Thursday, March 25, 2010

The (not so) Great 3D Conversion

Even as Avatar fell short in the major categories at the Oscars, 3D has begun to grow in popularity amongst not just fans, but studio heads looking for increased revenue streams. As movie studios salivate over dreams of Avatar-size paydays, the technology is beginning to get a major look from producers of not just schlocky kids movies, but big-budget films, as well.

This recent push for more 3D in our movie theaters was bolstered by the success of Tim Burton's take on Alice in Wonderland. Unlike a film such as Avatar, though, Alice was not originally intended to be 3D fare. Instead, the movie was converted into the burgeoning format after being shot. It is currently being speculated that other films, such as the newest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as well as the Lord of the Rings prequels that comprise The Hobbit, are next in line for a 3D conversion. The films, shot on regular 2D equipment, can be retrofitted by studios to include the 3D elements that helped make Avatar pop to the tune of over $2.5bln worldwide.

There has been a push, however, against such conversions, and against a major rush to 3D, by man. Leading the charge, as unlikely as it seems, are none other than James Cameron--Avatar's creator--and Michael Bay.

Yes, you read correctly. Michael. Bay.

The "mastermind" behind Pearl Harbor and the Transformers films, is against the rush to make 3D a mainstay and begin converting 2D films into 3D. Bay's argument is that the technology, particularly that of conversion in post-production, is not tested enough, and may harm his (admittedly) technically complicated films.

Words I never thought I would say in my entire life: Michael right.

As beautiful as Pocahontas 2 Avatar was, Cameron spent years perfecting the look of the film. It didn't just become the 3D magic that won the world overnight in post-production. Cameron shot the whole thing in 3D, and always intended for it to be done that way. When we start rushing to put everything into 3D, just because studios can squeeze an extra $3 per ticket out of it, the art form -- of both 3D and cinema -- loses it's touch. Innovation comes in second place behind profit. From this, we may never actually gather how great 3D could be (if Avatar was the beginning, what's on the horizon?) if we stifle it by throwing it onto everything and driving audiences away by making them sick and tired of the concept and using easy methods instead of the right ones.

A hardly tested method should always lose out against true artistic development and innovation.

When even Michael Bay thinks so, it's probably best we stand back and let 3D develop a little more before we convert everything into the medium.

--Tommy Morgan Jr.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sensationalize Me - Trap of the Tyra Show

The TV in my apartment is notoriously broken. "Oh yea, we only have channel," the roommates and I are constantly saying to confused friends and visitors. I don't know if it's because we don't pay for cable or if it's just plain broken, but the TV is permanently stuck on the CW. This hasn't caused any huge issues as we either don't much TV (the roommates) or watch everything online (me).

When I came back to Iowa City from Spring early, the quiet of our normally hectic apartment freaked me out a little. I figured a little background noise would be good and turned on my TV. The Tyra Banks Show (just Tyra?) was on - this is how I lost many precious hours.

With titles like "Help, My Teen is Beating Me!" and "The Woman with Two Vaginas!" and "I'm Desperate to Get Rich Off My Kids," I should've recognized the trap on the screen. My Sensational Fiction professor would probably pinpoint "descriptive language," "stimulating visuals," and "the displaying of domestic private." I'm just going to call it the OMFG factor.
The OMFG factor works like this:
1) a person of "authority," in this case Tyra Banks, shares with us that something shocking, horrifying, disgusting is about to be revealed. This must be done in a somber voice with as much gravity as possible.
2) The audience is set up to feel a certain emotion - "the following might offend or disturb you."
3) A member of the "fringe" community is out on display for the audience to divulge in our voyeuristic tendencies from a distance.
4) We to feel okay in judging others - cause I mean, there is a whole live audience there! Besides, eating your own scab is weird, amirite?
Of course, this is really just my lame justification for watching a trashy daytime show. But at least, I'm not watching Maury.
- Alyssa Marchetti

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mom or Dancing Diva - can Kate be both?

Last night was the premiere of the newest season of Dancing with the Stars. Although I am not religious about watching this show, there were a few people who I thought would be interesting to see attempt to dance their hearts out.

Kate Gosselin is one contestant that I found impressive to be on the show. Maybe impressive is not the right word, crazy might be more like it. Yes, she has gone through a really rough time in the past couple years. Yes, she has a lot on her plate with books, and appearances, and an asshole of an ex-husband. And yes, she has 8 kids!
I am simply amazed about where Gosselin finds the time to participate in a competition that requires such rigorous training. She had a quasi-dance studio built in the basement of her home to train for the show, in order to be accessible to her kids. This seems like a good idea, but I don't think it would be easy to learn the Viennese Waltz or the Cha-Cha with 8 kids running circles around you. As a single mother of 8, it seems like there is a better allocation of her time than proving to television audien
ces that she has hot dance moves.

Don't get me wrong, Kate looks great lately. Without the trail of ducklings behind her, one wouldn't be able to tell by her appearance that she is a mother. Nonetheless, I think Kate Gosselin peaked as a frumpy mom who was carrying six fetuses. At this time, she and her then caring husband worked together gracefully to bring their babies into a loving family. Things in her life have turned a 180 since then.

On the show last night, Kate proved that this gig might be a bit too much. In the clips from rehearsal, she looked like she was far from enjoying herself. Her performance lacked enthusiasm and energy, despite her hunky partner. The judges were kind in reaction to her effort, but not so much to her ability. It doesn't look like she will be a hit for long on the show.

-by Hannah Kramer

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TV Tuesday

I love Tuesdays. Tuesday could possibly be the best TV day of the week, just saying. Not only is American Idol on tonight, but for those of you who don't know the wonderful world of the CW, 90210 returned tonight.

This is the last week for the girls to impress the judges, and more importantly, the American viewers. After this week, it will go to the Top 12-- six girls and six guys. But, as the previous two weeks, two guys and two girls will be sent home. So, as Simon said, this would be the worst week to go home. As you all know-- or should know-- Kelly Clarkson is my favorite artist. So, when Katie Stevens, one of my favorite girls of the season, started the show with Kelly's song "Breakway" I was excited. But only to be let down a little. It was an okay version of it. Katie has gone down a notch or two. Siobhan still scares me. But, putting all my preconceived judgements of her aside, the girl has an amazingly intense voice. Snaps for Siobhan. My sister loved Lacey Brown. Me? Not so much. I'm not a fan of high pitched voices. Sorry, Lace. The Iowa native Katelyn Epperly gave a pretty boring performance. But I still love the tone of her voice. She's still one of my favs. What's it with all of these girls having good voices, but giving boring performances? Didi Benami is the next to fall victim to this trend. Great voice, great song. Boring performance. Show emotion, girls! Another victim of the night-- Paige Miles. Crystal Bowersox made the hour of my life watching this show absolutely worth it. Good song? Check. Good voice? Check. Good performance? CHECK! She was definitely the stand out of the night. "She's ruining Patsy song,"- my roommate on Lilly Scott's performance. I couldn't have said it better myself. Here's the Idol night in summary: Crystal was the best of the night, the rest of the girls need to spice it up.

As for 90210, I've had this date marked and highlighted with stars and sparkles for about three months. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely!! Jasper is a freak. It's not fair that he's putting Annie in the situation where she can't break up with him. I've never liked him, and this just adds to it. Dixon upset me when he told Teddy that him and Silver were getting back together. Yes, I like Dixon and Silver together. But I want Silver and Teddy together sooooo bad!!! They both want each other-- stop denying it already. As for the lesbian hookup that's rumored to happen on the show, I'm willing to bed it's Adrianna and Gia. I'm still torn between whether or not I want Liam and Naomi to be together. I found their awkward conversation and "perfect, romantic date" to be a bit comical. And I found Naomi screaming desperate when she showed up to the beach club naked. Ugh, she can be annoying sometimes. Ah! Harry had the best quote of the night. "3 words: WTF?" The best part is-- he's the principal. Called it!! Adrianna and Gia are so going to keep hooking up. And to end it, Jasper sucks.

Here's one last thing I think you should all check out before this fantastic Tuesday ends. It's a song: All I Ever Wanted by Kelly Clarkson. It's currently her new single that was released to radio stations today. It's not the best song on the album, but you should still give it a try! :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Iraqi Metal Band Acrassicauda Makes Some Noise

Acrassicauda not only writes songs about the devastation of war - the Iraqi metal band has witnessed it first-hand.

Since forming in 2001, the band (who was the focus of the documentary Heavy Metal Baghdad) dealt with the bombing of its practice space and its members received numerous death threats for being "Satan worshippers" and playing "Westernized music."

After deciding it was too dangerous to stay in their hometown of Baghdad, the band members took refuge in Syria, then Turkey, and finally the U.S.

Now the group is preparing to release its debut EP, Only The Dead See The End Of The War, which hits stores tomorrow. As cool as the story is behind this band, even more amazing is the music these guys play. It is some awesome old school sounding heavy metal music, which is refreshing to hear no matter where you live.

For more information on the band, check out this article from The New York Times and while doing that, listen to the band's first single, "Garden of Stones", below.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

AIDS Awareness, Gaga Style

Lady Gaga and '80s pop icon Cyndi Lauper recently teamed up to raise awareness about AIDS as it affects the female population. Gaga and Lauper want the public at large to realize that AIDS is not a primarily gay disease, despite many preconceptions that still exist in society.

The pair, seen above, were photographed for the MAC AIDS Fund / Viva Glam, and are two recognizable faces that will surely get the program some great publicity, especially for such a noble cause. Lauper lost several close friends to the disease in the '80s and '90s, and Gaga firmly believes that women need to make their opinions known, particularly when it comes to matters of the bedroom.

It is fantastic to see two strong and culturally powerful women promoting AIDS awareness. While the disease is, as aforementioned, a problem beyond the gay community, Gaga and Lauper are both great supporters of the community and the message will surely spread to and beyond its intended audience. To see celebrities that have genuine concern use their fame for the benefit of others is always admirable, and a continually refreshing concept in celebrity culture. Hopefully it inspires more to do the same!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Into the Heart of Darkness (Pt.1)

(Part one in a series)

Monday, I went into Chatroulette (visit at your own risk) for the first time. In doing so, I expected many things. Namely, depravity, insanity, and a whole lot of on-screen penis. Having read about the site—which connects you to any other user on the site at random, and allows you to either chat or move on to another person—and seen a bit about it on Comedy Central's Tosh.0, the stage was set for what I expected to be a modern day Heart of Darkness. I assumed it would be like Conrad's Africa or Bourdain's Cambodia—a lawless place where the depraved run free. Like 4chan, but with video.
When one first connects to Chatroulette, they are given a moment to set everything up before the adventure begins.
“Click 'Play' to start the game,” the menu says, taunting the user previously informed of the horrors to be found within.
After setting everything up, hit “Play,” and was greeted by, horror of horrors... empty chair. It was a nice chair—blue, modern, comfy-looking—but empty. In my first attempt to use this supposed great new way of connecting people the world over, I was left video-chatting with bored furniture. Great way to start, I'd say. I entered a simple “Hello, empty chair” into the chatbox, and was on my way. Suddenly, though, the owner of the chair appeared, and disconnected. I had survived my first encounter with Omegle's diseased sister.

From there, I became less scared, and a little more adventurous. I briefly chatted with a couple people, but wasn't really greeted by any of the supposed dangers of Chatroulette—like dicks. The lack of the elements of Chatroulette that have mythologized the site as a true Internet Heart of Darkness left me, oddly, somewhat disappointed. I didn't want to see the terrors I had heard about, but still felt that some essential part of the site was missing. The more fun parts, the weird signs, strange people dancing, and all the rest were absent along with the depravity.

Perhaps, as I justified this to myself, it was because I logged on in the middle of the day, meaning only college kids and bored people halfway across the world were on. I eventually logged off with the knowledge that I would get back on later, when the strange and perverted would be off of work.

-To Be Continued-

-Tommy Morgan Jr.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Highlights from the Sabrina Orah Mark Interview

I recently had the opportunity to talk poet Sabrina Orah Mark (who is reading at Prairie Lights tonight) about her newest collection of poems, Tsim Tsum. Here are some highlights from the interview:

Sabrina Orah Mark
Author of The Babies and
Tsim Tsum.
Fellowship recipent from: the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Glenn Schaeffer Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Georgia.
Her poems have appeared in: American Letters and Commentary, American Poet, Black Clock, The Canary, Conduit, Denver Quarterly, Forklift, Ohio, Gulf Coast, The Indiana Review, Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, and Best American Poetry 2007

Could you talk a little about the creative process behind Tsim Tsum? Why did you choose to continue with the two characters first introduced in The Babies?
Because I am a poet, my fascination with Tsim Tsum led me to wonder if I could enact this wondrous phase in Jewish mysticism poetically. Tsim Tsum is a Kabbalistic claim that a being cannot become, or come into existence, unless the creator of that being departs from that being. When I began Tsim Tsum, I had just finished my first book The Babies. One section of The Babies, entitled The Walter B. Interviews, introduce Walter B. and Beatrice, two figures who are hatched at the center of ruin. When the book was done I began to miss Walter B. and Beatrice. I wanted them to return to me, but because they already were goners (so to speak) I needed to make for them a field, a field contingent on being gone, on galut (exile), and meet them there.

In a Diagram review of The Babies, Shara Lessley related your poems to the “innermost psychological and emotional states.” Are these also conveyed in Tsim Tsum? What are some of the visceral feelings and sensations captured by this collection of poems?

I think any good poem should dwell in the “innermost.” I hope the poems in Tsim Tsum do. Because Walter B. and Beatrice live in a kind of galut (or exile), because they are immigrants in their native land, they are often marked by a bewilderment that in turn marks their visceral composition. Walter B.’s and Beatrice’s names echo BE, as in Beatrice’s imperative: Be Trice, as in W.B.’s imperative: Double You Be, as in to be, as in becoming, but they are not entirely yet. Ontologically they are to be out of the question. This dilemma asks that they hold a magnifying glass over their hearts, and when they do – even if it’s only to check to see if there is a heart where a heart should be – their emotional landscapes swell and go in and out of focus.
Your writing has been referred to by some as prose poems and flash fiction by others. How would you describe your style to someone not familiar with your work?

Prose poems, and I will explain why. Because Walter B. and Beatrice are figures harvested at the center of exile and disorientation, questions of existence and being are crucial. And so they need a home marked by homelessness, where everything is in exile, and where exile is where everything belongs, where emanation and imitation (or retreat and propagation) share the same breath...The architecture of the prose poem is the closest form I’ve found that resembles a home marked by all these things... The prose poem is an abyss, a shell, a vessel that captures a howl that echoes ghosts (those figures who circle exile and return). Here, like in the first moments of a Tsim Tsum, emanation and limitation share the same breath. And it s this space where I felt Walter B. and Beatrice could begin to speak.

Tsim Tsum, as I understand it, is the idea that beings cannot exist unless the creator departs from his creation. An "absence of God and presence of the void" concept. Would that have any relevance to writers and their writings? In a sense, you helped create the world of Walter B and Beatrice, how then have you departed from your creations?

I am very intrigued... [and] need to think about this for a long time. In the meantime, I will give you a short reply. There is, I think, for every poet a moment, whether brief or long lasting, when the world the poet creates begins to create for the poet a world unlike the world she assumes she lives inside. This switch blurs the boundary between the creator and the created thing. Who came first, the chicken poet or her poetry eggs? I swear there were times when I was deep in the book that I believed Beatrice and Walter B. had made me, and not the other way around. Perhaps this sounds lunatic, but this fact remains: their existence has altered my composition.

How has the Iowa Writers' Workshop influenced you as a writer?

The Iowa Writers’ Workshop was an absolute gift... [Before the Workshop,] I didn’t know how to measure necessity. The first poem I handed in was about a bridge made of dresses. I remember Mark Levine telling me that if I do not show how a bridge made of dresses could stand up, at the very least, then why does the bridge need to be a bridge at all. It took me about a year to figure out what he meant by that, but what I now understand by this is that he was asking me why the bridge was not a father made of dresses, or a cashew made of dresses – for that matter. What difference did it make? He taught me that it is necessary to make the things I make live on their own. [James] Galvin, like Levine, taught me that the poet must be responsible for the things the poet builds. There is a way, I finally understood, to make the make- believe believe in itself so that others can believe in it too. Even dreams need someone to plead for them their case.

-- Alyssa Marchetti

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jenni is back on the Block!

For the latter part of the decade, it seemed that Jennifer Lopez had fallen from the face of the entertainment industry. After ruling the radio waves and movie screens in the from 1999 till 2004, a lot has happened to the Puerto Rican bombshell from Queens NYC. Marriage, two kids, and well, age. Though the multitalented entertainer has released a string of new song collaborations with other Latin artists such as Miami-Based, Pitbull.

But the fans didn't come back and a younger generation of listeners cant recollect well on her past hits that were staples in the late 90's and 2000's. What's worse is that Jennifer was recently (reportedly) dropped from Sony Records subsidiary label Epic Records in late February. The nice version is to say that her conract was up. But we all know that Jenni from the block has lost some of her luster.

It all seemed to be tumbling down for the music giant, who was a pioneer during the Latin explosion in the late 90's, until last week when she got all of her mojo back. And boy did she.

Last weekend, Lopez hosted and headlined Saturday Night Live. The show was widely regarded by critics as a make or break move for the entertainer. Fortunately (or, not, for some) Jenni killed both in the skits and in her musical performances. Impersonating Rihanna, a Telemundo Winter Olympics broadcaster and a telethon singer, Jenni put on a show that no one thought possible. Unlike her awful movies, this time she was ACTUALLY funny. My favorite was the Telemundo skit.

SNL has been known to give new life to struggling A and B list celebrities, but this might lead to a new major breakthrough for the girl that stayed in her mansion and off the entertainment block for a while. We might see more of her or we might not. These days, no one can tell. All I can say is that she did a great job and should be allowed to return to glory.

If she doesn't? Well she's still very rich.
But if she does, lets pray that she act or produce in anymore wretchedly terrible movies.

Of course, that probably wont happen. And we know it.