Blindspotting

Last week I went to an advanced screening of Blindspotting.

It was written by and stars Oakland natives Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal and was directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada. It’s an honest look into the hipsterification of Oakland and the experiences of both locals and transplants. Intense & hilarious. I highly recommend you see it if you can.

I was lucky enough to see Blindspotting in a Dolby Atmos theatre at the Dolby headquarters in San Francisco thanks to my wife who works at Dolby. Not only was the sound quality incredible, but the picture was insane too (neither my wife nor Dolby paid me to say that).

Superheroes Born on Third Base

Over at The New York Times, Mark Bowden looks into our obsession with superhero movies:

If heroes are idealized humans, then today’s reflect an exaggerated Cult of Self. They are unique, supremely talented beings who transcend laws, even those of nature. Hollywood has always cherished mavericks, but these are, literally, cartoons — computer-generated.

They celebrate exceptionalism and vigilantism. The old American ideal of succeeding through cleverness, virtue and grit is absent, as is the notion of ordinary folk banding together to overcome a threat — think of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or the original “The Magnificent Seven” or any of a dozen World War II-era films. Gone is respect for the rule of law and the importance of tradition and community. Institutions and human knowledge are useless. Religion is irrelevant. Governments are corrupt and/or inept, when not downright evil. The empowered individual is all.

The superhero is an alien or outcast who possesses unique powers acquired either at birth or through some accident or gift. You can imagine the avid consumers of such films electing a president who boasts “I alone” can solve the nation’s problems, and who delights in tagging his domestic and foreign opponents with villainous, comic book monikers — “Crooked Hillary,” “Rocket Man.”

Bowden doesn’t talk about what two of the biggest superhero franchises – Iron Man and Batman – have in common: their wealth provided them means with which they were able to transform themselves into superheroes. Tony Stark was not only a brilliant engineer, he inherited Stark Industries from his father and Bruce Wayne inherited Wayne Industries from his father.

Wealth affording you otherwise unattainable opportunities could not be more relevant in today’s world.

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Film

Ladybird was just OK.

Over at the WaPo, Emily Yahr lists 15 things to know from the Oscars last night:

9) “Lady Bird” was shut out.

Again, not a surprise, but still a letdown for some critics who were big fans of the coming-of-age story about a volatile mother-daughter relationship. Still, at least Greta Gerwig was nominated for best director, which got called out at the Golden Globes for being an all-male category.

Hold up. Lady Bird was not snubbed or shut out. I unfortunately saw Ladybird in the theatre and is was OK. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t horrible. It was OK.

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Film

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“These are screens, or visuals, that the actor can see and, depending on the scene, physically interact with during a shoot.”

Throughout the movie, K visits a laboratory where artificial memories are made; an LAPD facility where replicant code, or DNA, is stored on vast pieces of ticker tape; and a vault, deep inside the headquarters of a private company, that stores the results of replicant detection ‘Voight-Kampff’ tests. In each scene, technology or machinery is used as a plot device to push the larger narrative forward. Almost all of these screens were crafted, at least in part, by a company called Territory Studios.

The London-based outfit is known for developing on-set graphics. These are screens, or visuals, that the actor can see and, depending on the scene, physically interact with during a shoot. They have the potential to raise an actor’s performance while creating interesting shadows and reflections on camera. Each one also gives the director more freedom in the editing room. If you have a screen on set, you can shoot a scene from multiple angles and freely compare them during the edit. The alternative — tailoring bespoke graphics for specific shots — is a time-consuming process if the director suddenly decides to change perspective in a scene.

Designing the technology of ‘Blade Runner 2049’

This is amazing. I’ve always assumed the computer interfaces I see in movies are are put in during post-production. Territory are making usable interfaces.

You can please some people some of the time…

Writing for Quartz, Anne Quito on Scott Dadich’s new Netflix docu-series on design, Abstract:

Design is the animating force behind brands, buildings and interfaces, and so an engrossing series that explains to a general audience what actually goes on behind the scenes was long overdue. Many designers hoped that Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design (released Feb. 10) would do for design what Chef’s Table did for food: Through a series of beautifully shot (if at times overly dramatized) profiles, Chef’s Table gave viewers a global sampler of the most creative minds working in the culinary industry.

But after a fortnight of trudging through the first season’s eight 40-minute episodes, I found Abstract puzzling and on the whole, tedious. It’s unfortunate because Abstract’s stellar cast of superstar designers—including graphic design legend Paula Scher, Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, and architecture’s “wacky wunderkind” Bjarke Ingels—are some of the most winsome and articulate ambassadors for their specialization.

Needless to say, Quito is not a fan of a series. She’s critical of everything from it’s production value (it’s over-produced) to the designers they chose to feature (“the usual roster of design stars”).

I think Quito is way off-base. I’ve enjoyed all 6 episodes I’ve watched so far. I find the series beautifully shot and I can’t remember seeing such attention to detail in a docu-series before. If Dadich had chosen a more “raw” style of shooting, people would be complaining it was under-produced.

As for the people featured in Abstract, I’m familiar with many of the design stars within my field of graphic design, but I don’t know many in other industries. The second episode with Tinker Hatfield is a great example. I had no idea he was the guy who brought us the Air Jordan line and collaborated with Michael Jordan for over 20 years.

Then there’s the “hero worship” Quito thinks is dangerous. The reality is, when you’re dealing with people with extreme talent, ego, and vision they’re elevated by the people to a lofty place where we can admire them whether they like it or not. These aren’t production designers working in Photoshop or 40-year-old architecture interns building cardboard models. These are people at the top of their game, and when you get to that level, clients see you out, not the other way around. This puts designers in a similar circle as artists.

There’s clearly room for a series focusing on the undiscovered and under-appreciated people in design. Perhaps a designers’ version of A People’s History of the United States, but that’s another series for someone else to make.

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Art, Film

Tarkovsky

Frank Chimero on Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky:

When the world is brash, fast, and stupid, we must seek out what is quiet, slow, and intelligent to brace ourselves against the world’s madness. I have been under the influence of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s movies for the last few weeks, finding them to be a source of the comfort and beauty which the world seems not equipped to provide right now. Tarkovsky’s movies could be interpreted as sad, but it is a typical American trait to mistake slowness for sadness.

America’s dysfunction is now wed to its antagonistic relationship with Russia, and I take comfort that the Russian powers that be did not care much for Tarkovsky either. They found his spirituality, ambiguity, and grandiosity dangerous, so they embargoed and delayed all of his films. But I adore well-earned spirituality, ambiguity, and grandiosity, so of course I like Tarkovsky too. Everything his countrymen found dangerous about his work I find essential.

It was only last year that I saw my first Tarkovsky film, Solaris. I’ve heard it described as a ‘Russian 2001: A Space Oddyssey‘, but that’s an inaccurate oversimplification.

I enjoyed it, and I agree with Chimero: it required patience (it clocks in at 2h 49m) and engagement to watch, but it was worth it.

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Film