This is a dark day for hockey. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the departed.
TUNOSHNA, Russia (AP) — A Russian jet carrying a top ice hockey team crashed into a river bank Wednesday while taking off in western Russia, killing at least 43 people and leaving two others critically injured, officials said.
The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry said the Yak-42 plane crashed in sunny weather immediately after leaving an airport near the city of Yaroslavl, on the Volga River about 150 miles (240 kilometers) northeast of Moscow.
Based on the argument I made last week against 3D, that it undermines the connection between the protagonist and the audience, it was suggested to me that by that logic, film should be shot in the first person. Having not seen this done before, I rented LADY IN THE LAKE, directed by and starring Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe shot almost exclusively in the first person.
The majority of the film is shot as though the camera is Marlowe. We see what he sees. The other actors address the camera directly as though it was Marlowe. There are only a few occasions when Marlowe looks into a mirror and we see his reflection. The only other time we see Marlowe is in a framing device where he directly addresses the camera at the start and end of the film giving us the setup and denouement.
Ironically, I was expecting this to be as distracting as 3D, if not more so, due to the fact that it is completely atypical. I thought it was a gimmick, no less unnatural than 3D because of my conditioning. I was expecting the moments when the other characters addressed the camera to be the most disquieting as we have been taught that this is one of the most blatant mistakes an actor can make.
I didn’t find it disturbing at all.
This may be in part due to the fact that the story and characters are strong. It is an interesting mystery, which kept me engaged throughout in spite of dated dialogue, languid action and antiquated mannerisms. Perhaps the effect wasn’t as pronounced as it might have been, be it good or bad, since the film was black and white, thus lacking the reality of vision. Maybe I’m more conditioned to accept first person after countless hours of CALL OF DUTY.
However, I also didn’t feel any more connected to the protagonist. It didn’t create a more significant illusion that I was Philip Marlowe. This may be due to other facts, chiefly the black and white. Or perhaps the story was just dated enough that I couldn’t relate to the character as much as audiences in the forties might have. I wonder how a film like CRANK would fare in the first person?
The only moments where I really felt disconnected from Marlowe were during the framing scenes when he addressed the camera directly himself. I know this was more common, especially in Hitchcock’s work, during this era. However, in this case, since the rest of the film was in the first person, these moments really did take me out of the plot.
All in all, seeing first person used in film was interesting. I’m not ready to see every film shot this way, but would welcome the chance to see a more contemporary story in the first person. Of course, convincing today’s egotistical, tabloid-centric, starts to forgo 98% of their screen time may be an unwinnable battle.
Since AVATAR, studios, production companies, and directors have embraced 3D. When considering the additional box office revenue, it is easy to see why the studios and production companies like 3D. Since the director is charged with creating an emotional and entertaining experience ostensibly putting the creative before the commercial, it becomes more difficult to understand why they would embrace this technology. Ultimately, 3D is the antithesis of the desired audience experience and destroys that which makes attending a film rewarding.
Film is a voyeuristic experience. We watch the film to experience the events that are happening to the characters on screen. Usually, the audience identifies with and feels empathy for the protagonist. When a story is well constructed with vibrant characters, interesting plot and a richly developed world, the audience forgets all about their problems, their world, even themselves. For two hours we are seeing the world of the protagonist through his/her eyes. Psychologically, we have turned off our ego.
At its worst, 3D reminds us we are physically separate from the protagonist. For example, in AVATAR, Jake mounts an alien horse and rides away from the camera. When he does this, he is already appearing to leave us behind as gets smaller in the frame. When the accompanying 3D effect is bits of dirt and mulch being kicked up and sprayed in our face, we become aware of ourselves and literally try to dodge the debris. This is a classic example of the concept of breaking the 4th wall. Any effect, whether it is 3D, a camera move, or a sound that draws attention to itself, takes the audience out of the context of the story. It makes them aware that they are watching a creative work. They are no longer experiencing what the character experiences.
At its best, 3D puts spatial distance between us and the main character. Again in AVATAR, when Jake is standing under the tree of life, the little jellyfish-like creatures float around him and us. While this is better than the previous example because we are experiencing the same event that the protagonist is, it reinforces the spatial distance between us. Being trained to perceive depth with our binocular vision, we subconsciously estimate the distance between obstacles and ourselves. Psychologically, we have now severed the connection between the protagonist and our mind. In fact, some part of our psyche may even be trying to “get back” to the protagonist, making us uncomfortable even if we are unaware of the cause. If the story is working, we don’t want to be apart from the protagonist.
For 3D to effectively communicate emotion and experience, there needs to be an organic reason in the logic of the story for the audience to be separate from the characters. Until screenwriters figure out how to include a “me” character in the plot, it seems unlikely that the psychology could ever work.
SPOILER ALERT: If you have not seen the film, stop reading now!
Are you still reading? Then either you’ve seen the film or you’re the kind of person who reads the last page of a mystery novel to see “who done it”.
A number of critics have suggested that “Super 8” falls short because the alien is really a metaphor far a larger threat, most often the Soviet Union. And in today’s climate, that metaphor doesn’t resonate with audiences. Well they couldn’t be more wrong.
The only part they got right is that the alien is in fact a metaphor.
It’s not a metaphor for the Soviet threat. Yes, a woman at the town meeting emphatically states her belief that the alien is of Soviet origin. This is simply contextual accuracy. The film is set in 1979, the height of the Cold War. During the Cold War, the Soviets were blamed for just about everything. If the film didn’t have at least one character thinking the Soviets were to blame, there would be something wrong.
Yes, the military is pursuing the threat. What does the military represent? For most Americans, it represents security and domestic tranquility. When we are children, it’s our parents who provide a blanket of security. Domestic is another word for home. Jackson Lamb is a deputy, also a protector. Perhaps the military is simply a manifestation of Jackson’s superego, trying to protect his son Joe.
But protect him from what?
Before the alien arrives, there was a tragic accident that resulted in the death of Joe’s mother, Elizabeth, for which Jackson blames Louis Dainard. This accident tore apart the small town, pitting the Dainard and Lamb families against each other. The alien arrives in a train wreck, another terrible accident. Train wreck is a metaphor that is often used to describe someone who is a drunk, like Louis.
So perhaps the alien represents the death of Joe’s mother, the result of a tragic accident.
Or maybe the alien is Joe’s mother.
It lives underground, precisely where we inter the dead. It is desperately trying to get home. A home that is located in the heavens. But something is keeping it here on Earth.
As the alien’s ship is nearing completion, notice that Jackson and Louis have set aside their differences to save their children. In fact, they have forgiven each other. Before Elizabeth is ready to go home, she needs to ease the guilt that both Jackson and Louis have over her death, mend their broken friendship, and ensure her son’s happiness by removing the obstacles to his relationship with Louis’ daughter, Alice.
But the ship needs one more thing before it can lift the alien to the heavens, something beyond Elizabeth’s control. The last piece is the locket that Elizabeth left for Joe. The locket is a symbol of Joe’s reluctance to move on. He isn’t ready to say goodbye. Whenever he’s scared, Joe holds the locket. It represents his mother, his security, his love.
It is often said that until a loved one lets go, a soul cannot be free to go home. It is a stirring moment, when the alien ship is pulling on the locket, and it isn’t ripped from Joe’s grasp, rather he lets it go so the alien can return home.
If the alien is in fact a metaphor for Joe’s deceased mother, I can think of nothing that has more universal appeal. Nothing resonates with humans, regardless of their culture or beliefs, like the loss of a loved one. The alien in “Super 8” might just be one of the most resonate metaphors ever filmed.
With the World Cup underway in South Africa, and under constant badgering from an English “mate”, I have conceded and decided to watch soccer. It has been very educational.
Soccer enjoys a tremendous following worldwide. I am beginning to understand why. Most of the world is made up of countries that couldn’t defend their Grandmother from a stiff wind. Soccer exploits this weakness.
Soccer is the ultimate equalizer. Not through competitive play. Not because a tiny nation of two million can compete with a nation of three hundred million and earn a draw. Not because politics is kept off the pitch (What the hell is a pitch anyway? Is the vacant lot where kids play soccer covered in tar?) No. Soccer is the great equalizer because the referees can make any arbitrary call they like with impunity.
First, the time keeping is a travesty. In 1884, Leon Breitling began manufacturing stopwatches in Switzerland. There is no excuse for any soccer match played from 1885 on not utilizing them. This “mystery” time added to the end of the match is so easily contrived by the officials, as to leave every match decided in that period questionable. What’s worse is how the players have learned to manipulate the refs. This arbitrary “mystery” time is responsible for the lamest tactic in any sport — the flop. Players do this to con the referee into falsely calling a foul (another very arbitrary event in soccer based on today’s match of USA and Slovenia) and cajole extra “mystery” time into the game.
Soccer fans pay close attention. When you see a player rolling around with his hands over his face, this in not because he is in pain. He is hiding an ear-to-ear grin. He dare not risk exposing his Cheshire mug, lest the deception is revealed. What’s worse is that this practice has been exported. As more European players show up in the NBA, their youth soccer training permeates the hardwood just as it did the pitch. Thank you Vladi Divacs for bringing the soccer flop to the USA.
I understand that for many Europeans this behavior is normal and expected both on and off the pitch. In France, they deployed the soccer flop successfully on a national scale in World Wars I and II. The Germans bitch slapped Froggy to the ground. The French proceeded to roll around in the dirt until we came and ran the Germans out. Since the referees allow this in soccer and the USA indulged the flop in two wars, it is understandable that the practice goes on. We must make a stand now and say no to the flop. The NBA is considering making it a foul. PLEASE DO. And soccer follow suit.
My first exposure to “mystery” time should have been my last. Back in the EuroCup, England was beating the French one to zero (not nill, but zero which is the actual number of goals the team has). When the officials added “mystery” time, suddenly the French had a two to one win. That should have been the last soccer match I watched. But my English “mate” is very convincing. A stopwatch would have ended that game in regulation time rather than in the vortex provided by flops and fools.
Adding a stopwatch to the game opens a number of other very successful measures to prevent poor and downright corrupt officials from plying their trade.
When the clock stops, there is time to review goals like the one disallowed in today’s match between the US and Slovenia. This has been tested and proved reliable in the NHL. Soccer should take a good hard look at the NHL. This is basically the same game played by men. If these men can handle a short stoppage to make sure the calls are correct, the whiney floppers of the pitch should be able to handle it as well. Why this goal was waved off may be one of the greatest mysteries in sports history (if we can call soccer a sport).
Soccer should borrow the concept of protecting the goalie from the NHL as well. There is an English striker that should have been beaten to a bloody mess after kicking Howard last Saturday.
Critics of stopping the clock contend that it will slow down the game. The game slows down the game. Just let the referees pick a winner upfront. This will save us from watching men run around aimlessly on the pitch until the “mystery” time is sufficient for the ref’s chosen team to have taken the lead.
But my favorite game fixing technique is the whole card system. Having watched a fair share of matches, and having been a sports fan and participant my entire life, I still see no reasoning behind the cards. Sometimes a yellow is awarded when everyone thinks it should be a red. Sometimes a red when it should be a yellow. Or cards of both varieties issued when a player flops at just the right Hollywood stuntman angle in relation to the ref. And other times no card is issued at all. Consistency would be a great target here.
Unless soccer does something to remedy these deficiencies, it won’t matter how the game evolves in the USA. The officials still basically decide the matches. Perhaps Tim Donaghy should move over to FIFA. At least I can mirror his bets and make a little money on the world’s game. I mean fix.
Communism is an egalitarian system of social organization, in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state, dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.
34 bowl games. That means 34 “winners.”
How nice, 34 teams can call themselves winners. How egalitarian. I remember the last time I was involved with so many “winning teams.” It was in tee-ball. We didn’t even keep score.
The BCS selects (read controls) the 68 teams who participate in this social activity called bowl season, and thus get the economic reward. A ton of money is spread around 68 schools (nearly half of the D-I football schools, pretty egalitarian). And yes, even the losers get paid (very egalitarian). It is likely that more money is spread around these schools in a single season than was distributed in the entire history of Soviet Russia.
In every other sport on the planet, there can be only one winner. Hell, even soccer, which has more ties than all the world’s fathers, has a tournament every four years with JUST ONE WINNER. Maybe you heard of it: the World Cup. Sure they start with some ridiculous round robin, where teams can lose and still advance. But at some point, they switch to single elimination until there is just one silly “football” team left.
On paper, the BCS sounds good. Let’s have a lot of meaningful games. Lot’s of little championships are better than one, right? WRONG. Homer Simpson was smart enough to see, “…Communism worked in theory, in theory.”
At the end of the BCS schedule, we are left with many teams who claim to be No. 1. How many players hold up a single digit while mugging the camera and mouthing “We’re number one”? They can’t all be No. 1, can they? I was not that good in math. Let’s count it out: “one, one, one, one, one, two.” Hold on, that sounds wrong. Can we get someone from MIT to check that math please?
Not to worry. The BCS will tell us which team is No. 1 after the last BCS bowl game. This is Communism, pure and simple. It is truth if they tell you it is truth. They have some formula with computers and voters and…
Hold everything! I could be wrong. What is more democratic than a vote? The BCS does have a nifty little vote that will tell us who is No. 1. The BCS is a Democracy, not Communism after all!
But, this little vote is held by a select few, the coaches. One might even call these coaches the party leaders. This vote is starting to reek of Communism again (see: dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.)
What about the masses—all of the players? Why shouldn’t their vote count? How do they vote? I like to think that their vote is the performance they leave on the field. What better way to exercise their vote than with a playoff? The team with the most good votes, sometimes called plays or drives, wins!
But in a playoff, not everyone can win. Hell, even the best team will lose sometimes. Guess what? SOMETIMES YOU LOSE. SOMETIMES THE BEST TEAM LOSES! Just ask the Patriots.
In the film A Fish Called Wanda, John Cleese’s character summed it up best: “Winners like North Vietnam? I’m tellin’ ya baby, they kicked your little ass there. Boy, they whooped yer hide real good.” While getting our “little ass” kicked there still stings, he has a point. They won. We lost. Period. End of story.
Even Communist countries have a playoff. Vietnam beat the tar out of the French before we had the “good sense” to step in “carry the ball.” The Soviets participated in a hockey playoff. While we were over here fighting for Lord Stanley’s Cup, they were beating the rest of the Nordic and Eastern Europeans in a little playoff known as the World Championships of Hockey (which had just one winner, usually the Red Army).
Yes, your team might lose the big game. They might not be able to call themselves a bowl winner. But, if they were to win a true championship game (one preceded by a playoff) those losses would make that win much, much sweeter. Without the pain of losing, the string of wins needed to take a playoff would be, well, just another bowl season.
And with a playoff, we get drama! Drama like underdogs, who come from nowhere to beat the big boys. Some say, “Fluke.” I say, “Destiny!” I say, “History!”
Back in ’76, there was a little underdog who was facing the greatest force on Earth. That force was the British, and the little underdog, a ragtag group of rebels who called themselves the United States of America. Without an upset win, we’d all still be speaking English. Well, English with a silly little accent anyway.
Whether or not there is a playoff, college football will still have the most meaningful regular season of any league. That is simply because there are ONLY 12 GAMES! If they only played 12 NBA, MLB, or NHL games, the regular season would be pretty damn important too. Win as many of the 12 as you can to make the playoffs. Each and every one of those 12 would still be as critical to win. Each and every one would still be interesting as hell to watch (unless, of course, you are a Notre Dame fan these days).
The BCS was kind enough to award the right to broadcast these egalitarian games to ESPN for five years. Thanks to the purest of American ideals, the contract, we are stuck with Communism for the next five years. The BCS was smart enough to put their ideology in written, binding form. What a clever, self-perpetuating, political party.
We can only pray that like the Berlin wall, this Communist juggernaut will fall one day. Until then, be American. Use your Capital One card to buy some Tostitos chips and Emerald nuts to munch while you watch the games. You might even want to call your pals on your AT&T wireless Nokia phone and ask them if they think we will be free from the Bowl Communism Series before the Cubans will be free from the Castros.