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Messages - Crudblud

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Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: January 01, 2023, 10:56:12 PM »
Marriage Story (dir. Noah Baumbach)

As a big fan of Baumbach's previous film The Meyerowitz Stories, I really wanted to like this. It has a lot of good elements, but I think also so many things I didn't like that I'm not really able to say that I liked or disliked it overall. I think, despite Baumbach's characteristic deadpan "realism", I didn't really buy the central relationship, which was just a couple of people being angry jerks. The most intense moments between the two leads played out for me as a kind of hysterical comedy. Structurally I liked that Baumbach committed to doing quite a few long scenes which foregrounded the acting over the directing or editing, but I felt the structure was ultimately too cute in its arcs and repetitions to come across anything like as real as it seemed he wanted it to be. Randy Newman's beautifully orchestrated but cloyingly saccharine score offers neither support nor counterpoint to the tone of the film, instead seeming like it was made for something else. My experience of this film was thus of a bunch of individually mostly (and in some cases very) well done things that didn't really sit together, not even in a way that could be taken as an embodiment of the messiness of the relationship it depicts.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Superhero Movies & Comics General
« on: December 16, 2022, 04:39:46 PM »
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is the best MCU film by quite some margin.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Superhero Movies & Comics General
« on: November 11, 2022, 06:04:58 PM »
It wasn't just Batman when Conroy was doing the voice, it was Bestman.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Liz Truss
« on: October 20, 2022, 06:43:48 PM »
The Tories have become incestuous and cannibalistic, they need a good decade or more in opposition to sort themselves out. Better yet, I hope Labour makes good on the PR manifesto vote from this year's conference and enacts it when they inevitably win the next GE. Put country before party and let in a greater plurality of voices. If we have any sense (wishful thinking?) we should all want to get well shot of giant dinosaur parties after this exclamation mark at the end of a long sentence of absolute fuckery.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: September 16, 2022, 09:36:54 AM »
Morbius ("dir." Daniel Espinosa)

Do I rate it low because it was shit or do I rate it high because it was so astoundingly shit that I had a good laugh watching it together with Снупс? The experience was one of a kind, at any rate.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: September 11, 2022, 10:49:12 AM »
As Снупс mentioned above, we've been watching through these together. Here's my ranking of MCU shows so far with brief commentary.

1. Moon Knight — Great first outing for one of my favourite (anti)heroes. Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke are great adversaries, and the special attention paid to the character's Egyptian roots is much appreciated.

2. Loki — Ambitious concept more or less pulled off, with a few disappointing non-twists where it wimps out. Tom Hiddleston finally gets to shine and is no longer an annoying side character you can't figure out why Marvel keeps shoehorning into centre stage! Plus, Owen Wilson wowin' it up is more than welcome.

3. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — Solid nuts-and-bolts action thriller dealing with the sociopolitical fallout of the "blip". Nice moments with Bucky and Sam lend it a heartfelt sensibility that ultimately wins out over its frequently hard-headed militarism.

4. WandaVision — I really wanted this to be top of the list, but as it stands this might be the biggest fumble in the entire MCU. It starts and ends strongly but sinks into the depths of its own insecurity in the middle, as it becomes a turgid mess of recap after recap after Kat Dennings, because Marvel has no confidence that its audience might not be made up exclusively of morons.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: The Queen
« on: September 08, 2022, 04:43:04 PM »
It had been starting to actually feel like she’d love forever. End of an era for sure.
Don't worry Iceman, the Queen's love for her subjects is eternal.

I made a mistake in my first post by saying that a machine can't create anything new. What I meant to say is that a machine can't generate anything new, because creation is entirely beyond its capabilities. Sorry for muddling up the terminology.

What I've learned from observing the latest in machine-generated music is that a machine can only (fail to) reproduce what already exists, it can't truly create anything new in the way that a human being can. What I've seen of DALL-E and other visual arts AIs is much the same, it can be prompted to create an amalgamation of known things, but it can't produce something unknown. Granted we live in an era in the arts where we are "out in the ocean", and there is no identifiable progress* as such other than technological. Perhaps progress in art is now, rather than new material, new efficiency in reproduction of old material, but nonetheless personal style remains unquantifiable.
The very concept of art being "new" is a human abstraction, and has to do with the expression of ideas rather than any concrete definition. All art is, after all, a combination of existing colours and shapes in some way. I don't think it makes any sense to say that an algorithm can't create new things because a computer simply isn't aware of that distinction.

What is probably going on is that, given that the vast majority of art in general is highly derivative, you are experiencing sampling bias due to the relatively small quantity of AI-generated art, and the fact that most people using it are just noodling around and not really trying to create anything groundbreaking.
Of course all art is a combination of existing colours and shapes, but a machine can only reproduce existing combinations, while a human has the potential, not the innate ability, but the potential to combine existing things in new ways. A human being has experiences through which they form perspective, and from the application of that perspective comes style, that is a way of seeing and combining things which cannot be completely but is at least partially unique and potentially significantly so. A machine has no experiences, no perspective, and cannot develop style; it cannot think and it cannot create; it may be programmed in a unique way, but that is an act of human creation. The creative element of machine-generated art comes, as you pointed out (see my emphasis above), from the user who devises the prompt.

What I've learned from observing the latest in machine-generated music is that a machine can only (fail to) reproduce what already exists, it can't truly create anything new in the way that a human being can. What I've seen of DALL-E and other visual arts AIs is much the same, it can be prompted to create an amalgamation of known things, but it can't produce something unknown. Granted we live in an era in the arts where we are "out in the ocean", and there is no identifiable progress* as such other than technological. Perhaps progress in art is now, rather than new material, new efficiency in reproduction of old material, but nonetheless personal style remains unquantifiable.

*of course, progress can only be identified in retrospect

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: August 04, 2022, 07:40:32 PM »
Thor 4

Better than Thor 2.
A ringing endorsement there.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: June 24, 2022, 06:22:31 PM »
The Batshit Odyssey makes its long overdue return!

The Dark Knight (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Where to begin talking about a film that seems to be defined more by its reception, indeed its reputation, than its content? Few if any films this century have risen so quickly to Olympian heights in the public consciousness, fewer still have been so closely shadowed by external tragedy. Through his death, Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker was transfigured in the popular mind; in many ways it is the film, is what people talk about when they talk about The Dark Knight. So what should I talk about? I have been accused on occasion of resisting cliché to the point of absurdity, all for some egomaniacal, perhaps narcissistic desire to stand apart from the crowd. In fact I love cliché, I love commonalities; I am not ashamed to admit that I am like most people in most ways. Rather I cannot stand to repeat myself, and I feel as though I, despite having thought little about this film since I first saw it in 2009, have had this discussion myself so many times that the bottom of the barrel has been scraped dry and sanded smooth. I hope, mostly, to talk about the film itself, and to try to reconcile what it is in itself with what it is remembered to be.

The second instalment in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy of Batman films, The Dark Knight pits the caped crusader against the Joker and Harvey “Two Face” Dent. For those of us who are familiar with these villains already—most will be intimately familiar with the former purely through his ubiquity, his status as the king of Batman villains—there is a sense of inexorable tragedy. We know that the Joker can never be saved from himself, we know that Harvey Dent will place his faith in the coin toss and the absolute fairness of chance after a transformative event changes irrevocably his perspective on human conceptions of justice, human systems of law. So, too, for Batman himself, who hides in plain sight among the upper echelons of society as Bruce Wayne; his two halves, his bipolar masquerade, can never be resolved. This conflict in itself is what defines him, even more so than his own transformative event, the killing of his parents. In many ways, then, we already know, as soon as we encounter each of these three leads, precisely where the film is going.

The Dark Knight is a more or less direct continuation of Batman Begins. Following his saving of the city from Ra’s al Ghul, Batman’s heroics have inspired confidence in the citizens of Gotham, in some cases a little too much, as armed vigilantes cheaply outfitted in the Bat’s image take to the streets with automatic weapons. This particular consequence of Batman’s vigilantism is touched upon only a couple of times in the film, which I feel is a wasted opportunity. If Christopher Nolan is indeed the “thinking person’s blockbuster director” (a mantle which, I should point out, he seems neither to warm to nor shy away from in his public statements) then a deeper consideration of what comes in the wake of not a superhero, but an essentially ordinary man taking justice into his own hands and striking down thugs and drug dealers and their bosses, should be his bread and butter here. The somewhat nuanced, empathetic treatment of Gotham society, penetrating the various strata that make it up, to which we were treated in the first part of Batman Begins, seems here to have been forgotten. The film’s presentation of Batman’s unwanted army of trigger-happy doppelgangers is no discussion at all but a statement, a claim, unexplored beyond its most superficial level: it exists. Batman seems to be held responsible for the shift in attitude towards crime in Gotham, that is, he has shown Gotham that crime is in fact possible to defeat, or is at least containable, manageable, punishable; this not least of all by the mob, which feels the tightening of the screws at every turn, and becomes more and more desperate, like a wild animal cornered. Harvey Dent, the new District Attorney, an optimistic, grandstanding young (by the standards of the legal profession) man, rises over Gotham as Batman prowls beneath it, and the people seem ready to believe that together, even if official policy would have them at opposite poles, they will fulfil the promise of the new optimism blooming on the city’s bustling streets. Yet all is not well in the Gotham legal system, mob-compromised cops work surreptitiously within its halls and offices, and, when the mob itself becomes compromised by the Joker, the entire structure seems to teeter upon the precipice of total, irretrievable collapse.

Harvey Dent is dating Bruce Wayne’s former squeeze Rachel Dawes, here played by Maggie Gyllenhaal (as Katie Holmes, who had previously portrayed the character in Batman Begins, was then busy being abducted and brainwashed by cult leader and walking Teflon advertisement Tom Cruise) and you already know where this is going, even if you haven’t seen the film. Dawes is to serve as collateral in the Joker’s sadistic plot to corrupt Dent. One thing I do particularly enjoy about the Joker in this film is just how extreme his actions become over the course of the film, as he continues to attempt to push Batman over the edge, to turn him into a killer, by burning down the order he seeks to uphold. However, the “love” between Dent and Dawes, thus the tragedy of the latter’s fiery death, is blunted by the little screen time we see them spend together. Even with a new actor in the role, at least the Dawes/Wayne relationship was previously established; no matter how well Aaron Eckhardt plays Dent’s pretence to quietly resolved protective desperation over the situation of his beloved, he cannot add an extra film’s worth of shared character development to their history that will make us believe that she is his beloved.

In The Dark Knight, Two Face is the Joker’s creation. Not only is the Joker the cause of his disfigurement both physical and mental, not to mention the defacing of what will become his signature coin, but the clown prince of crime comes to Dent in the hospital and rattles off a speech tailor-made to impress a teenage boy on the verge of rebelling against his parents, which apparently is good enough for a highly educated man approaching middle age. To be fair, Dent is suffering from severe trauma, and I can be charitable and accept that even if Dawes were a complete stranger, the deeply felt pang of survivor’s guilt would doubtless see him in an emotionally fragile, susceptible state of mind. Alas, if only someone had brought him a copy of Seneca’s On Providence first! By hook or by crook is Two Face thus born, revenge the only word on his twisted lips as he escapes an exploding hospital and somehow finds himself a rather perfectly half-burnt suit. This he seeks to take not on the man who put his former self and his former self’s love in the most heinous of predicaments, but on slightly dodgy copper Jim Gordon, whom Gary Oldman’s slightly dodgy accent returns to play.

The dramatic climax of the film is played out between Two Face, Gordon, Gordon’s family, and eventually Batman. Two Face holds Gordon’s family at gunpoint, and asks Gordon which one he loves the most, so that he might, supposedly, experience what Harvey Dent experienced. I have already commented on the somewhat ludicrous prospect of Dent taking the loss of Rachel Dawes this badly, and at the risk of repeating myself I find it even more ludicrous that Two Face would go after Gordon when he is precisely aware of the Joker’s involvement in Dawes’s kidnapping and death, and even had the opportunity to kill the Joker in the hospital. So the plot sort of resolves to a damp squib of a scene in which a Character A goes after Character B and essentially subjects Character B’s family to emotional torture because Character A was reduced by trauma to the intellectual level of an angry fifteen year old boy smoking cigarettes he stole from his dad’s bedside cabinet. Batman shows up, Two Face falls to his death, Batman runs away having taken the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes because Harvey Dent was a symbol of hope and blah blah blah.

Essentially, The Dark Knight’s Two Face has the exact opposite problem that plagued the one we regrettably encountered in Batman Forever. In that film, Tommy Lee Jones played a Joker knock-off who had no prior life upon which to base his villainous mutation; in this one, Aaron Eckhardt has a relatively rich prior life that exists to basically serve us a tragic villain who dies after maybe ten minutes of screen time. Jones is undoubtedly far worse on every level, turning in a horrid, idiotic performance that cannot merely be blamed on the litany of failings to be found in the script and direction, whereas Eckhardt’s problems are entirely imposed upon him by the film itself. Rather than doing the sensible thing and setting up Two Face as the possibly redeemable anti-hero in the sequel he already knew would be greenlit, Nolan was more concerned with sacrificing this reasonably well-developed character to a dramatic climax that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The treatment of Dent’s nascent tragedy here seems so artificial because we arrive at it by such mediocre means, and I feel little for his fall from grace despite the fine performance Eckhardt gives in the role.

I began this review by talking about the Joker as a sort of cultural synecdoche for the film itself. It’s strange, then, that I should find myself now having very little to say about the character or Heath Ledger’s performance, which was made monumental by his overdose. I also said that the Joker cannot be saved from himself, and perhaps Ledger was much the same. There is a temptation to read in, to blur the lines of fantasy and reality, professional and personal, to give in to the romantic notion of the method actor, who inhabits their role and temporarily loses their own being, sacrifices it to their art, maybe even relinquishes some small part of it forever. Few are more keen to have this notion accepted than the ones who do it, what some call “love me” acting, wherein the Method, originally a far more humble, “pure” craft-oriented conception of acting through deep empathy, gives way to the spectacle of the actor, of a performance beyond the performance. The desire to conflate events occurring around a film with the film itself is a curious one. It seems in some ways a mirror to the desire for (typically) science fiction and fantasy media to expand infinitely, so that the adventure, the escape, never comes to an end. Here the fictional spills out into the real, the artifice loses its boundaries; Heath Ledger becomes the Joker becomes Heath Ledger.

To be clear, I do not accuse Ledger of attempting to gain something, of myth-making through death. For all I can tell, Ledger was a somewhat self-effacing actor who was devoted, at least in his final years, to the craft of acting. He took his work seriously. The baggage conferred by the vagaries of reputation had initially led to outcry among certain circles that Ledger, who had played many throwaway romance and adventure roles and presumably given little or no indication that he could play in a “serious” film about a man dressed up in a bat costume punching people, was unsuitable for the role. The only other film I have seen Ledger in is The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which he began filming after The Dark Knight, so I am not in a position to comment on his prior work. As I said, for all I have written about the reputation of Ledger’s Joker, I find myself with curiously little to say about the performance itself. The tail may well have been wagging the dog back in 2008, but that dog now stalks a hinterland that would seem to be beyond reach, beyond human time, ageless and on some level insensible. Suffice it to say it is the most engaging portion of the film, injecting clown colours and a wonky panache into the same grey and brown anywhere cityscapes that made Batman Begins so impersonal.

The Dark Knight is more personal than its predecessor, it is more about characters and relationships than anything else, even if they don’t come off anywhere near as real as they were intended to be. The cosmic scale of Ra’s al Ghul’s crusade rendered Batman’s fight for Gotham partially intangible, for all that Gotham itself was the focus; here the Joker’s earthbound terrorism cries out for a Gotham to destroy, but instead he is reduced to corrupting, or attempting to corrupt, a handful of people. When he pits the captive passengers of two boats against each other, each one rigged with a bomb to which the other has the detonator, that he, or better yet Gotham might see whether it is a group of hardened criminals or of ordinary citizens that will pull the trigger on the other, a bunch of people we neither know nor care about are suddenly introduced as stakes in a game the rules of which have never been clear. The Joker claims he is an agent of chaos with no plan, and the film seems structurally sympathetic to his raison d’être to the point of distraction. He dominates the film to its detriment; all the goings on with Batman himself even seem forgettable, marginal events on the periphery of Joker’s litany of carnages. The mismatch of scale and intent leave the film itself scrabbling for a satisfying conclusion, one which it cannot find, but that is wrapped up in authoritative drivel—which would be platitudinous if only I believed that even the writers actually knew what they meant by it this time around—which was either intended as a placation of the audience for an unsatisfactory ending, or perhaps thrown together without much thought since it was already known, already understood that the Joker was so strong as to reduce all else in the film to a triviality.

The Dark Knight is the very definition of slick mediocrity, which is more or less what I have come to expect from Christopher Nolan over the years. He is a brilliant deviser of intriguing, sometimes astounding set-pieces, but he is at a loss as to how to piece them together into anything resembling a complete work of cinema. Whereas, for example, Quentin Tarantino had a sort of golden period before his scripts degenerated into mere collections of, on a good day, individually fine scenes, Nolan has never convinced me of a macroscopic understanding of narrative and theme, of character and place, how these things coalesce into an artistic statement. This film has many good elements that would be exciting were they not strung together without purpose, except perhaps a shallow exploration of nihilism. The plot is constructed with the understanding that the Joker must remain an enigma to the end, but it doesn’t understand that the Joker and the film as a whole are connected yet discrete entities, and that what is true for one does not necessarily hold in the case of the other. The Joker’s arc—a term I use only for simplicity’s sake—cannot resolve to an answer, but he does have a point that he is driving at continually, while the film conversely answers its own questions but in doing so reveals that it has no point. Ultimately, there have been sweeter sounds and greater furies than this, and I can’t help but find that whatever impressed me in 2009 is no longer there in 2022. The Batman film we need, the Batman film we deserve, whether they are the same or not, whether such criteria can be applied to superhero movies at all, is somewhere other than here.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Terrible Political Memes
« on: June 04, 2022, 11:40:56 AM »

How has this thread stayed in the Lounge of all places for so long?

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« on: March 03, 2022, 05:25:05 PM »
Well, I just discovered a new bug. If you quit out after respawning at the Stake of Marika before Royal Knight Loretta, when you load the save you will appear in a void and instantly die. Not sure if this is just for this Stake or a problem in general but I found it pretty funny so I don't mind so much, even though the run back from the bonfire is kind of annoying.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Now Playing (the Video Game Version)
« on: February 25, 2022, 05:13:42 PM »
Elden Ring is kicking my arse. I wondered if it was because the game is hard or because I'm a naked dude with a club. So I started another playthrough as a dude with armour and a sword, and I still got my arse kicked. The bosses in this game are serious. So far I have only beaten the Beastman of Farum Azula, an optional miniboss. Anyway, I'm really enjoying it so far. It's a very successful expansion of the Souls formula, with a bit of Sekiro thrown in for good measure. The horseback combat is oddly reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors and I can imagine Miyazaki getting a kick out of colleague reactions to the idea when he described how he wanted to implement it.

Of course, it's not all good. As is typical with From games, the technical side is lagging behind the incredible design. There are definitely some performance issues on PC, I've been getting stutters and frame drops despite my rig meeting the recommended specs. Hopefully it's fixed soon.

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: The Great Reset: Aftermath
« on: January 18, 2022, 10:40:59 PM »
Holy shit, we actually agree on something. I, too, hate that slogan and I, too, think it should be "sort it".
"Sort it" implies that you are the one who is sorting it, but you are not, you are merely saying what you have seen to someone else who will sort it. "Sorted" rather suggests that if you see it and say it then it is as good as sorted, because the people doing the sorting are just that good. Hyperbole aside, it does make sense.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Cazazza Dan
« on: January 16, 2022, 04:10:27 PM »
The remaster of For Me and My Gal is now up on YeTube.

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Cazazza Dan
« on: January 15, 2022, 11:44:37 PM »

Philosophy, Religion & Society / Re: Democracy Is Overrated
« on: December 07, 2021, 07:37:59 PM »
Hobbesian monarchy, then?

Arts & Entertainment / Re: Just Watched
« on: November 26, 2021, 11:40:41 AM »
Jason Momoa (Jason Momoa, 2021)

This is really Jason Momoa. It looks Jason Momoa, has a great sense of Jason and Momoa, and even Jason Momoa's Jason Momoa has a unique, stylish feel to it, rather than the generic "JASON MOMOA" Momoaning so much of his output seems to be defined by lately. It also has an amazing Jason full of some really talented Momoas - and also Jason Momoa. I can only assume that Momoa was hired because they really wanted to slap another big Jason on the Momoa and he was the highest-profile Jason Momoa being considered, because he is Jason Momoa in this. Nowhere near as Jason Momoa as Jason Momoa's Jason Momoa performance in Jason Momoa 2069, to be fair, but still Jason Momoa enough to be the Jason Momoa part of the movie. Momoa simply can't Jason. Every Jason from him is delivered in the same nonchalant Momoa tone of voice and accompanied by the same Jason Momoa grin. Maybe this bothers me more than it does most other people, but his Jason was a major Momoa. The rest of the Jasons melted into their Momoas, but Jason Momoa playing Jason Momoa stood out and Jasoned my Momoa every time he appeared on the screen.

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