One bonobo's view of the world...and stuff.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Class War (and my Oscar nominations)

I detect an intellectual trend. Possibly class issues are on the verge of a comeback in British politics. Admittedly my evidence is drawn from just 2 Radio 4 programmes (and it would be faintly surreal to think of R4 as the vanguard of the proletariat) . Firstly, in Class Conscious, a series of programmes from retired political correspondent, John Cole (him with the Northern Irish accent who was invariably seen outdoors, at night, in the rain, in a beige gaberdene mack*), who is old enough to remember when British politics had a left wing. Then in R4's flagship 'Analysis' programme. Quote from the latter:

"New Labour said they were going to take Class out of politics. They've
certainly done that...if you mention it you're branded a dinosaur."

The programme refered to some facts which are well known to us brontosaurii: There is still a strong correlation between a child's parental incomeand any manner of factors from their educational attainment to their health; Social mobility has decreased over recent fewer people are climbing out of poverty.

Maybe those old stalwarts who've remained in The Party were right after all?...If they handg around long enough, New Labour might go away.

Changing topics entirely. .. I've always been wary of the urge to buy the latest models of gadgets. People are inordinately impressed by the number of megapixies offered by cameras, not realising that hi-end models are only really necessary if you intend blowing your photos of the kids up to the size of a tower block, and as for hi-fi reproduction...admit it...most of us have tin ears. So I read with ineterest Mark Lawson's comments on HDTV. He talks about the potentially distracting effect of detail. I was thinking about this when watching the superb 'The Departed' on a rare outing to the cimena. Two examples:

  • Scorsese (or his cinematographers) use some very clever lighting to hide Jack Nicholson's make-up which is used to take 10 years off him. It wouldn't have worked in HD.

  • In two-up shots, sometimes neither actor was in focus...yet it worked. Sharper doesn't always mean better! (remember all those 1970's US TV shows in which the focus would shift back and forth as each person spoke?)

I'm going to bore everyone to death on this for the next few weeks, by the way...but it really is an excellent film. There were outstanding ensemble perfomances from all. Nicholson was breathtakingly charismatic without phoning in his usual Jack Nicholson impersonation. Matt Damon starts out being...well...Matt Damon, and the beauty is in when that slides away and the character development comes through...Martin Sheene, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Winstone - all playing at the top of their game and then some. But the Academy has to go to Lenny DiC. I think this is Scorsese's big film about Acting. Posible Spoilers From Here. He's the undercover cop, so is having to act all the time (as is Damon, who's Nicholson's mob plant in the police). He's seeing a police shrink, first profesionally, later as a friend. She says to DiCaprio: "You seem very vulnerable right now...or it just an act?" He slumps and says: "No...I don't think so..." - and for that slump alone he deserves the Oscar. Do you get it? He's stopped acting for a moment...only, of course, he's acting that he's stopped acting! OK. I'll shut up now.

Nicholson will walk Best Support - although he could be nominated for best actor. And I think you have to see this one in the theatre. The violence needs maximum impact. It's strange - I really don't get off on movie violence, but three of my favourite films are (now) The Departed, Goodfellas and Casino.

Giving Heavy Poddage to:

Polly Harvey (the new Peel Sessions album)
MC Solaar
Public Enemy
Yusuf Islam
Joanna Newsom.

*Old Joke: "Have you got a light, mac?" "No - but I do have a dark overcoat."


Dan Goodman said...

Surely though the resolution of the picture at the cinema is higher than either TV or HDTV?

Edward the Bonobo said...

Possibly - but the filming technique in HDTV seems to be to use massive depth of field to keep subjsect, foreground and background in needle-sharp focus. (see the Lawson article). I don't thik that will always add anything. Plus, it occurs to me that it isn't how humans see. Our depth of field is very small, and acuity is limited to a very small area in foveal vision. We rely on constintly re-shifting viewpoints and refocusing. When the eye remains focussed on a flat HDTV screen, I can see how the loss of need to refocus for elements at different distances would seem artificial. The brain would be fooled into thinking that anything that as is sharp as the subject (eg the talking head) is equally important.

psychocandy said...

I'm going to need to buy an HDTV set within the next year or two, as normal broadcast stations will be changing to HDTV. The DVD player is compatible, and I've learned how to make the VCR work (while I busily backup over 1100 videos onto DVD before the VCR finally dies...). But I really don't like HDTV that much- I have serious problems with field acuity to begin with and HDTV definitely seems artificial to me, from the little I've seen in that format.

Edward the Bonobo said...

The other thing I meant to mention...

Onceuponatime, I used to design icons for Xerox. I was famous for my catchphrase:
"Mickey Mouse's fingers
If you look at a piture of Mr Mouse, you'll notice that he only has three fingers. Walt realised that a three-fingered hand looks like a hand. A four-fingered hand looks like a bunch of bananas. Same with icons - sometimes less is more.

My other catchphrase - possibly of even greater relevance to HDTV, was:
"Centaur's nipples"
There's a scene in Fantasia where some female centaurs gallop from the background to meet some male centaurs in the foreground. If their nipple were drawn in too early, they looked rather too pleased to see their mates.

echomikeromeo said...

"and it would be faintly surreal to think of R4 as the vanguard of the proletariat"

*falls about laughing*

Anonymous said...

Have you seen Infernal Affairs?

It's shot much better than The Departed, the acting is better, and it comes with alot more impact (I know that's alot to say, but it's true). It's the Hong Kong crime thriller that The Departed is the Hollywood remake of. Just thought you might like to check it out.