Primer: A New Perspective

I enjoyed Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color”, the followup to his excellent debut film “Primer” — but it mostly made me want to watch Primer again. If you’ve not yet seen it, you may want to stop reading as spoilers will abound below. None of this will make any sense if you’ve not seen it already anyways!

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You Don’t Really Want All This Stuff: The Century Of The Self

The Century Of The Self is a fascinating BBC documentary available on YouTube that gives a history of public relations (basically Nazi propaganda techniques with a more friendly name) and its far-reaching implications in our society and the world. The documentary features Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud, who pioneered this dubious practice.

Bernays took the psychological discoveries of his uncle, mainly those of how humans have a sense of need or emptiness or a need for an unknown fulfillment, and have them correlate the idea that those can be fulfilled with consumer goods. The concept was so successful it went on to be used by politicians, corporations, the military, and pretty much anyone in power. The concept of planned obsolescence is tied to this, as manufacturers needed a way to get people to buy more stuff, and replace the stuff they had. The magic wand was supplied by Bernays, whose effective techniques make consumers feel like they are lacking if they do not have the latest and greatest. Sound familiar?

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi isn’t really a documentary about sushi. It’s a documentary about pursuing your passion. Jiro’s passion just happens to be sushi.

Watching the film, I couldn’t help but note striking similarities between Jiro’s approach to his craft, and Steven Pressfield’s concept of the professional mindset in “The War of Art“.

I’ve often discouraged myself from creating personal art projects with the defeatist attitude of “what’s the point?”. There really is no “point” to sushi. Why does Jiro care so much? What drives him? It’s not money or fame. It’s the relentless pursuit of perfecting his craft, or as he words it, his chosen profession. By honing his craft, he not only brings joy to his patrons who rave about his sushi, but he surrounds himself with like-minded experts that he works with — the seafood merchants, the rice merchant. Jiro’s sushi is so good, his rice guy will only sell his best rice to Jiro because “what’s the point of selling good rice to someone who doesn’t know how to cook it?”. Yes, rice.  Continue reading “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”

Argo

Ben Affleck’s “Argo” really surprised me. I was not all that interested in seeing it until a friend invited me to see it. I’m glad I did.

One of the things I loved most about the film was the restraint. Characters acted like real people. The drama arose from the circumstances, not from hyperinflated Hollywood dialogue designed to make scenes feel dramatic. There was no overacting and the characters were believable. Restraint in the cinematography was also well done. The film was able to maintain that “movie feel” without ever drawing attention to gimmicky camera sweeps or angles. The same can be said for the 1970s period clothes, props and environment — not once did you feel you were being hit over the head with bell-bottoms and sideburns with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge that they are doing a period piece.  Continue reading “Argo”

Office Extras

The U.S. version of The Office is going to end with the next season (season 9), and I’m glad to hear this.

The Office has been abysmal since Steve Carell left the show, and wasn’t all that great for his last 2 seasons. Season 8 has been an abomination. The characters are no longer anything like the wonderful personas that were established early on in the series. They’ve turned into poor caricatures of their former selves, acting out of character. The humor has become ham-fisted. The deterioration of the show curiously parallels the overall storyline of the excellent “Extras“.

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