The Year the Sight and Sound Poll Died

For over 60 years the British Film Institute (BFI) and Sight & Sound (I subscribe to) have published a list of the top 100 films of all time.  It’s a closed survey – they reach out to over 1000 directors, producers, critics etc. and only do it once every 10 years.  The idea is to not have a survey subject to the whims of the latest hot thing and that only people who should know what they are talking about should vote.

The last one was 2012.  Vertigo and Citizen Kane were #1 and #2.  I have been waiting  anxiously for this years poll.  In the cinema world this is a BIG deal.  It came out this morning.  A 1975 Film called  Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (yup – the whole thing) was voted #1.

A 3 hour movie about a Belgian disaffected part time prostitute female which excruciatingly follows her daily movements and life.  Purpose.  To expose the patriarchy and remind us all how oppressed women are.  A female director of course.  No DW Griffith or others (see below) even in the top 100.

How did this happen.  How did the most revered poll in cinema history come to this.  More female voters this time. Many aching at the chance to jump in and upvote a female director and a female story.  So… a clearly well thought of film that most people never heard of jumped from #35 in 2012 all the way to #1.  Ahead of Citizen Kane and Vertigo.  I’m still stunned.  Was going to post something to Twitter but then noticed that the self-proclaimed cinephiles on there – all of whom are progressives – are falling all over themselves to congratulate themselves and the world that a female directed film made #1.  Not wanting to be flamed I decided not to.

We have a process degraded by the need to make things right and check the boxes and get the “right” result.  Doomed is a strong word but the fellow below says it better than I could.

From a post called “The Year the Sight & Sound Poll Died”

“Earlier this year, I begged voters not to politicize the Sight and Sound poll. I felt like it was not just a possibility, but a potential inevitable, that voters would blur the lines between politics and cinema history.

I wrote: “A shake up is no doubt about to occur due to how hyperpoliticized things have become these last 10 years […] If there’s one thing I can plea for, with voters of this decade’s edition of the poll, is to please keep the woke politics out of it. No, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” and “Moonlight.”

Welcome to my nightmare.”

Indie Wire:

Old masters who once appeared in the Top 10 are gone from the Top 100 altogether: Rene Clair, D.W. Griffith, Robert Flaherty, Erich von Stroheim, Marcel Carne, and David Lean.Drudgery – this is #1 because – wait – it’s a woman’s film by a woman and you know – we all patronize and oppress them to the end of the world.  This poll now has zero meaning or credibility or attachment to the real world.


Play it As It Lays

Maria: I know something Carter never knew, or Helene, or maybe you. I know what “nothing” means, and keep on playing. BZ: Why? Maria: Why not, I say.

I almost fell over when I saw this smile in the closing seconds of “Play it as It Lays.” In my mind it ranked up there with Garbo on the bow of the ship in Queen Christina.

It’s Tuesday Weld in the 1972 film from the book with the same name by Joan Didion with Anthony Perkins. The film has been virtually lost. It’s not on streaming and unavailable as a DVD. It can be viewed on youtube thankfully.

I’ve been on a Joan Didion voyage the past week since her passing. It’s a hard film to watch and would have been better to read the book first.

It’s a cynical and acerbic story of a burned out B-Movie Actress that jumps and spins so rapidly it’s hard to follow. And that is intentional. The editing sets the pace and the emotional state of Maria (played by Tuesday Weld.) Rotten Tomatoes calls this: “an astringent, cynical movie that ultimately manages to spin one single timid thread of hope.”

In many ways it’s a precursor to Mulholland Drive. The abortion scene is one no one will forget. Too many memorable lines to quote here. This is my favorite: “Existentially, I’m getting a hamburger.”

Joan Didion on being an actress: “I wrote stories from the time I was a little girl, but I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be an actress. I didn’t realize then that it’s the same impulse. It’s make-believe. It’s performance. The only difference being that a writer can do it all alone. I was struck a few years ago when a friend of ours – an actress – was having dinner here with us and a couple of other writers. It suddenly occurred to me that she was the only person in the room who couldn’t plan what she was going to do. She had to wait for someone to ask her, which is a strange way to live.

Too Many Kisses

For what it’s worth, Father Kinsella taught us Catholic boys to be careful and keep our hands to ourselves and never to make a female uncomfortable. I’ve done the best I can to comport myself accordingly.

However, at the risk of making a controversial statement, I do not want to live in a 1984 world where people are walled off from each other and human contact is closely monitored and regulated. We all need touch. Any reasonable emotionally mature adult, male or female, can immediately sense the difference between abusive and dangerous behavior, creepy or mildly inappropriate behavior, or simple acts of affection.

Things are getting out of hand.

Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle


You’ve got to hand it to American writer Philip K. Dick. Writing in 1962 and with a 1962 setting, he created an alternative ending to World War 2 in which Germany and Japan have won the war and occupy the United States. Also hand it to Amazon for bringing the book to film in mid 2015.

Neither could have had any idea at the time who would be the President elect in 2017. So – it should be funny to listen to and read the hysteria surrounding the launch of Season 2 a couple days ago. And that’s how I’m going to view it.

This is eminently enjoyable cinema. That’s all. Great sets, an interesting plot and drama, excitement, and interesting characters. Right now I’m enjoying Fauda, Downton Abby, “Castle” (which I’ve been waiting for since last seasons’ end) and can’t wait to dig into “The OA” which just arrived on Netflix.

With all due respect to Newsweek, The NYT, and too many other sources to mention, there isn’t a boggy man hiding under evrey rock, and I think we’re going to be ok or better.



The Los Angeles Skyline and Another Day in Paradise


“The Science and Poetry of the Light in Los Angeles”
From the New Yorker (12/09/2016)

This piece struck me as I’ve been in love with the LA Skyline ever since I can remember. The orange tint, the palm trees, the skyscrapers, the freeways stretching in like long rivers of energy. Movies like “To Live and Die in LA” have made incredible use of the landscape and landmarks.

I remember vividly a day on the Harbor Freeway a few years ago as I drove in for something or other. The air off the freeway was bouncing off the pavement in the heat and the skyline was beckoning as if it contained the Wizard of Oz and all roads led to it. The radio (oddly around 3:00pm) announced that “The Real Don Steele” had died. Somehow all the energy left that scene in the middle of thousands of cars and all that activity. It may have been 3:00 o’clock but Boss Angles would never be the same.

As the author in the New Yorker article says: this is something one doesn’t forget. “In 1998, Lawrence Weschler, a transplant to the East Coast from Los Angeles, wrote for The New Yorker about an aspect of his home town that he missed so much that it could bring tears to his eyes: “That light: the late-afternoon light of Los Angeles—golden pink off the bay through the smog and onto the palm fronds. A light I’ve found myself pining for every day of the nearly two decades since I left Southern California.”


Your Kids Are Better Behaved Than You

(From the Daily Beast 08/07/2016)

This was heartening to read.


Your Kids Are Better Behaved Than You
Hard-partying Baby Boomer parents are more tolerant of drugs and alcohol, and their liberal attitudes may be paying off in an unexpected way.
Jared Keller
08.06.16 9:01 PM ET

There’s something terribly wrong with kids these days: a series of major surveys, conducted by the government every two years, suggest that they might just be the most well-behaved generation in recent memory.

Teens are increasingly swearing off alcohol, cigarettes, drugs like synthetic marijuana, and prescription painkillers, according to the latest survey of of more than 50,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey. For some illicit substances, such as cocaine and heroin, consumption has dropped to its lowest point since the MTF’s inception in 1975 (fading stigmas around marijuana consumption may be responsible for its relatively consistent popularity amid this decline). The most recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) shows that cigarette smoking is at its lowest level in 24 years—11 percent in 2015, down from 28 percent in 1991. Rates of underage sex, teen pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases have also declined according to a survey of 16,000 students by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The kids, apparently, are all right.

But why? Conventional wisdom suggests this shouldn’t be the case. This is a generation that’s taking its cues from their Baby Boomer parents, those 76 million Americans born roughly between 1946 and 1964 who are veterans of the sexual and psychedelic revolutions of the 1960s and 70s and launched the modern trends in risky behaviors measured by surveys like the MTF and YRBS. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Baby Boomers have maintained their hard-partying ways more than any other generation.

Parental attitudes towards addiction matter. Research suggests that children of addicted parents are more likely to develop substance abuse problems themselves—due to both modeling and lax oversight. A recent longitudinal study of adolescents between 1994 and 2008 confirms that parents with permissive attitudes tend to breed self-destructive behaviors in their children; by contrast, the children of authoritative parents (or were even connected to authoritative adults through friends) were “40 percent less likely to drink to the point of drunkenness, 38 percent less likely to binge drink, 39 percent less likely to smoke cigarettes, and 43 percent less likely to use marijuana.”

So why are today’s young people resisting the allure of binge-drinking and illicit drugs that ensnared their Boomer parents? Perhaps it is precisely due to Baby Boomers’ libertine drug experiences that their children are inclined to avoid substance abuse. This may not just be out of disgust with their parental cautionary tales. Thanks to their enthusiastic embrace of coddling- and self-esteem-focused helicopter parenting—Boomer parents may actually be better equipped to preemptively (and subsequently) engage their children in the type of interventions that help inoculate their kids against the risks of substance abuse.

Part of that progress is due to our increased knowledge about just what kind of interventions are effective in deterring drug use. Nancy Reagan’s famous “Just Say No” campaign in the 1980s catalyzed concern around adolescent drug use, but interventions that focused purely on abstinence or punishment (like, say, the armed police officer at the front of a D.A.R.E. session) tended to be ineffective. Programs centered on the threat of discipline — you’re going to get arrested, suspended or labeled a criminal in some other way — tend to alienate young people from seeking help from authority figures by perpetuating the stigma surrounding drug addiction, creating a gulf between young people and their parents. A 2014 examination of “just say no” programs by Scientific American found that the most effective substance abuse regimes focused on positive interactions between instructors and students that worked on developing social skills and behavioral norms. Skill development, including communication, goal setting, and negotiation, are the most important tools young people can learn regarding substance abuse, says Dr. Stephanie Zaza, the director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) which oversees the YRBS. “When students are confronted with an environment that has a lot of temptations, they need to be able to ask questions, talk things through, and stand up for themselves,” she says.

In other words, the same impulse that inspired Baby Boomers’ enthusiastic rebellion—the desire to push back against the strict traditions and institutions of their parents—led to a shift in parenting styles that incorporated their relatively lax views of alcohol and drug consumption with a less authoritative mode of parenting than they experienced as children themselves. More productive interventions (think “talk to your kids about drugs)” emerged as parenting methods of choice. These were widely embraced among open-minded Boomer parents with first-hand experience in the risky behavior they want to prevent. After all, the Boomers have always been “less moralistic about drug use” and more likely to blame society for their ills than their parents, as sociologist Robert Putnam observed in 2001; drugs are a problem to be addressed, not a behavior to be punished. Hell, Boomer parents are more likely to worry about bullying and depression than drug abuse, according to 2015 data from the Pew Research Center.

This change in approach seems to be paying off: A 2010 longitudinal examination of parenting practices across three generations (Gen X and older Millennial children, their Boomer parents and their “Greatest Generation” grandparents) published in Developmental Psychology found that the harsh discipline and overbearing monitoring Boomers experienced tended to catalyze externalized behavior problems like “poor impulse control and oppositional, aggressive, or delinquent behavior.” When harsh discipline was in turn handed down by Boomers, it also spurred bad behavior among their children. But Boomers, by contrast, also engaged in other forms parental monitoring (observing behavior, frank conversations and the like) that lacked harsh behavioral consequences. These more gentle interventions tended to have a mediating effect between Baby Boomers and their children, a unique relationship absent from Boomers and their own discipline-happy parents.

For Boomers, “parental monitoring” takes the form of openness and trust, a propensity to engage with their children rather than merely discipline or alienate them with the likes of D.A.R.E. or Scared Straight. According UC Berkeley psychologist Diana Baumrind’s landmark 1991 research published in The Journal of Early Adolescence, it’s this balance between being demanding (focused on discipline and control) and being responsive (focused on fostering individuality and self-regulation) that both deters children from substance abuse and engenders them with the important social skills that help them avoid risky behaviors without constant parental supervision. Though we often write off this type of engagement as intrusive helicopter parenting and debilitating condescension, this style also comes with a level of empathy, openness, and engagement that helps children fully absorb and comprehend the consequences of substance abuse.

“What [the CDC] knows about parental and school engagement is simple: the more you talk with children about these issues, the less likely they are to do things,” says Dr. Zaza.

It takes more than a bad trip (or a really, really good one) at college to induce parents to change how they communicate to their kids about youth attitudes about illicit substances. The high expectations of overachieving established by Boomer parents certainly help ward kids away from addiction. According to SAMHSA, fear of disappointing ones parents is an increasingly common disincentive to experiment with illicit substances. But those parents who were either less demanding (i.e. permissive parents) or less responsive (authoritarian parents) were less likely to keep their children drug-free. By ensuring interventions are staged by emotional peers and not merely authority figures, parents are more likely to impart the social skills designed to help their children avoid developing a drug problem.

Of course, not every Boomer parent is immediately equipped to stage an in-home intervention just because they smoked a few joints at Woodstock. While a 2001 study found that some 94 percent of parents claimed to have discussed the consequences of substance abuse with their kids, 39 percent of their teenagers said the conversations never actually took place. And too much leniency can be a serious problem: a lack of boundaries and rules in an overly-permissive parent can increase the risk of drug or alcohol abuse, a reminder that “letting kids drink in a safe space” like your home probably isn’t the best idea.

But as far as today’s kids are concerned, actually talking with their once-wild and crazy parents may be the best cure for the scourge of drug addiction. Growing up, I knew that no matter what I did in the way of drugs and alcohol, I could always turn to my own Boomer parents for help and support if I was in trouble, an unspoken agreement that was, in some ways, the foundation of our relationship during my turbulent teen years—all because I knew they would actually understand what I was talking about. While the Boomers have their own issues with illicit substances, they have the experience and compassion to help future generations prepare for the dangerous world of drugs and alcohol better than any previous one. It may have been a long strange trip for the Boomers, but it needn’t go on forever.

Can the Sony Hack Save Blackberry – From pc Magazine


Photo and link from pc Magazine article.

From “Inside Blackberry” :

When its corporate e-mail servers were taken down by hackers last month, Sony Pictures was able to rebuild mobile e-mail access for its executives only via BlackBerry devices, reported The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on Tuesday.

Sony “unearthed a cache of BlackBerrys, which still worked because they send and receive email via their own servers,” reported the Journal. The BlackBerry devices, along with other tactics, were key to the efforts of Sony’s IT department to keep its 6,000 employees productive in the aftermath of the cyberattack, which took down computers and landline phones during Thanksgiving week, as well as resulted in the temporary halting of the distribution of the movie,