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by Bill Gibron

2 Jan 2009

At least one of the “D"s in DVD has to stand for “diversity”.  As Blu-ray continues to tread water, earning as many converts as distancing disgruntled fans, the digital medium continues to prosper - artistically, at least. Thanks to advances in technology, Internet avenues of self-distribution, and the ability to put one’s own art out on display for everyone to see, the cornucopia of product one can indulge in is simply mind-boggling. A full time critic, on a simple schedule, could watch close to 325 discs a year (six to seven a week). Even those of us who make time for other medium find ourselves struggling at well over 200 (the official SE&L mark is somewhere around 145). Naturally, this makes a Best of list almost impossible. Even worse, some companies we could count on for classic commerce - Something Weird, Troma - were out of the mix all together (or, in the case of the latter, until the Summer of 2008).

Still, it was an interesting year. The au courant bonus feature du jour is, undoubtedly, the “digital copy” - a version of the film you can download to your laptop or IPod for entertainment portability. Of course, something like The Dark Knight clearly suffers from being shrunk down to less than IMAX size. Even worse, the dirty little secret of the high definition format was finally revealed - just because a disc claims to be HD, doesn’t mean the studio shelled out the cash to make over the image to provide more depth. For many, it’s just too cost prohibitive. Thus many a messageboard argument has started over if a revisit to a classic title is worth the hefty monetary reinvestment. For some, no amount of bells or whistles could bring them to repurchase catalog items merely ported over from the standard DVD edition. Thus the big Blu struggles, and probably will continue to do so.

Still, outside the controversy and web-based clamor, a few titles stood out. SE&L chose the ones closest to our heart, while reminding our readers that the best thing about a DVD is still the film (or films) it contains. We’ve said it before but it bears repeating - a Criterion Collection of Crap is still crap. But a barebones version of a masterpiece is still something special. So without further ado, here are the choices for 2008:

#10 - The Cinematic Titanic Collection
Over the last few years, Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy have been holding down the MST3K fort by creating audio only commentaries for their Rifftrax project. Now, series originator Joe Hodgson has collected the rest of the cast (Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, and J. Elvis Weinstein) to create a whole new in theater satire. Each of the five self-distributed “episodes” created in 2008 reminds you of why, some 20 years after these Midwestern comedians first decided to dump on bad movies, the formula is as funny as ever. There’s nary a bad installment in the bunch.

#9 - Brand Upon the Brain! - The Criterion Collection
One imagines that if you gave Canadian auteur Guy Maddin a mainstream movie script and a cast of well known celebrities, he would still wind up making one unhinged example of avant-garde experimentalism. He’d have Brad Pitt as a half-blind double amputee with a kind of emotional Asperger Syndrome while co-star Cate Blanchett would be a mute muse he only sees while under the influence of a heady homemade elixir. This overview of his childhood, fashioned like a German Expressionistic horror mystery, is supposedly almost 97% psychologically “true”. Of course, what that means to Maddin, and his fans, is anyone’s guess.

#8 - The Three Stooges Collection - Volumes 2 & 3
Fulfilling the wishes of longtime fans, Columbia has finally wised up, dropped the three short per package DVD format, and delivered The Three Stooges in a logistically sound chronological breakdown. Covering 1937 to 42, the 47 mini-masterworks presented all contain the classic line-up that most devotees prefer: mean leader Moe, absent minded minion Larry, and unbelievably brilliant bundle of butter, Curly. There is no Shemp, no Joe Besser, and definitely no Curly Joe DeRita to muck things up. While there is nothing wrong with any of these later stage substitutes, nothing beats the magic of the original Stooges. Looking over the titles offered, there is not a bad apple in the bunch.

#7 - Wanted
As with many post-millennial movies, Wanted is based on a series of graphic novels. Like the best of those adaptations, screenwriters Mark Millar and J. G. Jones use the foundation of the series as a jumping off point. A brilliant and baffling action effort, the movie proposes the latest nerd as closet gladiator, an archetype that seems to never lose cinematic weight. It then pits him against the classic cabal, a secret society that’s been doing the world’s dirty work for so long that we can’t imagine life without it. The results are as outrageous as they are transcendent.

#6 - The Mist: 2 Disc Special Edition
It needs to be repeated, just in case you missed it the first time - Frank Darabont’s The Mist is a masterpiece. It’s the kind of determined fright flick that few in the industry know how to make - or even comprehend. Everything you expect from this kind of story is here, - the otherworldly setup, the recognizable heroes and villains, the coincidental clashes, the big moment attacks, the smaller sequences of suspense. But Darabont is not content to simply let this opportunity go by without messing a little with the mannerisms. The Mist is so purposeful in how it thwarts genre ethos that it’s almost arrogant.

#5 - I’m Not There: 2 Disc Special Edition
Todd Haynes has balls. He took on the most difficult of subjects (the life and shapeshifting times of songwriter extraordinaire Bob Dylan) and found a way to be both factual and fanciful. Reimagining the artistic chameleon as one of six distinct personas, and hiring an equal number of actors to play them, Haynes helped put into perspective an important, influential artist whose vocation seemed stuck in a constant state of flux. Now, thanks to DVD, everything confusing is clear as crystal. On a commentary track that should be mandatory listening for any would-be bonus feature participant, the director goes into excruciating detail, explaining almost every facet of his fascinating film.

#4 - Ken Russell at the BBC
Before he became the “bad boy” of British cinema, middle aged maverick Russell was making amazing musical biographies for UK television. This masterful boxset contains six of his best - Elgar, The Debussy Film, Always on Sunday, Isadora Duncan: The Biggest Dancer in the World, Dante’s Inferno, and Summer of Song. Sadly, his slam on Richard Strauss, The Dance of the Seven Veils, was pulled at the last minute. Still, with famous faces like Oliver Reed and Vivian Pickles along for the ride, this collection is a revelation, and a testament to one of the most criminally underrated directors of all time.

#3 - Hellboy II: The Golden Army - 3 Disc Special Edition
Sometimes, the most outrageous vision is the most personal. As part of the amazing three disc DVD presentation we hear director Guillermo Del Toro, in his own self-deprecating way, explain how the larger than life flights of fancy peppered throughout the underappreciated Summer blockbuster represents an literal illustration of his own fertile imagination. It’s everything he wanted the original film to be and much, much more. Purposefully plotting out certain scenes to thematically represent his view of mankind and its uneasy coexistence with forces outside of reality, Del Toro delivers the kind of wide-eyed entertainment that will only grow in approval in the coming years.

#2 - Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead Tromasterpiece Collection
If Poultrygeist is a certified ‘Tromasterpiece’ - and it most certainly is - then the stunning three disc DVD treatment of the title is its Hearts of Darkness. Like that memorable documentary of Frances Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, there is an accompanying Making-of featurette entitled Poultry in Motion: Truth is Stranger than Chicken. In it, we witness nearly ninety minutes of infighting, exasperation, and the well-plucked perfection that comes from such a meeting of fertile, often unhinged minds. All the problems Kaufman and crew face on the film, from reluctant DP divadom to abject naked actress angst, are captured. As with other Troma projects, the onset mayhem sometimes threatens to undermine the entire enterprise. Here, it makes the good great, and the special something spectacular.

#1 - Salo: Or the 120 Days of Sodom - Criterion Collection
In some ways, it’s better to begin by discussing what Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Saló is not. It is not the most horrific or grotesque movie ever made. Certainly, the revolting elements used by the filmmaker to fashion his “power = corruption” rants are truly disturbing, but they are often buffered by an aesthetic detachment that’s so remote it leaves their impact suppressed. Similarly, this is not a complicated cinematic screed. From the moment we witness the forced marriage of the libertines’ daughters to the madmen in charge, we realize that Pasolini is offering a very obvious allegory. By moving de Sade into the 20th century, and using Mussolini and his complicit populace as metaphors, the notion of authoritarianism as an ugly aphrodisiac for all manner of debauched behavior is crystal clear.

Finally, it is not child pornography. Granted, the sight of several underage actors posing in various stages of undress (including copious full frontal nudity) will be alarming to our post-millennial PC posturing, but again, this director doesn’t sensationalize sex. Instead, it is handled in such an impartial, almost inert manner that only the most psychologically disturbed pervert would find this film enticing. Upon reflection, Salo is really nothing more than political commentary carried to outrageous, unsettling extremes. The result is repulsive, artistic, and memorable indeed.

by Rob Horning

2 Jan 2009

Mark Thoma linked to this post from Susan Woodward and Robert Hall, in which they point out that though spending on consumption is down in dollar terms, consumption actually rose when the figure is adjusted for deflation.

Consumption of durable goods, adjusted for price declines

This is something to remember when hearing about how the recession is changing consumer behavior. Chances are it hasn’t changed much at all; we’re just buying cheaper stuff—either taking advantage of falling prices (notice any sales this holiday season?) or substituting inferior goods.

by Nikki Tranter

2 Jan 2009

I love a New Year. Time to clear out the baggage of the year before and start fresh. It’s time, too, when I challenge myself to read 100 books in the next 12 months. I’ve set the challenge for about 18 years now, and have yet to actually succeed. But, you know, perusing various publisher’s sites and coming soon-type articles, the pickings are so good over these first few months, that this could be my year…

But then, I say that every year.

Here’s a sample of my exciting reading for 2009 (if I get through these, that’s just 96 to go!):

High Voltage Tattoo
by Kat Von D
HarperCollins, January
Nothing about Kat Von D is conventional, so it’s no surprise her first book features a unique padded red cover, ornate type, and parchment pages. It’s a work of art, just like its brattily beautiful author. The book promises the lady’s in depth perspectives on contemporary tattooing, and offers a look into her own artistic development. Much as I’m looking forward to reading about those things, I really want this for the photos. Kat’s work is transcendent.

Handling the Dead
by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Quercus, March
If you’ve read John Ajvide Lindqvist’s previous novel, Let the Right One In, you’ll likely know why this one both excites and frightens me. If this one is anything like that one, there are going to be times I wished I’d picked up The Secret Life of Bees so I perhaps wouldn’t have to confront descriptions of acid-burned faces pressed into bathroom concrete. Of course, however, it’s the daring and ultra full-on nature of Lindqvist’s otherwise rather sweet storytelling that makes it all such an adventure. In Handling the Dead, folks are rising from their resting places in the city morgue and looking for home. I can’t wait to experience this writer’s take on the zombie genre.

Infinity Blues
by Ryan Adams
Akashic, January
He’s like whiskey—you need him, he knows it, bites as he goes down, warms when he hits the spot. All I really know about Infinity Blues is what the pre-release hype tells me: Cameron Crowe calls it “soul poetry”, Eileen Myles says it’s “better than reading a friend’s journal”, and Stephen King reckons it’s brilliant, too. I think I’m ready to slot this one on the special bookshelf next to The Energy of Slaves.

It’s Not Necessarily the Truth
by Jaime Pressly
HarperCollins, February
And it’s a great title. No room for argument there. Pressly has risen in a very short time from sexy model and movie eye-candy to Emmy-nominated actress—not the easiest of progressions, right? How many stars of late-night Skinemax fare like Poison Ivy 3 have seen half as much success? I must know how she managed that. And I hope she discusses her sweetly tragic stint on Punk’d.

The Crossroads
by Niccolo Ammaniti
Text, January
As with Let the Right One In, translated from its original Swedish, Ammaniti’s I’m Not Scared introduced me to the literature of another country and culture, introducing me to world perspectives I’d not previously experienced in my reading. I’m Not Scared is an amazing book, with the most breathtaking final act. The Crossroads interests me because it features similar themes, about young men watching their elders make bad, bad decisions. This time Cristiano waiting and watching as his father plots an ATM theft with a converted tractor. Something tells me the plan won’t go smoothly.

Stephen King Goes to the Movies
by Stephen King
Simon and Schuster, January
Whether it’s in depth analysis like Danse Macabre or film reviewing in Entertainment Weekly, right back to those “Dear Reader” letters he’d put in his old short story collections, Stephen King doing any sort of non-fiction writing just excites me. This book looks especially cool, as the author looks at five of his stories made into films. Of the five he revisits, only one, in my opinion (often the opposite of King’s in EWFunny Games the best movie of the year? Steve, you are nuts, dude!), is of any real worth as a film, and that’s The Shawshank Redemption. I must know what he thinks of the awful Children of the Corn adaptation, and I’d like a real explanation for the stupid ending to 1408. King’s candor is always fun, so I expect big things, including major bickering in my head between King and I.

Handle with Care
by Jodi Picoult
Simon and Schuster, March
If Ryan Adams is like whiskey, then Jodi Picoult is a strong peppermint latte with cream. She’s sweet and soothing, but she bites, too. And she’s addictive. Picoult is the queen of the family drama, taking key issues of the day—medical, legal, social—and providing insight into what life is like for those “others” who actually experience child suicide, sex attacks, heart transplants, school massacres, and every other human headline event. This time she’s tackling brittle bone disease, abortion, child’s rights, wrongful birth, and the meaning of family. It’s a lot to fit into one story, but such layers and textures are what Jodi does best.

Be Is For Beer
by Tom Robbins
HarperCollins, April
Which bring me to my most anticipated release of the New Year, and possibly the year in full. A new Tom Robbins book is cause to celebrate. This is his first novel since 2003—a children’s book about beer. Robbins is now with Ecco, making him a stable mate beside his heroes Leonard Cohen and Charles Bukowski. The press release for this one calls it an “hallucinogenic hymn to beer, children, and the cosmic mysteries that sustain us all.” I hope this one sets forth to solve some of those cosmic mysteries. I’m quite convinced Tom Robbins holds those answers, and serves them up piece by piece through crazy phrases, big thumbs, and spoons trapped in drawers with vibrators. This one might become my Bible.

Happy Reading New Year.

by Bill Gibron

31 Dec 2008

2008 was the year of the auteur. It was the time for the mind behind the lens. While previous seasons have seen hit or miss offerings from the best and brightest of the artform’s directorial gods, this year was different. Original celluloid voices like Guillermo Del Toro (Hellboy II), Clint Eastwood (Changeling) and Michel Gondry (Be Kind, Rewind) delivered some of their finest flourishes, while new voices like Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted), Steve McQueen (Hunger), and screenwriter turned filmmaker Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) brought their new and novel ideas to the motion picture party. In 2008, it was all about the vision, storytelling supported with big ideas, wild ambitions, and all the technical tools one could muster to realize both. Yet there was also room for more personal approaches, pictures where the only moviemaking magic needed was a great cast, a solid script, and someone to make sure both got showcased.

In looking over the 200 plus films SE&L reviewed this year, a few that didn’t make the final ten deserve more than an honorable mention. Man on Wire proved that individual drive and daring-do can overcome even the most outsized architectural aims, while Trouble the Water offered a searing documentary denouncement of the post-Katrina relief efforts of the Bush Administration. Iron Man catapulted Jon Favreau, Robert Downey Jr., and Marvel Comics to the frontlines of the Summer popcorn parade, while Tropic Thunder and The Pineapple Express proved that comedy didn’t have to be pretty, or always joking, to make its merry point. We even got the final installment in Dario Argento’s long gestating Three Mothers trilogy - and wouldn’t you know it, The Mother of Tears was a terrific return to form. Even the universally touted titles that didn’t come close to breaching the Best (Frost/Nixon, Doubt, The Reader) argued for the talent of the individuals calling the shots.

While you may argue with a few of the choices (and the placement of a couple more), the following collection of neo-classics represents SE&L‘s selections for the year’s superior cinematic experiences. They may not all be serious. Some may cross the line when it comes to movie mastery. And at least one is oft cited as one of 2008’s worst. But for our metaphysical money, these were the titles that made the year in film worth watching, starting with: 

#10 - Zack and Miri Make a Porno
In a year that’s seen such spry and subversive comedies as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Pineapple Express, and Tropic Thunder, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the best. It represents yet another triumph for Kevin Smith (after the amazing Clerks II) and showcases a growing maturity for a filmmaking once noted for wallowing in the infantile. Sure, scatology abounds, and no one could accuse Smith of taking his subject too seriously. But when it comes time to deliver the goods, to get past the obvious T&A toilet humor and offer up something sweet and sincere, the king of the ViewAskew Universe literally rules. With its combination of heart and hilarity, bawdy blackouts and cleverly drawn characters, Smith starts out strong and ends up delivering something that’s timeless as well as tasteless.

#9 - Speed Racer
Forget all the curmudgeonly criticism that argues for this movie’s optical overload capacity - Speed Racer is a modern masterpiece, no two ways about it. Andy and Larry Wachowski have succeeded in creating a living, breathing comic book, complete with nods to psychedelic pen and ink designs, four panel editing, and overflowing visual pizzazz. Anyone who can’t see the brilliant blockbuster fun the brothers are having with this material has spent one too many hours staring at gloomy independent dramas about siblings struggling to deal with their dysfunctionality. This is filmmaking as fireworks, directorial innovation that, while not as media morphing as The Matrix, stands as the highest level of celluloid creativity. From races that routinely flaunt the rules of realism to a story that stresses the noble over the nasty, Speed Racer soars to the highest levels of movie magic.

#8 - Wall-E
By its very definition, imagination is limitless. The only true restrictions to the notion exist in the connection to actual human thought. Clearly, whoever is hiring (or perhaps, cloning) the creative forces at Pixar have found a way to circumvent said biological boundary. In an artistic endeavor where there are no sure things, this astounding animation studio has that most unprecedented of reputations - they never make a mistake. Not only are their films fantastic examples of motion picture craftsmanship, but they keep getting better with each and every new offering. Take their latest, the special sci-fi allegory WALL*E. It a stunning achievement in computer generated imagery, and once again expands the company’s range in dealing with subject matter both speculative and wonderfully sly.

#7 - The Dark Knight
Like a symphony where every note is exactly where it needs to be, or a painting without a brushstroke wasted, The Dark Knight is an unabashed, unashamedly great film. It’s a flawless amalgamation of moviemaker and material, Christopher Nolan’s calling card for future cinematic superstardom. All those comparisons to The Godfather and Heat are well earned. This is popcorn buzz built for the complex mind, a motion picture monolith constructed out of carefully placed plot and performance pieces. At two and a half hours, it’s epic in approach. But as the battle between men who are each facing their own inner demons and unsettled sources of personal discontent, its subtext and scope are unmatched. This is Coppola at his crime opera peak, Kubrick coming to the comic book and banging on all meticulously crafted cylinders.

#6 - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is not a movie made for a single viewing. At nearly three hours in length, its detail and depth become distant and unclear. There are times when it looks like director David Fincher is operating under a delusion of self-indulgence, basic camera tricks and CG deception taking over where narrative drive and clear characterization would suffice. But then the premise kicks in, an idea so novel and yet so simple that it often threatens to spin out of control. But this is where Fincher shines - bringing the outrageous and the outsized back into scale with the rest of his vision. As a result, Benjamin Button stands as the kind of filmmaking achievement that formidable French auteur theory was meant to celebrate. Without Fincher behind the scenes, this would be an occasionally interesting, often irritating trifle. With him, it’s some manner of masterpiece.

#5 - Milk
So much about Milk speaks to our current Prop 8 poisoned society that it should be studied by anyone wondering where hate and bigotry get their clear eyed cravenness. Mirroring the main character’s rise from activist to Establishment, director Gus Van Sant wisely juxtaposes archival footage of former Miss America and orange juice spokesperson Anita Bryant as part of the perspective. Militant in her narrow-minded opposition to equal rights, she’s Sarah Palin sent back in a time machine, a smiley faced whack job that preaches Christian charity while targeting her baseless Bible at an entire underclass. Her moral majority preaching, position as part of what will eventually be the religious right rejuvenation of the Republican Party, is frightening, and reminds us that Milk the man truly laid his life on the line for the cause.

#4 - The Wrestler
Taking its tone from Rod Serling’s memorable Requiem for a Heavyweight while utilizing a breathtaking neo-realistic approach, Darren Aronofsky’s sensational The Wrestler marks a major comeback for Mickey Rourke and ‘70s style filmmaking in general. Offering up characters of quiet charms and deep emotional pain and a cinema verite cinematography that frequently feels like a documentary, this is a tour de force of acting, directing, and stripped down motion picture passion. It’s rare when a film can make you feel such emotional extremes. On the one hand, the story of The Ram’s rise and fall is truly heartbreaking, helped in no small part by Rourke’s Oscar worthy performance. But there is so much more going on here, from the concept of a career lost long ago to an attempt at redemption that almost anyone can relate to. It makes for a truly remarkable entertainment experience.

#3 - Slumdog Millionaire
There ought to be a law against Danny Boyle and his undeniable moviemaking brilliance. After all, if an everyday item threatened to take your breath away as often and as intensely as this Englishman’s many cinematic masterworks, the government would at least step in and find a way to stick a warning label on it. After the serious sci-fi stunner Sunshine, Boyle’s trip into the darkened heart of impoverished India is the perfect illustration of celluloid as avant-art. From landscapes that literally look alien in nature and creation, to a simple love story spread out among elements both tragic and electric, this is perhaps the best film of Boyle’s already illustrious career - and this is the man who gave us Trainspotting, Millions, and 28 Days Later, mind you.

#2 - Let the Right One In
With its bursts of horrific violence and stark, matter of fact mannerism, Let the Right One In instantly becomes one of the few outright foreign fright film classics. It uses routine to unholy ends, and takes the standard coming of age and turns it right on its pointy, perplexed and paranormal little head. Rare is the movie that can take the trials and tribulations of peer pressure and personal awareness and make it into something both celebratory and sinister. But thanks to the efforts of Thomas Alfredson and his collaboration with source novelist John Lindqvist, we wind up with a compelling companion to every story of overlooked and alienated youth ever told. It’s like A Catcher in the Rye or A Separate Peace with night stalkers.

#1 - Revolutionary Road
Apparently, in order to enjoy Sam Mendes take on Revolutionary Road, you have to (a) have never read the Yates’ book it is based on, (b) never watched an episode of AMC’s au courant revisionist hipster drama Mad Men, and (c) believe the filmmaker’s previous Oscar winning effort, American Beauty, was not some award season anomaly. Add in the “isn’t that cute” conceit of having three members of James Cameron’s Titanic back onscreen (Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kathy Bates) and the pedigree everyone involved provides, and you’re either drunk on the idea of the film, or failing to see the true mess that Mendes has made. Actually, none of this is true. In a season which sees underage sex with war criminals celebrated and old racists made warm and fuzzy, Revolutionary Road stands as a bold bit of filmmaking. It’s not always pleasant, but then again, neither is life.

by Rob Horning

31 Dec 2008

Instant gratification, as we all have learned, is readily available on the internet. If I wanted to and had some ethical flexibility, I could check out PopMatters’ list of top albums for the year, do a little creative searching involving the word torrent and have all the ones that piqued my interest. The same goes for games, films, books, basically anything culturally current. It is the apotheosis in the society-wide trend toward convenience. We get what we want with minimal fuss and as little human interaction as possible. The triumphs of in the midst of the worst retailing season in modern history also demonstrate how online convenience has conquered America.

But is the ensuing hegemony of online retail merely setting up a backlash? Will we rebound into a yearning for more complex and challenging shopping missions? Will we miss the so-called experience economy? Let me once more go to the bottomless well of insight that is Albert Hirschman’s Shifting Involvements. In discussing how disappointment with consumerism might lead to a widespread embrace of public involvement, Hirschman points out that part of the appeal of civic life is that it makes for “a confusion between striving and attaining” that allows the process of involvement to provide as much pleasure as actually achieving the ends one strives for. The process becomes part of the pleasure, if not the better part of it, augmenting the pleasure achieved from the ostensible goal of the process. Therefore the “free-rider problem”—in which people wait for other people to do the work of public action—to a degree vanishes. “To elect a free ride under the circumstances would be equivalent to declining a delicious meal and to swallow a satiation-producing pill that is not even particularly effective.” Free riders get none of the pleasure of effort for its own sake, which becomes more and more appealing the more commercial interests try to make our acquisitive life effortless, and the more we are stung by the disappointments of mere things. They never satisfy for long, they lose their novelty, they fail to deliver their full promise, they cease to reflect who we are, etc. Public action, as action, expresses our being in a different way, as something that’s not merely curatorial. And in public action, the pleasures from the process and the goal compound rather than alternate, as they often do in the classical economists’ analysis of consumption, in which we exchange hard-earned money for goods that then provide pleasure. Hirschman points out that under the ordinary conditions of exchange, “the separation of the whole process into means and ends, or costs and benefits, occurs almost spontaneously”—separating out the pleasure of the process of striving from the pleasure of attainment. This seems to be a perfect description of the instantaneous, near friction-free gratification of online shopping.

But don’t we want shopping to be more like public action, and have the process of seeking our holy-grail goods be a substantial part of the pleasure itself? Thanks to digitization, anyone can have lots of media-based stuff, which for me anyway has long been the only stuff that mattered. (I haven’t grown up into the world of home furnishings yet.) So the pleasures of mere possession are threatened, as are the pleasures of use—when you have 49 days worth of music to listen to, it becomes hard to know where to start—it even becomes a positive source of anxiety. Acquiring the next album seems relatively simple and possibly more pleasurable by comparison.

HIrschman evokes the pilgrimage to describe a sort of private consumption that thrives on difficulty, that becomes more meaningful the more trouble they cause: “The discomforts suffered and perils confronted during the trip were part and parcel of the total ‘liminal’ experience sought by the pilgrim.” The next wave of retail may make a more explicit attempt to incorporate this kind of arduousness into it, meaningful inconveniences that during pilgrimages can take on symbolic significance. In other words, shopping may customarily encorporate the difficulty level that hardcore collectors already make their raison d’etre—the sort of people who fly to Japan to get a pair of limited-edition sneakers at a boutique whose very existence is a closely guarded secret. Perhaps all the stores of the future will be secret boutiques. (Ugh. I sound like a futurist all of a sudden.)

//Mixed media

Indie Horror Month 2015: 'Dark Echo'

// Moving Pixels

"Dark Echo drops you into a pitch back maze and then renders your core tools of navigation into something quite life threatening.

READ the article