Latest Blog Posts

by Jillian Burt

20 Jan 2008

Corey Delaney

Corey Delaney

By Rowena Robertson

It’s only just over a week since it happened, but it seems as if Corey Delaney (aka Corey Worthington) has always been there. For the remaining few who don’t know who he is, Corey is the yellow sunglasses-sporting, Melbourne (Australia) teenager who hosted a MySpace-enabled party at his parents’ outer suburbs home last weekend while they were away on holiday. The party was apparently attended by over 500 people, neighbours’ property was supposedly trashed and the police were called in (dog squad, helicopters included). Local and international press leapt on the story.

The media’s response to Corey’s hijinks neatly highlights much that is rotten about the fourth estate – its inordinate focus on the lowest of ‘lowest common denominator’ stories (in a week that saw financial markets take huge tumbles, this was the main story in just about every newspaper in Australia - priorities, anyone?) and its piranha-like desire to devour the (in this case, relatively) innocent.

And indeed, it didn’t take long for the demonization of Corey to start. A Current Affair’s effort stood out, with host Leila McKinnon dripping moral superiority and outrage in an interview with the teenager. Corey, as would any 16-year-old who cares about the judgement of his peers and no-one else, refused to take the blame for the party getting out of hand, and went on to utter the now-famous response to McKinnon’s asking what he would say to other kids thinking of doing the same thing – “get me to do it for you.”

(And some took him at his word. One Sydney promoter offered to pay the teenager up to $10,000 to stage parties, and Corey has apparently also fielded a $2000 offer from a promoter in Queensland.)

Corey’s unabating cockiness fuelled further media coverage and anger. Mid-week, Victoria Police charged him with creating a public nuisance and producing child pornography, which only served to make them look pathetic and desperate, and, with regard to the child pornography charge, just a little bit evil. That charge supposedly stems from some mobile phone footage of semi-clad teenage girls playing Twister at the party. Good luck making that one stick.

The media created ‘Corey Delaney’, and they are to blame for his defiance, the job offers and the trumped up police charges. The best thing Corey can do in the face of his vilification is to continue to milk his fame for all it’s worth.

While the media’s treatment of the teenager has been largely contemptible, it’s almost impossible not to delight in the pop cultural ramifications of his notoriety. The power of the internet to turn an unknown into a cult celebrity in the blink of an eye can be seen in the Corey-related websites and products that have sprung up in the last week. At coreydelaney.com you can buy t-shirts featuring his famous yellow sunglasses; at slapcorey.com you can wallop the boy into next week.

You just know Corey would love it.

About the writer – Rowena Robertson is a freelance writer and the editor of Poster magazine (Australia).

by Bill Gibron

19 Jan 2008

As a rule, melodrama and martial arts don’t really mix. Sure, it seems like, every kung fu classic utilizes hyper-stylized heroism and ample Asian tradition to tag its subtext, but pure Hollywood hokum is never the best battle support. It just seems so silly for a champion, capable of the greatest feats of physical force ever seen by man, to play the schlub in a lover’s triangle or find himself manipulated and taken in by a faux femme fatale. Oddly enough, this is the recipe used by Hong Kong filmmaker Dennis Law for his 2006 fight club crime saga Fatal Contact. With up and coming star Jacky Wu Jing in the lead, and some astounding hand to hand combat at its core, this is the kind of flamboyant fisticuffs that genre devotees dig. Too bad the narrative keeps tripping over into potboiler country, applying a campy kitchen sink formula to an otherwise wonderful bit of brawling.

When we first meet Kong, he is a member of the Chinese Opera. His obvious skills attract the attention of gamblers who want to use him as part of their underground boxing ring. Initially reluctant, our hero has a change of heart when a young woman named Tin wanders into his life. Carrying a deep, dark secret and angry at her impoverished lot in life, she hears the amount of money the mobsters are offering and tries to convince Kong to join up. But it takes a public dressing down at a fancy restaurant before he finally concedes. Instantly successful, his undefeated ways get the attention of some very high rollers. They stage bigger and bigger contests with larger and larger purses. Eventually, Kong is taking on the reigning martial arts campaigns with millions of dollars changing hands. But when the stakes get too high, no one is safe - not Tin, not the former kung fu master known as Captain, and definitely not our stalwart warrior.

For all its hang wringing theatrics and convoluted plotting, Fatal Contact has some amazing fight scenes. They crackle with the kind of energy that only comes from professional martial artists performing at the top of their game. Set-up like chapters in an otherwise overwrought story, Jing manages to make each one different - especially when you add in the calculating bit where he begins to LIKE hurting people - and we sense it all building to a major climax. While the good vs. evil element is present, as well as the decent vs. the depraved, it’s hard to really figure out what the character of Kong gets out of all this. He definitely has feelings for Tin, but they are muffled by money. And while he worries about his position on the National Team, he ends up taking on some one of similar stature. And many of his bouts end up in the paper. Wouldn’t that undermine his position automatically?

But the biggest problem with Fatal Contact is the kept woman/prostitute subplot. We learn that Tin’s friend is a hypocritical harlot, the kind of ‘woe is me’ character used to influence audiences just as easily as she does rich men. Just as we’re about to see another sequence of man-on-man face smashing, along comes this dolled up drone and - ZAP - the energy and life is literally leeched out of the movie. It’s not that we don’t care about this sad woman’s lot in life. It truly is horrible that she believes her fate lies in serving abusive tycoons for cash. It’s just that it plays like nothing more than a narrative tangent meant to give depth to a basically simple story. The underground crime tale should take center stage. But director Law lets the sidelights subvert his intent.

There’s also a problem with the basic setup, something mandating a SPOILER warning. If you don’t want to know where the story goes, skip this paragraph and move on. During each fight, we learn that Kong is, more or less, invincible. Even the best combatants in his camp fall to the enemy (during wonderful “street fighter” style sequences). But not our semi-superhuman hero. He can take several nail gouges to the face and still kick ass. He is so good, so flawless in form and execution, that he can more or less call his own shots. And then, when the murderous urge overtakes him, he is like a comic book caricature, a Hong Kong Hulk that no one can defeat. So there is little suspense in each action scene, a knowledge that Kong will triumph even within the most outrageous odds.

With this new DVD from Genius Entertainment and The Weinstein Group’s Dragon Dynasty Collection, some of these stumbling blocks are acknowledged and addressed. Thanks to this two disc set, we learn about the volatile state of Asian cinema, the needs of the producers, and the waning interest from audiences. The full length audio commentary from Law and film scholar Bay Logan details the problems with bringing untried talent to the screen, the reason for added dramatics, and how this type of entertainment compares to the past glories of the genre. On the second DVD, we get interviews with the female stars, learning from them the need to draw a divergent viewership and the hardships of working in the industry. Even Jing explains the tenuous position of such spectacle.

And it’s sad, especially when you consider the status of this rising action hero. We want to understand more about Kong’s lot, about his National Team backstory and the reasons for his quiet gullibility. He’s an intriguing character, inherently interesting because of his physical agility and geniality. But when we see the sudden shift over into killer mode, when he gets that murderous glint in his eye and goes primal, the lack of context throws us off. We’re supposed to read it as instinctual. It comes across as insane. Because of the attention paid to factors swirling around our lead, we never learn enough about Kong to keep him center stage. It’s an issue that concerns Jing as well.

Through these conversations, we discover that all is not well in the once thriving Hong Kong arena, that Western conventions and other influences have taken the filmmaking in directions that the creative element doesn’t agree with. In attempting to ‘modernize’ or cater to this new ideal, some of the standards used to make their movie magic have been lost. Indeed, a good way of describing Fatal Contact is as an epic battle of physical proportions constantly brought back down to earth by standard archetypal dramatics. The undeniable grace of the body ballet, the well choreographed majesty of a martial arts tussle have been cast aside for more mindless character pursuits. Between the comedy of the Captain (who’s taken freeloading to a whole new level of laziness) and the dour hooker histrionics, there’s very little room for our champion to shine. And that’s a shame. 


DVD

 
EXTRAS

by Jillian Burt

19 Jan 2008

Photo by Craig Newmark. CONE sutro forest project.

Photo by Craig Newmark. CONE sutro forest project.

Last year Craigslist founder Craig Newmark placed a camera that allowed thousands of people, collaboratively controlling it online, to capture images of birds from the deck of his home on the edge of the Sutro Forest in San Francisco. It was project developed by Ken Goldberg, now the Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media and Texas A & M University. It’s a project that’s a metaphor for all of his double-edged art/science projects, the tools are only valuable when it’s possible to observe and understand how people use them in their natural habitats. The Berkeley Center for New Media has just announced an endowment of $1.6million from Craigslist, matched by $1.5 million from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for a total of $3.1 million. It will support research, symposia and lectures. Craigslist and the Center for New Media share “...interests in research areas such as privacy, reputation, trust, access and new ways to encourage socially constructive actions,” said Goldberg. The Berkeley Alumni magazine said “The Center for New Media is less concerned with whiz-bang technologies than with old values—truth, depth, reliablitity, authenticity, aesthetics, and public service.”

Goldberg’s telerobotic art projects created around his research with the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research School at Berkeley were in the realm of what he termed “telepistemology”, the study of ways of knowing, and the validity of what we know, if that knowledge is gained at a distance, through the internet. He encourages what he calls “the resumption of disbelief,” being skeptical of what we find on the internet. His Dislocation of Intimacy project wondered if all that we discover about the world through the internet, which seems like everything, might be nothing more than the shadows on the walls seen by the prisoners in Plato’s cave parable. He combined this with wondering about a place for genuine mystery and wonder in this world, with a mechanism that was a telerobotic version of Duchamp’s hidden noise in ball of twine project. Whether to dismantle something to find out how it works or accept the mystery is a crucial question in today’s world.

All of the telerobotic projects were available to anyone, anywhere online, and the opening up of university research to the world is part of an going mission. There’s a Los Angeles Times article posted on the Berkeley Center for New Media’s website that looks at the phenomenon of university lectures delivered through i-Tunes as free podcasts.

By making hundreds of lectures from elite academic institutions available online for free, Apple is reinvigorating the minds of people who have been estranged from the world of ideas.

For several years universities have posted recorded lectures on their internal websites, giving students a chance to brush up on their classes or catch ones they missed.

But 28 colleges and universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and Yale, now post select courses without charge at iTunes.

The universities want to promote themselves to parents and prospective students, as well as strengthen ties with alumni. Some also see their mission as sharing the ivory tower’s intellectual riches with the rest of the world.

“It was something we couldn’t easily do before the digital age,” UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said.

Michelle Quinn. LA Times. November 24, 2007

 

 

by Bill Gibron

18 Jan 2008

Star power is everything. That’s how it used to be back in the golden days of the Tinsel Town studio system. Acting was never priority number one. Instead, the way a man or woman commanded the camera, the direct connection with the audience beyond the character or the performance, were the key to cinematic success. Few in the current crop of celebrity have this special trait. Most get by on a combination of publicity and hype-enforced popularity. But if you’re looking for a post-modern example of this old school ideal, then Amanda Bynes is your amiable icon. After years making Nickelodeon’s kid vid offerings (All That, The Amanda Show) eminently watchable, and delivering the WB one of its few sitcom hits (What I Like About You), she’s finally branched out into features.

With her winsome, wholesome persona and slightly kooky undercurrent, she’s like a Bratz Lucille Ball, a seemingly serious actress who can easily slip on the requisite banana peels when needed. Though she’s currently geared toward the tween to Pinkberry set, her potential easily surpasses her demographical reach. That’s why the winning Sydney White is such an important step for the star. Now available from Universal on an excellent DVD release, this wonderfully effective film is her first foray into quasi-adult fare. As a result, it functions as a future career gauge, measuring how much true star staying power she really has.

By the looks of it, the answer is quite a bit. Based (intermittently) on the famed fairytale - the film’s title should provide the necessary hint - and featuring a cast of fresh faced newcomers, George Lucas in Love director Joe Nussbaum takes something that could be cloying and pat and really makes it hum. In fact, it’s hard to fathom how the Olson Twins, or anyone else in the Hannah Montana demo, passed on this project. The simple storyline – tomboy Sydney heads off to college and pledges her late mother’s snooty sorority – lays the groundwork for moments of ‘meet-cute’ comedy and standard Tri-Delt dementia. It’s all very Revenge of the John Hughes Nerds in its make-up and manipulation, and the last act confirms our current laugh-along love affair with geek nation.

This is a film that relies on Bynes’ innate ability to be both comely and klutzy in a scene. When she meets BMOC fraternity president (and future beau) Tyler Prince, her ridiculous ramblings are cute and corny. Similarly, her interaction with the resident rejects of the all dork Vortex House reminds us of how fragile the combination of coming of age awkwardness and adolescent awakening can be. Yet our young actress maneuvers through such tenuous circumstances with grace, wit, and a sense of wide-eyed wonder. One of the best traits Bynes brings to her roles is the sense of freshness. We never doubt the shock of her reactions, nor are her responses over-rehearsed or rote. Instead, we feel as if life is constantly surprising this sprite, and her good natured, normative takes come naturally, not out of some screenwriter’s notebook.

Wisely, Nussbaum surrounds Bynes with actors capable of conveying a similar snap. As the prime villain, Sara Paxton’s “witchy” Rachel is the perfect blond baddie. She’s all pampered and privileged poison, without a single saving sentiment. As the rightly named Prince, Matt Long has a too good to be true quality that should have the adolescent gals in the audience wiggling in their wish fulfillment. While his ‘feeding the homeless’ hunkiness may be a bit much, this actor finds a way to make it work. Some of the best moments, however, come from the seven likeable losers, performers like Jack Carpenter (winning as the nebbish Lenny), Danny Strong (the perpetually pissed-off blogger, Gurkin) and Freaks and Geeks’ Samm Levine (as horndog dope Spanky) turning stereotypes into individuals with effortless engagement.

In fact, it’s proper to compare Sydney White favorably to the classic college comedies of the ‘80s, especially the smarter, sassier ones like Real Genius. While Nussbaum and his writer Chad Gomez Creasey realize the need to keep the mentality geared toward the middle school marketplace, they also infuse the film with lots of grown up grins. When the Vortex dweebs head off onto the Student Body President Campaign trail, the classic sing-along “Hi Ho, Hi Ho” gives one of its words a satiric, contemporary nod. Similarly, Rachel’s set of “calming words” come across as a Super Sweet 16 registry list. A few of the jokes are obvious, and the narrative can’t help but follow traditional plot contrivances, but since both actors and filmmakers are trying everything to avoid cliché, the truisms don’t seem so tacky.

As part of the DVD package, Universal includes some interesting extras. Director Nussbaum gets an opportunity to explain his motives and what drew him to the project in a sitdown Q&A, while he’s also around to introduce a collection of intriguing deleted scenes. Many in the cast, including Bynes and the dorks, get a chance to play EPK with the film, praising each other and their efforts. From specific set design choices to dealing with the various personalities on set, the material here all leads to one conclusion - everyone here tried really hard to make a sunny, successful comedy. And they succeeded.

In fact, it’s clear that what we wind up with is an obvious throwback to the Disney University cavalcades of the mid ‘60s, movies where Kurt Russell shined as genial undergrad Dexter Reilly. All that’s missing is the supernatural/sci-fi premise, the occasional slapstick setpiece, and Cesar Romero as a too suave underworld figure. Yet the same pleasure principles clearly apply. A movie like Sydney White is only out to entertain, to provide the emotional underpinning that will get us through the various purposeful plot machinations. It will establish sides, provide motivation, clarify the characters, and then deliver everything in a clean, convincing manner. We may not end up with something special, or overly endearing, but there will be no denying its effervescent entertainment qualities. You’ll leave happy, and hardly embarrassed.

It also provides proof that Amanda Bynes is the next big thing, a Meg Ryan in the making who will one day dominate the cinematic stratosphere. As long as she continues to mark time, putting in professional work both as star (She’s the Man) and sidekick (she was great in the musical hit Hairspray) there is nothing but fame in her future. Unlike so many others in her former child star position, she appears resolute on building a career, not a criminal record. And pure star power is the foundation. Perfect for the kids and inviting for adults, Sydney White is a surprisingly effective film that produces nothing but piles of smiles…and Amanda Bynes is the reason why.


DVD

 
EXTRAS

 

by Nikki Tranter

18 Jan 2008

Not much going on in Book World this week if you’re not Tom Cruise. Cruise’s latest ravings have shown up on the web via a nine-minute video clip in which the actor proclaims himself near God-like. Here’s a sample: “[Scientologists] are the authorities on getting people off drugs. We are the authorities on the mind. We can bring happiness and peace and unite cultures ... If you are a Scientologist, you see things the way they are, in all their glory, in all their complexity… It’s rough and tumble. It’s wild and woolly. It’s a blast.” Gawker.com has a video of Cruise’s speech, which is apparently an acceptance speech for the Scientology ‘Freedom Medal of Honor’. It’s also supposed to inspire new recruits.

The video is just more bad publicity for Cruise, who is facing off against author Andrew Morton over Tom Cruise: An Unathorized Biography, which further exposes the actor as a nutjob whose daughter was conceived from the sperm of dead Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard. (One wonders why Cruise is so worried about this book making him look mad when he does so well at that himself?) My opinion of Andrew Morton is so low that I hope Cruise gets the book banned and, if wishes were horses, Morton sent to scum-author hell. Time will tel. Cruise, too, has a good, solid record of winning lawsuits, so it could happen. Apparently, though, the book is on sale online in Australia, so he better get to work.

In other, far more important news…

Check out this heartbreaking story of a librarian forced to retire from the Ferguslie Library in Paisley. Paisley council members think 65 is too old to work, and have sent library stalwart Isa Erroch packing. This hits home for me as my 60-year-old mum thrives in her job as the local librarian. Recently, a new librarian was brought in to work with mum. This new woman has scolded my mum for her friendly, welcoming attitude to patrons. This worries me for two reasons. Firstly, because the library is often the talking spot for patrons, especially older patrons who love a good chinwag, and my mum has provided that for 15 years. Secondly, who’s this young upstart to demand anything change in a functioning, popular environment? A library visit without a good chat is just unthinkable. Or is it true that libraries are going the way of everything else—business, business, business?

It’s interesting that at our local library, when you enter, there’s chatter, laughter, good times being had. There are colourful pictures on the walls and images of new books on the way. It’s relaxed, comfortable. When you enter the bigger, city library a few towns over, you feel trapped in a big sterile box and risk a caning if you open your mouth too wide. I don’t know—it’s concerning. How are libraries run these days? The new sterile way, or the old comfortable way? My mum knows her patrons. She knows who likes what and what to recommend. She’s got fans, who trust and respect her opinions. That kind of rapport takes a long time to secure. I realise my mum’s not being shown the door like poor Mrs. Erroch, but is it that far away?

On a completely different note:
Michael Leahy discusses religion with Ron Jeremy. Leahy says: “It was pretty surreal, because we were talking about heaven and hell and ‘Is there a God?’ and those coeds were walking up and asking Ron to autograph their body parts.” Leahy is the author of Porn Nation, which describes his young days as sex-addict. Jeremy was on hand to offer his own insights into porn and the modern age. A recovering sex-addict becoming chummy with the biggest name in porn? A good idea?

Did pulp fiction “murder long sentences”? Check out this NPR piece: “I think it was really the beginning of a different kind of writing. The kind of writing in the world of literature that everyone had been familiar with was Henry James with long sentences, long paragraphs. And then Ernest Hemingway came along and Dashiell Hammett came along and they started to write short, quick, clipped sentences that didn’t require lots and lots of description. The pulps provided the perfect springboard for that literary tone”.

And lastly, consider this when throwing out your old, used books: “Is there any other industry in which such high-quality goods regularly make their way to consumers via a trash bin? Stand in the bookselling line at the Strand and the store starts to feel less like a dusty bastion of erudition and more like a messy, mulchy place where old ideas struggle to find new life.”

//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Game Art': Letting the Developers Speak

// Moving Pixels

"In Game Art, Matt Sainsbury is asking questions of video game developers that one might ask a movie director or a novelist or a painter.

READ the article