against the studio system. Then it was THE LINDSAY LOHAN SHOW. Then it was just a BAD MOVIE. Not even a BAD OBJECT that could be reclassified as CAMP, because as Ellis knows: CAMP IS DEAD in the NARRATIVE COLLAPSE.

So “The Canyons” became a blank slate to etch all these different NARRATIVES on. But what everyone seemed to miss (except Ellis) is that what was ON FILM DIDN’T MATTER (although in my opinion, it was quite, quite GOOD). The entire point of “The Canyons” was about THE DEATH OF TRADITIONAL CINEMA. The making of the film and the reporting were all part of the EXPERIMENT.

The film is a devastating repurposing of McLuhan’s MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE. Schrader and Ellis used THE MEDIUM to the DELIVER THE MESSAGE: YOUR MEDIUM IS DEAD. And here’s the PROOF.

How did SO MANY PEOPLE miss this? The opening scenes of the film are a montage of DECREPIT, COLLAPSED MOVIE THEATERS. Schrader himself said: “The movie is about kids who showed up to be in a movie fifteen years after it was over.”

Who cares if the movie is good? The MOVIE isn’t the POINT. The dismantling of the way FILMS ARE MADE, REPORTED ON, and RELEASED is the point of “The Canyons”. It’s a middle-finger by two ARTISTS. It’s punk.

But if you want Ellis at his best: LISTEN TO HIS PODCAST.

Ellis doesn’t want artists with anything to promote. He wants to engage with them for an hour (sometimes LONGER) about the state of the mutation and the COLLAPSE. Some of them get it (MICHAEL TOLKIN gets it BIG TIME, but he wrote “The Player”, so he’s just a genius), and some of them hold on to the dream narrative.

As with “The Canyons”, Ellis is carving out a niche where THE PROCESS is the POINT. And that’s an integral part of the COLLAPSE itself.

This is something way beyond POST-MODERNISM, wherein you laid the apparatus bare to show the reader or viewer that we are all made of CONSTRUCTED NARRATIVE. No. Those artists were still trying to manufacture ART with a capital “A”. There is no ART in the COLLAPSE. There’s just DIAGNOSIS.

Ellis is using the PROCESS ITSELF (film, conversation) as THE NARRATIVE. There’s no additional NARRATIVE necessary. The MEDIUM isn’t the MESSAGE. That NARRATIVE is over too.

Bret Easton Ellis gets it. And so should you to learn how to READ THE COLLAPSE.

Let him guide you…

intersecting agencies and cybersecurity #RSAC

Fascinating piece on the potential MUTATIONS IN AGENCY due to cybersecurity…

Digifesto

I recurring theme in my reading lately (such as, Beniger‘s The Control Revolution, Horkheimer‘s Eclipse of Reason, and Norbert Wiener’s Cybernetics work) is the problem of two ways of reconciling explanations of how-things-came-to-be:

  • Natural selection. Here a number of autonomous, uncoordinated agents with some exogenously given variability encounter obstacles that limit their reproduction or survival. The fittest survive. Adaptation is due to random exploration at the level of the exogenous specification of the agent, if at all. In unconstrained cases, randomness rules and there is no logic to reality.
  • Purpose. Here there is a teleological explanation based on a goal some agent has “in mind”. The goal is coupled with a controlling mechanism that influences or steers outcomes towards that goal. Adaptation is part of the endogenous process of agency itself.

Reconciling these two kinds of description is not easy. A point Beniger makes is that…

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