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Monthly Archives: September 2007

working stiff

morrissey and smiths free zone, originally uploaded by Mister Wind-Up Bird.

I resumed working in Yaletown this past week. Apparently, the Morrissey Mondays I ran on the office sound system on my last stint have been recalled less-than-fondly.

I’ve been associated with this start-up there since I began my PhD, and I was working there full-time this past winter. I’ll be there for a bit of a longer stretch this time, but the timing is ideal: I finished my thesis proposal and several paper this past summer, and Nando, my supervisor, is taking a year-long sabbatical. At the same time, the start-up has doubled in size this past summer, and is in a much better position to be able to give me a proper salary, so that’s pretty cool.

The job is a good way to keep a foot in industry (I’ll be doing Machine Learning research and development, essentially, which is exactly what I want to do post-PhD), but my ulterior motive is to accumulate enough money to take a year and travel across Asia when I finish my PhD. I don’t think this will be too hard if I don’t develop any new habits more expensive than coffee, sushi and DVD rental.

This also means longer hours working and less time looking at You Tube and composing dorky lists of my favourite movies, so we can probably expect the frequency of my blogging to drop off. Sad, I know, but sacrifices must be made.

The Wire: “Fuck the average reader. Fuck him to hell.”

The Wire — confusing, painful, and exhilarating — may well be the very best and smartest show of the current Golden Age of TV serial drama (though I’ve only seen a few episodes of The Sopranos). Kottke has a great roundup of recent links and quotes about the series, including creator David Simon talking about his show:

My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.

Aside from the evil clone of Robot Hitler, there is nothing I hate so much as being talked down to, and The Wire — along with Deadwood and Battlestar Galactica — have earned a very special place in my heart by making the radical assumption that a TV viewer like myself might actually be as smart as the writers.

25 Non-English Language Films

sevsamsnip.jpgEdward Copeland has undertaken an ambitious project on his blog: trying to assemble a Top 25 list of non-English language films. Interestingly, he’s running it in two rounds: in the first, an invited group of people submitted their lists, which were whittled down to 123 films. Voting on those 123 films is now open to the public (until September 16, so get those lists in!).

One side-effect of doing it this way is that the list has the feeling of ranking the existing canon of Generally Acknowledged Foreign Masterpieces (yes, that’s the required capitalization), because only films that already had some kind of consensus behind them made it to the second round. This is probably unavoidable, but it does have the effect of pruning idiosyncratic, controversial and/or obscure choices. As much as I may love Even Dwarfs Started Small, there’s not much hope of it making it onto a list like this: it’s an idiosyncratic, controversial and fairly obscure choice. The comments on Edward’s blog have been full of people’s personal top choices of films that didn’t make the list, a lot of which look more interesting to me than all the Bergman, Godard and Fellini films that made it on.

Anyway, without further ado, here is my own (very half-assedly ranked) Top 25 from the 74 films on the list that I’ve seen:

  1. The Seven Samurai directed by Akira Kurosawa
  2. Aguirre, the Wrath of God directed by Werner Herzog
  3. Ikiru directed by Akira Kurosawa
  4. Ran directed by Akira Kurosawa
  5. Spirited Away directed by Hayao Miyazaki
  6. Yi Yi: A One and a Two directed by Edward Yang
  7. Nosferatu the Vampyre directed by Werner Herzog
  8. Wings of Desire directed by Wim Wenders
  9. Chungking Express directed by Wong Kar-Wai
  10. M directed by Fritz Lang
  11. Yojimbo directed by Akira Kurosawa
  12. The Wages of Fear directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot
  13. High and Low directed by Akira Kurosawa
  14. Amelie directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
  15. Throne of Blood directed by Akira Kurosawa
  16. Das Boot directed by Wolfgang Petersen
  17. Run Lola Run directed by Tom Tykwer
  18. Le Samourai directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
  19. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser directed by Werner Herzog
  20. Andrei Rublev directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
  21. Children of Paradise directed by Marcel Carne
  22. City of God directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
  23. Three Colors: Blue directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
  24. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon directed by Ang Lee
  25. The Blue Angel directed by Josef von Sternberg

Of course, it’s very likely that if and when I see the rest (many of which are on my to-see list), this list would change. The ones I haven’t seen are: Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder); All About My Mother (Pedro Almodovar); Army of Shadows (Jean-Pierre Melville); Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda); Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson); The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder); Celine and Julie Go Boating (Jacques Rivette); The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci); Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard); The Cranes Are Flying (Mikheil Kalatozishvili); Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer); Dersu Uzala (Akira Kurosawa); The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski); The Earrings of Madame De… (Max Ophuls); Exterminating Angel (Luis Bunuel); Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju); Forbidden Games (René Clément); The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Pier Paolo Pasolini); The Great Silence (Sergio Corbucci); I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini); La Strada (Federico Fellini); Last Year at Marienbad (Alain Resnais); Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu); L’Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni); The Leopard (Luchino Visconti); Lola Montes (Max Ophuls); The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder); Masculin-Feminin (Jean-Luc Godard); My Night at Maud’s (Eric Rohmer); Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer); Orpheus (Jean Cocteau); Pickpocket (Robert Bresson); Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard); Playtime (Jacques Tati); The Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni); Rocco and His Brothers (Luchino Visconti); Satantango (Béla Tarr); Scenes from a Marriage (Ingmar Bergman); Seven Beauties (Lina Wertmuller); Shoot the Piano Player (Francois Truffaut); Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman); Stolen Kisses (Francois Truffaut); Story of the Late Chrysanthemums (Kenji Mizoguchi); Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar); The Tin Drum (Volker Schlöndorff); Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu); Ugetsu monogatari (Kenji Mizoguchi); Umberto D (Vittorio de Sica); Viridiana (Luis Bunuel); Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara.

And for the record, some movies that would be in my own Top 25 if they had been on the lost of nominees: Even Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog); Hard Boiled (John Woo); Legend of Drunken Master (Chia-Liang Liu); Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky); El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky); The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowsky); The Killer (John Woo) and Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk).