Saturday, July 30, 2022

Between Legacy and History: On Peele's Nope

Seeing Nope at the Bridgton Twin Drive In 

Movie critics, even amateur ones, love puns, love working the title into their reviews. So it takes a certain amount of confidence to call a film "Nope". It just invites too many titles for negative reviews. In the case of Peele that confidence is earned. It is the third movie by a director who is developing his own vision in an era where such things as vision or style, even directors as auteurs, are increasingly obsolete. The title of Nope recalls the title of Peele's first film, Get Out  which was an homage to Eddie Murphy's bit about how a haunted house movie would never work with a black family, they would Get Out at the first warning.  The trailer to the latest film is filled with scenes of people saying Nope to the horror they see off scene.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Blogging in the age of the Podcast: Some video and audio


In the past few months I have done quite a few video lectures and guest spots on podcasts. I decided to post them here for anyone who might be interested, and, at least for a moment, to admit that blogging is increasingly archaic in an age of podcasts and youtube lectures. 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Becoming Saul: Reflections on the Last Season of Better Call Saul (Part One)


The prequel is defined by a particular kind of paradox. As much as it aspires to reach the point from which original story, connecting with the present that it is the past of, the more that the point recedes, and become unreachable. Or, more to the point it overreaches its mark. This is especially true of the some of the worst versions of this, the movie Solo forgets that the name Han Solo is cooler if we never hear its hackneyed origin, that having a wookie as friend and sidekick is more interesting if we never see the first time they meet, and that the Kessel Run sounds cool but that does not mean we need to see it. A character can be defined more by the way the enter the screen in media res than by fleshing out their backstory. More becomes less and the more you add the less it alls seems to matter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Au Naturel: On Bohy-Bunel's Contre Lordon

It took me awhile to track down a copy but I finally found Benoît Bohy-Bunel's Contre Lordon: Anticapitalisme tronqué et Spinozisme dans l'oeuvre de Frédéric Lordon. Since I have read nearly everything by Lordon and become increasing ambivalent, torn between those elements of Lordon's thought that I completely agree with, such as the economy as an organization of desire, and those that I have issues with, such as the idea of the state and economy as insurmountable conditions for collective life. It is perhaps not accidental that this division more or less separates the earlier from the later work. I had hoped that reading a critique, even a polemic, such as Bohy-Bunel would help orient my own thinking. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Two Versions of an Extinction: Prehistoric Planet and Jurassic Park

A similar image of dinosaurs in the snow circulated at about the same time from two very different sources. The first, above, was from Prehistoric Planet as series on Apple TV, and the second was from the trailer of the latest Jurassic World film. These images reflect the changing scientific theories of the dinosaur which have shifted from slow scaly reptiles to what are now considered smart, fast, feathered, warm blooded animals. This is especially true of the former which uses CGI and paleontology to produce a kind of Planet Earth for the prehistoric world (complete with David Attenborough providing narration). The latter is less fettered by science, but has used some recent discoveries, smart velociraptors hunting in packs, T-Rex's that walk with its parallel to the ground like land sharks, and so on when they have served the story. 

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Production and Labor: Two Alienations, Two Liberations

My drawing of Laika and Loukanikos


The conclusion of Franck Fishbach's La Production des Hommes: Marx Avec Spinoza ends with a discussion of Heidegger's understanding of production in contrast to its focus on the intersection of Marx and Spinoza. A Fischbach argues the contrast could not be more clear, whereas Marx and Spinoza posited a thought of production that broke with idealism, with much of philosophy, Heidegger saw production as the basis and culmination of metaphysics. Our conceptions of substance, being, and actuality all stem from humanity's productive comportment and this understanding of being culminates in the idea of a world in which what exists exists to be manipulated, produced, transformed, exists as an object for a subject. Production is the metaphysics of subjectivity.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Boys Becoming Men, Men Becoming Wolves: on The Wolf of Snow Hollow and Werewolves Within


Wolves, even werewolves it seems, travel in packs. One hardly gets just one werewolf movie. In nineteen eighty one the pack included Wolfen, The Howling, and An American Werewolf in London.  (As the links indicate I have blogged about each of them, but for a thorough account of the year of the wolf I recommend Drew Strombeck's piece on the LA Review of Books) More recently, we had The Wolf of Snow Hollow and Werewolves Within quickly follow each other in the last two years. Two is less than three, but what is impressive in this case is that they are not only both horror comedies, to varying degrees, but are also both movies that use werewolves to address a different monster, masculinity.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Elites and Capital: or, Foucault and Marx Again

I wrote this review of Jacques Bidet's Foucault with Marx a few years ago for an online review called Contrivers (after having reviewed the French original here) I thought of it the other day as I was reading tweets about two perennial questions on that site, the relation of Marx and Foucault, and the relation of elites, cultural elites, to economic power. For Bidet these are in some sense the same question. Since the review is no longer available and all links to the site seem to be broken I thought that I would repost it here. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

If Althusser was a Spinozist...: on Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop's Althusser et Spinoza


One of Althusser's fundamental lessons, and one that remains beyond the controversies about epistemic breaks, the young Marx, and the real Marx, is that Marx's philosophy and politics must be located not at this or that isolated quote or passage, but as traversing the entirety of his work. The condition of immanent causality is a reading of philosophy itself as the immanent unfolding of ideas that are all the more important because they are pervasive, located not in this or that passage, but in the entirety of the work. To some extent Juan Domingo Sánchez Estop's  Althusser et Spinoza: Détours et Retours does a similar work on Althusser, searching for Althusser's Spinozism not just in the few well known passages in the ISA essay, Lire Le Capital, and Elements of Self-Criticism where Spinoza is cited by name, but also in the way that Spinoza's thought or practice of philosophy traverses Althusser's work.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Gonna Leave You All Severed: Initial Reflections on Severance


I was slow to get to Severance. Partly this has to do with conditions of contemporary cultural consumption. The shift from movies to television and from television to streaming, accelerated by the pandemic, has raised particular hurdles to watching new television shows even as everything can be viewed from one's home. Every new show comes with the subscription to a new service (or a way to work around it) and the proliferation of these services with their own branding and marketing enough to make me miss the catholic nature of movie theaters. Of the different services I had particular disdain for Apple TV, mostly due to the cross brand marketing and the lingering aftertaste of itunes as an app. Anything that could immediately disseminate a U2 album should not only be shunned but the people who made it should be banished.