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The Walking Dead: We all die alone, broken, and afraid

[ 9 ] November 11, 2013 |

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Internment,” may well have been the strongest in what’s shaping up to be the strongest season to date. It was directed by David Boyd, one of the most talented men you’ve never heard of. He’s been the director of photography on such visually uninspiring fare as Firefly and Deadwood, so it should be no surprise that the composition and shot selection in “Internment” was barely this side of breathtaking.

What do I mean?

For one, Boyd’s use of close-ups in this episode weren’t used to cheaply intensify scenes whose dialogue lacked emotional impact. Unlike, say, the opening credit sequence of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which closes in to bring the pain and reassure you that the police always have your best interest at heart, the close-ups in “Internment” function as the necessary conclusions to terrible arguments.

Consider, for example, this close-up of Rick’s gun:

wdin01

It’s the culmination of the should-he-or-shouldn’t-he-pick-up-arms subplot, but instead of having Rick say something about it, Boyd just places Rick’s gun in-frame and lets it speak for itself. Note, though, that the gun’s slightly off-center, a screen-position people have been trained by Hollywood to hate.

The audience, then, is primed for something to happen — and conventionally, that “something” would be that the camera shifts to the left and “properly” frames the gun, dead-center, since it’s the most important element in the shot.

Boyd knows that’s the expectation — he knows that his audience craves symmetry in its compositions — but instead of conceding to audience expectations, he recapitulates the should-he-or-shouldn’t-he argument:

wdin02

When Rick’s pea-bearing hand enters the frame, Boyd racks the focus, shifting the emphasis from the arms he just took up to the green thumbs he put them down for. In a single shot, then, Boyd’s reminded the audience of the Big Decision Rick had to make, but he did so without having to use dialogue as a crutch, as the show so often has. What could have been a tossed off transition between scenes in which characters indulge in unnecessary expository monologues is, instead, a seemingly tossed-off reminder of past soul-searching.

Read the rest here.

I’ll provide the lasers, but you’re going to have to analyze it your own damn selves

[ 17 ] November 9, 2013 |

There’s a story to tell about the odd configuration of my Facebook page, I just don’t have the time to write it. But I’ve trained you well, Dear Readers, so surely, you can come up with something awesome if I prompt you thus:

Wait, isn’t that just called “America” now?

[ 62 ] November 8, 2013 |

The producers of The Hunger Games want to turn their franchise into a theme park.

Fear of a Hat Planet

[ 174 ] November 7, 2013 |

Remember SEK’s NEIGHBOR? The one who thought SEK belonged to a gang because of his backward hat? Well, this morning SEK decided it was about time to start watching The Sopranos, and so when he was driving home from the grocery store and saw his NEIGHBOR, SEK thought it’d be a great idea to slow his car to a crawl and give NEIGHBOR a good eye-fucking. The fake neighborhood “police” started driving around until, finally, MR. POLICEMAN — with NEIGHBOR in tow — knocked on SEK’s door.

MR. POLICEMAN: Have you been threatening this man?

SEK: What? No.

MR. POLICEMAN: Is that your car?

SEK: Yes.

MR. POLICEMAN: He says a man in a hat was threatening him this morning.

SEK: (points to hair) I’m not wearing a hat.

NEIGHBOR: It’s you! You have a hat!

SEK: I’m sure I do somewhere. What’s this about, officer?

MR. POLICEMAN: Have you been speeding recently?

SEK: I’ve been in Houston, my sister just had a baby. Wanna see a picture?

NEIGHBOR: He has a hat!

MR. POLICEMAN: So you haven’t been speeding?

SEK: I haven’t even been here.

NEIGHBOR: Ask him about his hat?

SEK: Do you need a hat, sir?

NEIGHBOR: I want to see your hat!

SEK: Officer, should I get him a hat?

MR. POLICEMAN: I don’t think that’ll be necessary. Sorry to have bothered you, sir.

NEIGHBOR looks at SEK. SEK waits until the officer turns around, then eye-fucks NEIGHBOR again.

NEIGHBOR: ASK HIM ABOUT HIS HAT!

MR. POLICEMAN: (to NEIGHBOR) We’re done here.

NOT REALLY AN UPDATE: For the record, what I thought was going to happen turned out to be funnier. What’s the point of living life as if it were performance art if it refuses to perform? Sigh:

The fake neighborhood “police” just drove by, and I can’t help but wonder what they’re looking for: “Suspect is an off-white late-model academic, so use extreme caution, he may have an ethnicity. Repeat: he may have an ethnicity.”

(And after they bust in and shoot me, they’ll be all like, “It’s terrible, sir, it’s terrible. The books! THEY”RE EVERYWHERE. On the floor, there’re little ones on the table, looks like he broke their spines. OH THE HUMANITIES!”)

ACTUAL UPDATE:

That is, however, only the second-best hat picture I’ve seen recently:


Free books!

[ 35 ] November 5, 2013 |

For a very limited time only, you can download sample chapters from Tower of the Hand: Hymn for Spring, a book about Game of Thrones featuring some very familiar names.

The Walking Dead: The hands do the talking in “Indifference”

[ 19 ] November 4, 2013 |

Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Isolation,” focused on who was with whom and the tightness of the quarters they shared, i.e. how isolated every single person in this episode wasn’t. The title of this week’s episode, “Indifference,” is equally ironic, because the entire episode is about inappropriately caring too much — whether it be Rick caring about Carol enough to banish her, or Daryl caring more about Bob the Alcoholic than he should’ve.

But that’s not what I want to discuss this week. Not because it’s insignificant, as it clearly isn’t, but because in visual terms, this episode is much more about what people do than who they are or what they feel. The episode announces as much in the opening shots:

wdi01

That’s Rick bandaging his hand, and hands are important. Hands do things. And the director of “Indifference,” Tricia Brock, is not about to let the audience forget this:

wdi02

The jump-cut from the medium shot of Rick bandaging his hand to the close-up of his hand while he’s bandaging it is Brock’s way of gesticulating wildly at this episode’s theme, which I’ll call “The Terrible Things We’ve Done With Our Hands.”

Before you object that every episode of The Walking Dead features many hand-oriented shots, since characters are constantly thwacking walkers through the head, let me assure you that I already know that. Brock’s shot selection in “Indifference” isn’t different in kind from other episodes, but in degree. Consider the second sequence with Rick before the introduction rolls…

Read the rest here.

I didn’t even know ketchup was a “Jew sauce”!

[ 103 ] November 4, 2013 |

But according to this soon-to-be-former security officer at — wait for it … wait for it … — the University of California, Irvine, that’s why he never puts it on his hamburgers:

Believe it or not, that’s only the second best screen capture I scored for this story.

So this is what it feels like to be the History Channel

[ 47 ] November 3, 2013 |

I’ve written stories today about a Sasquatch hunt and the spontaneous combustion of King Tut. I’m thinking of kicking it old school and writing something about Hitler next.

“And what do we say to the God of Death?”

[ 47 ] November 2, 2013 |

You can be sure I’m going to tell my newly minted niece, Arya Rose, the correct answer to that question.

For the record: I had nothing to do with the fact that my niece’s name is “Arya Rose.”

Nothing at all.

The fact that my firstborn will now have to be named “Stark Tyler” is a complete coincidence.

The Walking Dead: You’re never alone, especially in ‘Isolation’

[ 25 ] October 28, 2013 |

The title of tonight’s episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead couldn’t have been more misleading: “Isolation” is an episode about the utter lack of isolation in the confined settings of a prison-cum-anti-zombie outpost. Even those moments in the episode in which characters were ostensibly isolated — as when Herschel tells Carl that “It’s peaceful out here” when they’re “alone” in the woods collecting elderberries — were undermined by:

wd01

Or, even more obviously, when Daryl, Michonne, Tyrese and that-other-guy-from-The Wire were driving along an empty road and heard voices on the radio, indicating that they weren’t isolated, and then ran into this lot:

wd02

Those are the more prevalent examples of the episode’s visuals defying its title, because they’re both keyed in on plot points: Herschel appreciates being alone when he isn’t, and Daryl et al accidentally run into one of the most populous zombie hordes on the show to date after hearing a faint voice on the radio. But I’m more interested in how the visuals themselves undermined the idea that this episode was, thematically, about “isolation,” and you can see hints of it in that first image of Carl and Herschel above.

If you look at it, there are three planes within the frame: in the foreground, you have Herschel; in the mid-ground, you have Carl; and in the background, you have the walker. All of the planes are occupied in a way that, conventionally, makes a frame feel “crowded.” If a director — in this case, Daniel Sackheim — uses a shot in which three people occupy all three planes in an episode once, you might not notice it. But in this episode, Sackheim consistently stacks the frame, almost from the opening shot of the episode…

Read the rest.

The awful irony

[ 22 ] October 27, 2013 |

Lou Reed’s Magic & Loss has helped me deal with many an untimely death in my life, and now it must do the same for his.

But there are things that we can’t know,
Maybe there’s something over there,
Some other world that we don’t know about,
I know you hate that mystic shit.

So say we all.

An associate director at the CDC wants you to know that you, and everyone you love, will soon die

[ 90 ] October 25, 2013 |

I don’t want to alarm anybody, but:

For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about ‘The end of antibiotics, question mark?’ Well, now I would say you can change the title to ‘The end of antibiotics, period.’ We’re in the post-antibiotic era.

The interview’s from the absolutely horrifying Frontline documentary “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria,” which PBS seems to have saved so it could be released just in time for Halloween.

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