Just a brief fly-by to share this fantastic short animation that’s been nominated for an OSCAR!
Best of luck to everyone involved.
Just a brief fly-by to share this fantastic short animation that’s been nominated for an OSCAR!
Best of luck to everyone involved.
Yeah, I woulda gone with #Occupy Gotham but I’d be super late for the party on that one.
So, my lovely Gurlfrenn just booked us tickets to the pant-shittingly anticipated The Dark Knight Rises and at the BFI IMAX no less. But why is it then, as a life-long Batman fan, that after the four year wait and year-long, ever intensifying marketing campaign I am overcome with what can only be described as blockbuster ennui? I am rarely a victim of hype but I do fall for the occasional, clever hysteria machine (which recently left me twice shy after getting a nasty bite from Ridley Scott) but not so this time. Frankly, the marketing for Christopher Nolan’s latest Bat-sequel has been inconsistent at best – each trailer giving off a different tone and each poster drive featuring wildly divergent styles, one’s left a bit confused and, after Joss Whedon’s delightful four-colour fun-fest Avengers it all looks very…grey.
But, what worries me the most about the whole affair are the Occupy overtones and the series’ ultimately conservative leanings. This isn’t news and neither is it very subtle. Here at the Slate they pretty much outline all the relevant Occupy-esque scenes from the film’s first trailer. Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) dialogue is the most damning evidence, as she denounces Bruce’s world of excessive wealth:
“There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches. Because when it hits you’re all going to wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
The rest of us, presumably the 99%. Now, I’m not disparaging that a blockbuster is using contemporary issues as a backdrop or even as an arena of discourse but what’s troubling is associating Occupiers with terrorists, revolutionaries with evil and the police state with order, heroism and honour. Also necessity.
2005’s Batman Begins is by far the superior of the two Nolanverse pictures to date. It combined (and invented) the Gritty reboot, with an air of the gothic – Eerie old institutions, secret Ninja Tibetan hide-outs and weaponized Bats! The more bizarre aspects would be entirely eschewed in a sequel that is over-plotted, clunkily edited and devoid of humour. The closest Begins gets to politics is Wayne’s problematic choice to Leave R’as al Ghoul in the run-away train. As the car speeds towards imminent doom Wayne leaves his old master saying “I’m won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you” which serves to solidify the vague Libertarian notions that had been bandied around the film thus far. It stuck out as odd, because the Batman I knew (from the Animated Series!) would have undoubtedly tried to save his nemesis with his trusty grappling hook. Batman has an almost Hippocratic oath – he would have had to save him. Even my mum tutted audibly at this scene lamenting the murky morals at work.
So Batman may be a libertarian who believes the state is complicit in the corruption and chaos that ravages his city and must work outside the law to enact change. I can buy this, I guess. If Batman were real he would be terrifying and anti-state.
But then there’s The Dark Knight. For the most part, The Dark Knight draws from the U.S’s demented War on Terror, casting the Batman as George Bush – who goes to perilously dangerous lengths to capture the madman and terrorist, the Joker. Not only does Christian Bale look eerily like him but his Bruce Wayne mimics Dubya in his policy of violence, kidnapping and phone-tapping up to and including extraordinary rendition. Again, I actually embrace using contemporary issues as source material and I love that the Batman doesn’t have to be our hero in every sense – that he can make morally disturbing choices and doesn’t have to be the audience surrogate that heroes usually are. But the film squanders this in its final moments; instead of merely reflecting recent history it decides to come down on one side. Even though Batman has lost his love and has conducted an immoral campaign of spying and surveillance against the people he has sworn to protect he has beaten the Joker and virtually shut down organised crime. To maintain order and peace in Gotham and keep the baddies behind bars (objectively good things) he must lie and say he was responsible for Dent’s murderous rampage. He utters the most tripe, Iraq invasion apologist bullshit line I have ever heard.
“Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve more.”
You don’t even need an arts degree to decode this here, boys and girls. There were no WMDs in Iraq. BUT the ends justified the means. Things are better because of a lie and thus, it was worth it. The above line is probably repeated ad nauseum by the entire Bush administration and Blair every night before they hop into their plush King-size beds. And then from the mouth of babes, Jim Gordon’s blonde, innocent son – “But he didn’t do anything wrong!” in context it’s beyond parody. He had to make the difficult choices and he will be hated for it – nay hunt him for it. Because he can take it. Because he’s not the hero-….bla bla bla bla bla bla.
So Batman’s a neo-liberal, willing to lie, cheat and steal and fuelled (like Dubya) with a zealot like fervour. He compromises his own moral codes in order to “bring peace” because he is “outside” the law – No UN resolutions for him! He’s also responsible for the crime of having a really silly voice.
Interestingly, Rorschach is offered the same choice at the end of Watchmen. But Rorschach is a proper, nut-job libertarian – he’s honest: “Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.”
I don’t think the Batman of the comic would allow Superman to craft a new Utopia if it meant Supes would have to fry a few skulls with his heat vision to do it. But Nolan’s Bush-man obviously has a different set of ethics.
And now we come to The Dark Knight Rises. The trailer has the “war-hero” cop Gordon being set-up for retirement as it’s now “peace-time”. If we thought the allegory in the previous film was circumstantial then BAM it’s just been confirmed. The follows a slew of images of scruffy-looking peeps ransacking Wayne Manor and mass scruffy uprisings around Gotham. The latest trailer even shows a gang or rising, scruffy Untermensch descending upon an up-market hotel. The lines are clearly drawn – the only question is which side is Batman on.
And to make matters more interesting the film even wanted to shoot at Wall St. while the Occupy movement was there, the trailers feature “terrorists” shooting up the Gotham stock exchange and now we get these, rather intriguing comments by Chris Nolan on the film’s scale and vision:
“It’s all about historical epics in conception. It’s a war film. It’s a revolutionary epic. It’s looking back to the grand-scale epics of the past, really, and for me that goes as far back as silent films. I’ve been watching a lot of silent films with my kids on Blu-Ray. We’ve shot over a third of the movie on the IMAX format, and that naturally puts you more in the mode of staging very large events for the camera. It’s my attempt to get as close to making a Fritz Lang film as I could. It’s also more in the mould of ‘Doctor Zhivago,’ or ‘A Tale Of Two Cities,’ which is a historical epic with all kinds of great storytelling taking place during the French Revolution.
There’s an attempt to visualise certain things in this film on this large scale that are troubling and genuinely to the idea of an American city. Or, to put it another way: revolutions and the destabilising of society have happened everywhere in the world, so why not here?”
This seems to be a direct allusion to things like the Arab Spring, most recently and his talk of a “revolutionary epic” brings to mind films like The Battle of Algiers, Strike! or I am Cuba. Giving my pinky, lefty, faggy, Communist background I would probably welcome a film depicting a people’s uprising in America to battle their subordination by the wealthy elites and their corporate sponsored congressmen. But given where the story’s come from and the apologist tone of the previous film will Batman be defending a corrupt, totalitarian state from a popular uprising? Is the Batman going to be defending “order” and “stability”…thus defending the likes of Mubarak or Gaddafi ?
The trailers depict armed, violent militias and freed prisoners attempting to “destabilise” society, orchestrated by a shady, esoteric Eastern terrorist group we can assume is The League Shadows from the first picture. If this is meant to reflect either Occupy or the Arab Spring it is insulting to both as both championed the use of non-violent demonstration and strikes. Any descent into violence occurred at the hands of the violent reaction by the police and armed forces. Also, having an Occupy uprising secretly organised by a shady, Eastern terrorist cell reads something like a Tea-party wet dream. The reason the police and the Tea-party never clash is that the tea-party are so well-armed at their rallies. Surely they would be more likely to attempt an armed coup on their black Socialist president.
Batman and Fascist propaganda are no strange bedfellows. Frank Miller, creator of the famed and yes overrated Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, gave the character new-life as a quasi-fascist, anti-state loon and also wrote and drew an anti-muslim propaganda rag entitled Holy Terror, though DC Comics were wise enough to allow him to actually feature Batman in the book. The writer recently sunk to new lows in an online rant about the Occupy movement which is so uninformed an demented it reads like a Rorschach journal entry. Given that TDK Returns revolves around the Batman coming out of a stretch of retirement, just as the latest film will, it merits mentioning.
Will The Dark Knight Rises really go the whole hog and confuse Occupiers with armed terrorists, terrorists with ninjas, revolutionaries with terrorists, order with peace? Or will Wayne turn around and realise he could have enacted more significant change had he paid more taxes and instead of buying mini-tanks just gave some of his loose change to upgrading the city’s infrastructure like his good ol’ Da did.
Just out of the 00.01 showing of Ridley Scott’s latest sci-fi offering in the BFI IMAX. And may I just say wow. That is a huge screen. It lurches one’s stomach rather like the feeling you get when you stare up a large tower or grounded sailing ship from the very bottom and feel as though it may just slowly fall on you. Its sheer height actually makes you a little emotional for some reason – I found myself strangely moved by the trailer for the Dark Knight Rises which I’d already seen and been pretty indifferent to.
Recently, I had this fantastic idea for a video game. Upon reading about various Alternate Reality Games (ARG) and with a vague grasp of recent Augmented Reality applications, which overlay real, physical images captured on 3G mobile devices with digital information, I thought why not combine the two? Create a Virtual Augmented Reality game which blended the the real landscape with a parallel fantasy one? Over diminishing pints I outlined a version of Pokemon to my friends (and anyone within earshot) where one’s own geographical location formed part of the narratives, where special items or Pokemon could only be obtained in certain locations, forcing the player to trade and explore. I was sure I was onto a real money-spinner.
However, like all things, it turns out I’m about ten years behind. In her essays “Playing Life and Living Play” (2008) and “From Cyber to Hybrid” (2006), Adriana De Souza e Silva talks extensively about such Hybrid Reality Games (HRG) which have emerged from the convergence of applications and media to mobile, internet-supporting platforms and ones which simultaneously use physical space as well as digital space. These games, and mobile technology generally, create a new space which reconfigure users relationships both geographically and socially.
Essentially, the ability to carry the internet around in your pocket fundamentally changes one’s relationship with the various social spaces we inhabit, be they physical, digital, work or play, continually blurring the lines between them. You may answer work e-mails while you eat, tend to your cabbages on Farmville while you commute or map your urban excursions on some 3G gadget (I would probably still be wandering around Whitechapel in the dark if not for my girlfriend’s shiny iPhone). Silva correctly asserts that far from disconnecting people from their physical environments, as has been widely suggested, these new technologies instead enrich and expand one’s connection to the physical realm.
I noticed a funny example of this dramatic shift of spaces, personal, public, physical and private on the bus to uni the other day. A fellow student sitting beside me flipped open his iPhone and began to use the gay dating/social networking application Grindr which allows the user to identify fellow gay users in the vicinity including such detailed information as how far away a fellow user is in metres. Naturally, I assumed he was just trying to see f I was on it, of course, but it still struck me as a notable shift in perceptions of space and privacy. Mobile applications allow us to be completely private in public and vice versa.
Play or game space has always been one that’s been considered an alternative space, “outside” of reality. HRGs shatter this distinction via their ability to transcend confined game space (such as a board, or video-game level). The main tenets of these games are that they merge these spheres, they are collaborative, usually requiring group action to progress, and require a development of trust. As in all play space the “fun still derives from the assumption of interacting with another and specifically from the potential of interaction” (Fink, 1974), so the attraction is social and social engagement. The creation of social spaces requires three elements: the material, physical practices, representations of space and the spaces of representation (Lefebvre 1991). These games satisfy each, the physical urban environment the game takes place in, its digital representation and finally the constructed, fictional narratives that blur with the ordinary space of the city (Silva, 2008).
Silva talks about how these games, such as I Like Frank (2004), Botfighters and Mogi, forces the player to re-evaluate the physical space they inhabit and can promote exploration and discovery of physical spaces through location based objectives. But the games also force personal and socio-spacial renegotiations also. The anonymity granted by the user allows for “a safe environment for experimenting with one’s identity” (Silva, 451) and thus the blurred boundaries between digital and physical spaces may extend to personal ones. Also, in order to be part of the game and interact with other users, tracking their movements, etc., one must allow oneself to be tracked, which requires an act of trust in the other players. They must have the interests of the game at heart and must enforce each other. Although trusting online teammates can be tricky business as the anonymous and consequence-free nature of the art can allow users to simply leave instantly if they become frustrated.
We see here in this video the Augmented reality creating Hybrid space by overlaying the real image with new digitalised data, mediating reality through technology into a narrative. I believe that as gaming tastes and trends continue to expand further than repetitive first-person shooter nonsense and into the more lucrative markets of iPhone games and apps we’ll probably see more diverse and engaging HRGs, which will connect users through their negotiation and exploration of this new hybrid environment.
There is, as ever, potentially a dark-side to the seemingly innocuous fun. To engage in the Hybrid space you must connect using a variety of social media tools and applications which continually gather data on the user in order to function. Take an iPhone’s GPS orFourSquare’s grotesque “checking-in” function. HRGs run the risk of joining the aforementioned applications as agents promoting the normalisation of surveillance culture. It allows private firms to collate inordinate amounts of data on users, allows them to track not only our tastes and behaviours but also where exactly we are at any given time and as usual, the user gives this to them on a platter. As ever the users will be complicit in their own exploitation. The hybrid space allows for many interesting, innovative and unprecedented social interrelationships and is undeniably shaping the ways in which we negotiate space, physically, digitally and mentally but it may come at the cost of true privacy.
De Souza E Silva, Adriana. “Playing Life and Living Play: How Hybrid Reality Games Reframe Space, Play, and the Ordinary.” Critical Studies in Media Communication25.5 (2008): 447+..
De Souza E Silva, Adriana. “From Cyber to Hybrid Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces.” Space and Culture (2006): 261-278
Growing up in Ireland as an English kid with chip firmly attached to shoulder I always expected moving back to Blighty would in some form feel like coming home. After shouldering the guilt of 700 years of oppression, rape and imperialism I spent my misinformed teenage youth using Morrissey lyrics to express my complex dual heritage, and pretty much, any other state of being I was feeling (intensely) at the time. I think I even once told a girl that she was the one for me, “fatty” (she had rather chunky calves).
Upon arriving in this strange land, replete with its chunky, randomly sized currency, its busy, buzzy pace and politely curt attitude I realised for the first time that I wasn’t of this isle either. London is still magic, just less magical once the tube becomes just the way to get home rather than the rollercoaster of your memory. It feels as though I’ve being playing Life on Easy Mode, living in Galway. Easy Mode is fun but your achievements always seem worth more when the difficulty settings are raised a dash.
Relocating to the city of Brighton, on the south-most tip of the UK has been illuminating. Hipsters. Many hipsters. I immediately felt underdressed for catching the bus to uni and was just gobsmacked by what seemed like a parade of Urban Outfitters models. One difference I’ve picked up here is the value placed on buying tons of shit. There’s a real focus on high-street clothes and a fixation on brands I’ve not encountered before. I always thought this whole “materialist, valueless generation” thing was invented by the media to have something to complain about but these kids would really nick trainers in a riot. Also, no one needs glasses that big. I’m just jealous, really.
I’ve come across some odd little things in my short time here. The strangest of which I put down to having consumed the last four episodes of BBC’s brilliant Sherlock on the gorgeous iPlayer (Nationalist independence cost us this valuable asset, for shame). Anyway, I was wandering down St.James street with my girlfriend toward the Old Stein when we spotted a seemingly homeless man begging outside of Sainsbury’s; our intended destination. Hands in pockets I puffed up my upper lip and pulled a sheepish gurn, planning to avoid eye-contact: the universal gesture for “Really sorry mate I am a really socially conscious liberal guy who feels your plight and others like you and would love to help you in anyway but I’m really skint right now and the money in my pocket is purely for the Coke can I desperately need, really sorry I’m not evil don’t judge me”. Coming against us was a rather smartly dressed man, suit/tie and expensive jacket and when he passed the beggar he pulled from his inside pocket a small, black object (a mobile, mp3, something electronic and glossy) and tosses it to the weary vagabond. The homeless man, unperturbed swiftly dematerialised the object within his own tatty jacket and continued to beg visibly. The two never shared eye-contact or acknowledged eachother in any way. So I’m all…
The homeless man is young, mid to late twenties, piercing on the left nostril, well kept, his hair is short, and though his clothes are tatty and worn there appears to be a considered colour palette of browns, oranges and faded yellows that would fit our expectations of a beggar and my sandy-haired virtual Watson of a girlfriend points out that he looks very clean. That’s what I need, you see, a “normal” perspective and my unparalleled mind misses all the sappy human elements! The “spy” is similarly aged, dressed businessman like…and…er…he…um…SPY….that’s all the Sherlocking I can do. And it leads me nowhere. But I can tell you one thing. They were crap spies.
The Royal Pavilion was a strange place indeed. Go there for the opulence, the grandeur, the tearooms, but most of all go there for Dragon.
Other points of interests include the three mass evictions I’ve witnessed from buses through town, along derelict buildings on the Old Stein. Loads of bailiffs and specialist coppers running into squats and dwells taking on their elemental nemeses, hippies. I imagine it must be like a Star Fleet officer finally getting to fire phasers at Klingons for these baton-happy bobbies. Why do these damn hippies hate freedom so much? Why can’t they be happy with the myriad choices and freedoms they already have? And if they can’t afford it they should chose a loan! Dirty commie, hippies. The best part was the running commentary from the two wiggers in the back of the bus.
“Look at dem cops, look at dem run, bruv,”
“Rah, bruv! Rah!”
I ended up following their conversation the entire way home, trying in vain to decode its complex, hybridised lexicon.
“I was on my onesie, yeah, and I spotted a berserker and I said ‘yeah sexy momma, get on this coal train!'”
“No way, did you say that, bruv”
“Is it like one on one?”
“Yeah, twenty ones. One on one on one on one.”
All I conclude was that they must have been part of the same network as the Homeless Spy and knew I was onto them. Their back and forth was a mixture of secret MI6 speak and genuine interest in sexy mommas.