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Monday, May 30, 2011

The Oscars Have become a Simulacrum - Cloning - The Inscription of the Body

This is in no way meant to denigrate fine performances from the past. But we are no longer there anymore. No one wants to go back to wearing corsets. Why do you want to look at women who do on a screen? Just producing a reality that is gone for the purpose of selling and consuming nostalgia.

Who can take them seriously now. They give them for stuttering, ballet dancing, walking on your knees to be short (Jose Ferrer in Toulouse-Lautrec), being deaf (Jane Wyman), being deaf (Matlin who is), singing (Reese Witherspoon, drunk (Ray Milland), a boxer, all sorts of highly specialized skills that professional people have in their chosen professions but that actors and actresses (I like the sound  of the word  actress), have to laboriously learn and acquire for a role to be realistic. Gaining weight, losing weight, all sorts of deformities and disabilities, extreme sports, etc. Oh and let me add all the CGI and special effects.

These are all literal acquisitions to create the illusion of reality. Since when does the production of reality require illusion? When it has disappeared, that's when. Inception, Social Network, Hanna, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, are four wondrous films requiring only superb acting rather than tricks. Rob Pattinson's girlfans (all ages), want to see him do tricks to do character parts in the future. Aren't there any fat actors, skinny ones, dancers, singers, blind and deaf ones?


Obviously they haven't understood any of Cronenberg, nor Cosmopolis. Cronenberg has repeatedly addressed this theme of technology interfacing with the body. Have you watched his films? All their dreams and wishes for Rob in the future are, without exception, for roles that are completely retro, the production of reality taking place in linear, historical time. If you understand Cosmopolis why would you want that for him?

Here's an exceptionally informed poster at robsessed saying just what I just ranted against.

nikola6 replied to themselves


Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd and Alice 

In Wonderland. Do you suppose his fans had shit fits over how 

he buried his beauty for those roles? Or were they in awe?

Nicole Kidman was unrecognizable in The Hours and won the 

Oscar for her efforts. And yes, Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid 

Of Virginia Woolfe? She aged herself 20 years and got fat to 

play the 50ish Martha (Bette Davis wanted the role). How 'bout 

Ralph Fiennes burnt beyond recognition in The English Patient?

I could sit here and type out examples all night. Personally, I 

can't wait for Rob to shave his head or put on the weight when 

the role calls for it. I want him to knock those critics on their 

asses. And they're especially rough on "pretty boys". Pretty boys 

almost always have to ugly themselves up in order to gain a little 

respect. Critics didn't start to take Tom Cruise seriously till he 

gained the weight and shaved his hair to play Ron Kovic in Born 

On The Forth Of July. When did George Clooney win his Oscar? 

When he gained 40 lbs.

Rob's fans best prepare themselves. Or...sit his "character" roles 

out. Which is what I would call...a fair weather fan.
This is Hollywood's preferred method of CLONING! Get it! 

Taylor Lautner is a recent example. This is really about the destruction of beauty. The destruction of illusion. Who in the fuck wants to watch that! Look at DeNiro now for crissakes! Is that what you want for Rob?  And Elizabeth Taylor deliberately destroying her beauty and then going under the knife to try to get it back. Madness. Oh and Matt Damon's body after Bourne.

The Inscription of the Body:

Modern society is perverse, not because it has tried to repress sex and succeeded only  in producing deformed expressions of the sexual instinct, but because of the type of power it has brought to bear on the body. Far from limiting sexuality, it has extended its various forms, penetrating it with its power..... those identified with certain places (the home, the school, the prison - (my addition:Hollywood producers and actors) - all correspond to precise procedures of power. They are extracted from people's bodies, from the infinite possibilities of their pleasures, and frozen into a particular rigid stance (read Taylor Lautner). (Michel Foucault The Will to Truth-Alan Sheridan p. 175-6)

As Foucault demonstrated at length in "Surveiller et Punir" it is these micro-mechanisms of power that, since the late 18th century, have played an increasing part in the management of people's lives through direct action on their bodies: they operate not through a code of law, but through a technology of normalization, not by punishment, but by control, at levels and in forms that go beyond the state and its machinery.... We must free ourselves from this image of power as law and sovereignty, says Foucault, if we are to understand how power actually operates  in our technologically advanced societies. Foucault has two aims in this proposed series of studies: to show that sex - an area where, above all others, power seems to function in terms of prohibition - is not, in fact, subjected to power in this way and, second, to formulate an alternative theory of power, 'another grid for deciphering history'. 'We must at the same time conceive of sex without the law and power without the king.'(Sheridan MFTWTT 183)

.... Power is ubiquitous, not because it is able to assemble everything under its invincible unity, but because it is produced at every moment, at every point, or rather in every relation of one point with another. (Sheridan MFTWTT 184)

 Power is everywhere: not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere...One should probably be a nominalist in this matter:  power is not an institution, nor a structure, nor a possession. It is the name we give to a complex situation in a particular society. (Foucault's History of Sexuality 93)
This inscription of the body penetrates the organs, the muscles, tendons, cellular structure, skin, blood flow, heart rate,  in fact, the entire body outside and in.

To demand that an actor gain weight, lose weight, etc is to exert a certain kind of power over the body by capitalistic entities is to inscribe the body, to change it often permanently and this is demanded now if one is to inhabit the skin of the character.  It is clear none of these people have seen Grotowski or Yoshi Oida become fat, thin, starving, old, a child, crippled,  weeping, laughing hysterically, sexual, repulsive with thousands of faces at each moment and all before their eyes while they are just standing there in front of you. This recent emphasis on the literal is mind boggling. Wanting Rob as Eric Packer to work out until his chest is excessively barreled is sheer stupidity. Yoshi Oida could stand there before you and create the illusion of a huge barreled chest in minutes. What is this obsession with working out?

And why are Rob's fans so in thrall to this absurd and controlling ignorance of the suits?

The Hollywood suits hate Robert Pattinson.  Rob has adulated Cronenberg in public at the Golden Globes. They hate Cronenberg who pokes fun at them. Rob did not come up through the ranks. He did not serve his time. He did not proceed by slow progression (linear time ghosting) to achieve stardom. He does not espouse all that they hold dear. Instead he reads, for crissakes. Books! Can you imagine that! He talks about them, he talks about auteurs like Godard who sticks his finger at commercial films. Even his own that succeed he sees something wrong with them. Robert Pattinson is here because of one seventeen year old girl who said, "It has to be Rob." "She threatened me," says Catherine Hardwicke.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: Reading Black Swan Through Foucault and Baudrillard and Nietzsche

Black Swan
Jean Baudrillard-Forget Foucault
Becoming a professional ballerina begins at age 3 to 4. Nina's mother  planned this for her, so Nina was caught in the grid of power/knowledge from the beginning, which Foucault defined and wrote about his entire life. It is obvious she had no wiggle room. Ever.

As she rehearses for her role we are treated to a particular kind of torture of the body. The Inscription of the Body begins with a ballet dancer immediately with the classes. We are shown her master teacher's back where every muscle and tendon is delineated under a skin so devoid of any excess, or fat, that it is transparently stretched over the skeletal structure beneath. To feel each individual muscle in her back where vestigial wings can be imagined she digs with her fingernails to create pain to give her the muscular feedback she requires. When her mother sabotages her self torture, she employs tiny screws to dig in to make each muscle and tendon perceivable as she practices. Reading through Nietzsche this is why she does it: to bring each fiber into her consciousness. To feel so acutely she can move her arms as if they really are wings. She has the knowledge of a lifetime of training to know how to do this role, to perform a technically perfect interpretation.

But she does not have the emotional experience to play the Black Swan.

In experimenting on herself sexually she is watched while she sleeps and is left no alternative but to break out of her cage at home, but the cage of the dance studio is even more confining. There the grid of power/knowledge is absolute, totalitarian. She has no chance. Success will only delay her inevitable replacement, her future to teach others, or to follow her predecessor into disfigurement. No. Way. Out.

Leda and the Swan   by W. B. Yeats

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                    Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

And this is where Baudrillard begins his defiant challenge to Foucault in his Forget Foucault. Baudrillard sees Foucault has come to the edge of the abyss. But he says that he stops. This is the end of linear time, the end of history and the leap is into Simulation. When simulation is total, then we will be in Virtual Reality.

It is the terrorist model to bring about an excess of reality, and have the system collapse beneath that excess. - Baudrillard

Living under complete surveillance and terrorism, Nina leaps into the Symbolic Order of Impossible Exchange, an excess of reality paired with Sacrificial Death.

I wanted to be perfect, she says. All perfection is destined for death.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Simulacrum Now:The Afternoon I sat Across The Table From Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole--Mona Lisa
One Sunday afternoon I sat across the table from Nat King Cole. My high school friend Jinny Poad (Zechman)had an uncle Jack in California who played the bongos (he taught Marlon Brando to play them) with NKC and his trio, or was it a quartet with the bongos? The year had to be 1951 or 1952. We were invited by her uncle to Chubby's in New Jersey - Cherry Hill then? New Jersey served liquor on Sundays so Chubby's had an afternoon matinee and we were there. I think there may have been one other table with people.

Between sets the band sat at our table. We sipped sodas but the band did not. Nat King Cole came a little later and sat with us, across from me. All his images on google do not look the way he looked that day. Perhaps he was irked at having to perform for so few people. Maybe it hadn't been a good tour. The photo above is the closest I could find.

Actually his face was terrifying. Cold as stone with eyes like a snakes. Knife blade thin face. Chilling. He did not say a word but then I guess we were too intimidated to say anything to him. He sat and drank and smoked until the next set. As I contemplate this afternoon in my memory I think he was probably high - heroin? grass? - hard to say. I think from time to time of Natalie Cole and what he was like for her as a father. He was completely still except when he drank or smoked. And he sang Mona Lisa that afternoon. So I have linked it above. But his performance was entirely different from this 1961 link than it was that day in the early 50's. He was already a big star then but there he was performing in this shabby club on a Sunday afternoon for an almost empty room.

Of course now he is dead but his images and his music are digitally stored and circulate globally. He is now a simulacrum. A simulacrum is a copy without an original. All people will know of him now is what is stored on disc so I thought I would write something about him that day. He made me afraid but of what I didn't know.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Water For Elephants: Reese Witherspoon is Electrifying!

Water for Elephants

Just this past Saturday night I saw the film. There were about five of us getting a private screening in the multiplex.  Reese Witherspoon gave one of the finest performances I've ever seen. I have not been complimentary of her in the past and I apologize for my stupidity in writing about her "new tricks" for this performance before I saw her. The trailers create a different impression but what else is new.

Her Marlena is so finely nuanced that she is a wonder to watch. Face to face with Pattinson her expressions screw up, her mouth tightens into a hard, harsh line, and we can glimpse the embittered woman that is emerging in her present life with August. How brave she is to do this! Not a seductive gaze to be seen as she talks to him across the table before August comes to join them. This is a woman from the working class or lower middle class with no illusions. Aware of the illusion she creates in her performances she thinks she is nothing in real life. She sees into this woman as Sarah Gruen could never have had the creative expertise to write her, as Lawrence the obtuse director could never have guided her, as the clueless screenplay skimmed over. (You're a beautiful woman, you deserve a beautiful life. So if you're ugly you deserve an ugly life? Gimme a break.) Marlena is not only tough, but she sees herself in the present and where she is heading down the line. Jacob's comment about the dry skin of Rosie does not escape her notice. She is not old but no longer young.

"Where were you when I was seventeen?" she says to Jacob. Well Jacob was somewhere in school. But she means that there were no young men around like him then just as there are no young men like Rob Pattinson around now.

The complaints about the sex scene and the lack of high powered chemistry between the two have been moaned over.

Get this straight. Marlena finally loves Jacob, but she does not fall in love with him. And there is the difference. He is fascinated with her, not in love, just absolutely fascinated and accepts the responsibility for this and what has occurred because of it. Inexperienced and innocent his feelings have been the catalyst for the crazed jealousy of August. (Go to Freud's explanation of paranoia for this if you are curious.) The sex scene in the hotel has been criticized for the lack of chemistry also. Lawrence has received not a little of it in that he has had no experience in directing romantic scenes. But Marlena is not a romantic, although she has been seducing him.  Jacob is attractive, educated, wants her, and he is responsible. And she loves him. Who wouldn't. It seems everyone learns to love him so why would she be any different. But so passionate that it has to be a steamy sex scene? No. It's a first time between two people who have not really committed themselves to each other. And one of them is fairly innocent. That the old Jacob has romanticized their relationship is true. But he is old and alone and his children are not very devoted. Jacob tells her he will get his degree, they will go to Ringling, all practical words to convince her of his intentions. When she is dragged away and he is beaten he plods after her. But knife in hand he cannot even kill August for her. Marlena looks at him with her bruised eye with the sleeping August's arms around her  and her look says it all. It's up to you if you want to kill for me. I won't urge you nor will I object. And in the book and film Jacob calls to Rosie in panic as he sees what she is going to do. Fortunately he cannot stop her and Rosie does it for him.

This is not a passion-love/death scenario. These are two people planning a future in the hotel room and as they go off to Ringling. As we see Jacob in his nineties, it is obvious that he has needed mollifying from time to time like August and Marlena knew this. He also maybe drinks just a little bit too much. Their children are not exactly adoring and attentive to him in his old age, and Marlena, while she is affectionate, is not sentimental with her horses, nor probably with her children. Caring yes, but also expecting certain types of behavior from them. Is all this in the book? In the screenplay? Hell no. Gruen could never have imagined it all nor does she have the ability to put it into words.

But Reese does exactly all that. We get a Marlena not on paper between covers, not in the screenplay nor in the flat footed direction. We get it from the experience and courage and intuitive imagination of Reese Witherspoon.

Waltz is very good but his is a watered down Landa from Inglourious Basterds. That he gave up the role of Jung with Cronenberg for this film makes me wonder about his real sanity.

As for Rob Pattinson, Lawrence has used him 99% of the time as eye-candy. And he has been there many times before (The Haunted Airman, Harry Potter). He is completely aware of this. He has the uncanny ability to send his feelings out in vibrations that have nothing to do with the character he is playing. I was anxious halfway through the film, feeling his discomfort. He is in every single scene. His face is very up close and personal in almost every shot. Baudrillard's analysis of the face as pornography says it all. Jacob/Pattinson is beaten up a lot, his face bruised, swollen and bloody. Hollywood used to do this to women a lot until the feminists protested this model for men. Now they use it as a femme sign for Rob Pattinson and since he is a male it is OK. It is NOT OK to use gratuitous sadism/masochism vented on a face to induce sexual stimulation, whether that actor is male or female. It is gratuitous period, like soft porn for no other reason than to sell tickets. And Lawrence has done the same with Rosie only that has backfired on him with real allegations. Reese and Christoph are constantly in the background, and it is as if Lawrence is saying he expects Rob Pattinson to be his ticket to success in the big time world of Hollywood directors. So he has planned all along in seducing Rob with Tai and jumping on the Pattinson bandwagon. Then he trots him out all over the world to make sure the foreign sales are up.

Simply, he is pimping Rob's face. Rob knows this and has no way of objecting. Lawrence does not dare interfere with Reese's interpretation of her role, nor Waltz's, but he controls the way Rob is seen with his camera. And his editing. Emile Hirsch would have been a better choice for the integrity of the film as he would have been expected and allowed to interpret his character instead of be a face. So any criticism of Rob Pattinson is NOT deserved.

I guess I could go on but who wants me to. I don't even want to.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Gender Ambiguity and Judith Butler : Gender Trouble; Bodies That Matter; Undoing Gender; Giving An Account of Oneself

Breaking Dawn Photo Shoot=Summit

Judith Butler

Judith Butler Illustration
Undoing Gender
Bodies That Matter
I am at a loss as to why Scummit would release the above photo of Edward and Bella from the Breaking Dawn shoot. At robsessed there has been a lot of discussion about gender ambiguity, especially as it concerns Rob and the way young men perceive him, talk about him, shun his films, etc. I don't think he has ever been photographed any more femme than in this one, so why would they do it? Do they not see? And the oooohs of the young fans (young?) over this one in the comments following it  are very enthusiastic and drooley.   Are they releasing it to appeal to gay men and gay women? Conscious or unconscious? 

As simply as possible Butler is analyzing gender as socially constructed and she is speaking about the body, the mind, gestures, thinking, and all performative signs indicating gender. Now these signs are becoming mixed, they are acting as masks, or they are simply empty signs. 
Gender Trouble

Let's look at male six-packs. Rob has said he thinks all that is silly but he is willing to work out for a role. A six-pack is a butch, macho, male sign. Without it you are considered femme, unmanly. It is also considered as an inverse sign, a mask of masculinity, masking an underlying femininity. Are you with me so far?

Women have now given up the cast down eyes, the submissive gestures, but they have also botoxed their faces, plumped their lips, and had silicone injected in their breasts to enlarge them and produce cleavage. Not seductive cleavage, but produced cleavage to signal a sex sign of femme. 
Gender is no longer sexed. Anything goes. Justin Timberlake in Social Network as Sean Parker played Parker as emitting transsexual signs. The way Rob stubbed out his cigarette in Remember Me was drag. Men and women are playing at this. Kristen signals masculine signs in aggressive gestures sometimes. Her approach to her career has been active, while Rob's has been passive. 

David Bowie Ground Control to Major Tom youtube
These are all the things Judith Butler is writing, speaking, lecturing and teaching. She will be at Columbia in the spring semester of 2012 and 2013 in comparative literature.  She is a visiting professor and is actively being wooed to leave Berkeley to come to New York. Anyone who is in the area, I suggest you find a way to attend her lectures. Usually someone of this prominence often has open lectures that can be attended by people not studying for credit.