Daily Archives: 03/29/2012

On Fanatics and Wisdom…

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Via Reddit.

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Sonisphere 2012 cancelled…

What was I just saying about rock being dead?

Great bill - wrong time?

The UK leg of the Sonisphere music festival has been cancelled.

Not a sentence that I was expecting to read today, but the financial climate is such that I imagine many fans of heavy music took one look at this year’s Download bill and thought that their cash was going Donington way.

Either that, or the lure of Tr00 Kvlt Metal at Bloodstock is too hard to resist for many a metalhead…

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Rock is dead (again)

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Fresh from debuting his band Soundgarden‘s first new music since 1996, lead singer Chris Cornell has a sobering message for those of us with ringing ears and luxuriant tresses.

Per an interview with noted rock bible “Details”*, Cornell states for the record that “Rock has lost its place at the centre of the musical universe”.  And, much as it pains me to add currency to this kind of notion, I think that he’s got a point.

*“Details” is as much a rock bible as “Kerrang!” is nowadays – in fact, “Details” may have more rock cred…

Citing American radio’s antipathy towards new rock bands, a fracturing of the creative process enabled by technology and the seemingly irresistible allure of recreational substances, Cornell paints a bleak but – to me – wholly accurate picture of where music is right now.

Once the ease of file-sharing/cut-throat IP piracy (delete as applicable) made making a living from music a labour only slightly less difficult than raising the Titanic, the infrastructure which one could rely on to inform an voracious audience about new music was changed itself – we’ve never had an easier time of finding new music, consuming it and having a new favourite band but our relationship with that music has changed so much that it’s difficult to see how anybody but an established band being able to sustain the kind of career which Cornell and Soundgarden have enjoyed.

Music has never been more of a service or a backdrop to people’s lives than it currently is.  It’s the driver which powers reality TV competitions and nominally the thing that Katy Perry or Rihanna are famous before (that is, before parallel careers in film or fashion present themselves).  That implosion of the traditional music business career model – you can’t sell records because a tiny percentage of music fans pay for music – means that you have to evolve beyond the accepted path of what a musician does.

I find that somewhat depressing, to be honest with you.  I’ve always found that music was one of the most transcendent forms of art – capable of transporting you away from your immediate environment in a different way to the written word and able to make you forget about life and your everyday woes in a way quite distinct from films or television.  It’s more immediate than that kind of directed experience and capable of making even a suit-wearing, twelve-hour day executive lose their inhibitions and go bug-wild at the sound of a power chord struck in faux-anger.  To think that music is the jumping-off point to do something more lucrative or ‘better’ is very aggrieving.

For Cornell to feel that this pathway to shared community or tribal belonging – call it what you will – is something of an admission that for a generation younger than mine, music is ever more the corporate tool of marketing products and services and less the clarion call to the soul that it’s always felt like.

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Clearly, the image above depicts the kind of thing that a Cowell-format music show would never let a prospective star get away with – how would that kind of wanton aggression and wilful property damage play in an era of David Cameron values, tabloid hysteria and razor-thin profit margins?  About as well as Justin Bieber at a Five Finger Death Punch show.

Yeah, that good.

I’ve heard the argument that rock is dead since I was a teenager and yet it’s never quite shuddered to a halt and expired – seemingly every so often, a band like Nirvana, Deftones or Muse comes along and rudely drives a vintage Fender guitar right through your heart and makes you see the world from a distinct and undeniable perspective.  I don’t see that changing, but the scale to which a band like that can break through seems to have changed.

There’s always a sense that rock should be the transgressive, unpopular, wholly disreputable older brother to the eager-to-please, squeaky clean younger sibling of pop (which makes Country your oft-divorced, beer and line-dance afficianado Uncle, I guess?), so the notion that it can’t get arrested on American radio and that the kids prefer Kanye’s glossy capitalist hip-hop narrative isn’t exactly a surprise.

When you were young, did you want to listen to your parents music?  Yeah, me either.  If I had to call it – and bloggers tend to feel that they have to – I’d say that rock isn’t dead – It’s just enjoying a disgraceful long afternoon in the sun and trying hard to ignore the bratty, currently popular kids who remind them of former glory.

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The Unspeakable Lameness of “Gamer”

Over at Topless Robot today, David Wolinsky posted a list which got me thinking – why do films get the culture of video games so completely wrong?

Hmm...noir.

Chin up Gerard, you'll be second-fiddle to that Heigl gal in second-rate rom-coms any time now...

Part of me suspects that there’s no love for the upstart medium – it competes for mind share with music and TV, further eroding Hollywood’s hold on teen and twentysomething cash and if there’s one thing that film studios don’t like to do, it’s to share cash.  Games are a potential asset to be used as source material for films, but don’t yet command the same level of respect of a hack popular novelist like Dan Brown.

When film makers do attempt to marry the always-on digital world to the heady realm of populist cinema the frequent end product ends up being something like the wretched Neveldine/Taylor directed, 2009 Gerard Butler vehicle, “Gamer”.

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This film features high on the Topless Robot list as an example of how terrible Hollywood films featuring games can be and it’s an object lesson in how to do pretty much everything wrong.

The cast are wasted.  Butler’s decent value in action flicks but he gets little to do in a role which should be multi-faceted (family man forced to kill or be killed, separated from his wife, a public enemy number one loved/hated by a global reality TV audience) but ends up being a thuggish stereotype.  Amber Valetta gets to essentially be felt up by the camera for 95 minutes as Butler’s missus – thankless isn’t the half of it.

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The tech is so ludicrous that it may as well be a film utilising magic for all the sense that it makes – the always on, beyond HD quality, omniscient camera tracking the combatants in the “Call of Duty” alike “Slayers” game in the film – how the chuff does that work, then?  There’s some guff in the script, as I recall, about neural net thingymajigs but the fact of the matter is that the game inventor in the film, Michael C Hall, is not Molyneux or Kojima but some plot-assisting analogue of Merlin and Mandrake.

This is what bugs me so much about this film – it would make more sense for the film to occupy the same space as “The Running Man” or an Ice-T vehicle that you’ve never seen, “Surviving The Game”.  But no, we’ve got to drag the new-fangled video games into this shoddy hackery because that’s the folk demon which this script has a bee in its backwards baseball cap about.

It doesn’t just stop by having a pop at the 360 console crowd – social media gets a shoeing too in the form of “Society”, a singularly bone-headed blend of “The Sims”,“Second Life” style hipster casual gaming and honest-to-goodness slavery which the Amber Valetta character finds herself sold into – because, for the most part, women in this film exist solely to be ogled, fondled, objectified and generally handled like so much meat.

I hated this movie – can you tell?

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Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m not exactly Roger Ebert (or Mark Kermode, for that matter). I like my B-movies, I don’t mind if they’re dumb as a box of hammers and I only ask that they be entertaining.  “Gamer” has a premise that Verhoeven and Bruce Willis would have knocked to the Moon and back in the early Nineties but fails to raise so much as a ‘hoo-rah’ with its eminently miss-able blend of crappy action, murky motivations, sleepwalking performances and a general sense that the Neveldine/Taylor team will do anything to try to shock the presumed target audience for this movie – mouth-breathing 12-year-old boys coming down off a 24 hour Mountain Dew and Doritos bender.

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You have to try hard to make a movie like this dull.  It takes real, strenuous effort.  Wall-to-wall bloodshed, eye candy and an amorality which makes Michael Bay look like Jonathan Demme – and “Gamer” is still as riveting as cleaning your clogged drains.

Neveldine/Taylor – reverse Midas touch, non?  It’s enough to make you think that the thick ear thrills of the first “Crank” film were a one-off.

I’m beginning to suspect that the issue is one of translation and the inherent problem in translating from one interactive medium to one which lends itself to contemplation and has been usurped in terms of presenting thrills by its younger sibling.

A final thought – Games excel at presenting on-screen action and have been doing it better since the PS1 and equivalent PC hardware allowed the first steps towards interactive cinematic mayhem on the player’s home television.  Hollywood’s on the back foot and probably won’t ever catch up.  Beginning to see why they put so little effort into adapting video games?

 

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