Category: Media


The posters for Wes Anderson’s latest film Moonrise Kingdom are brilliant. But you probably could have guessed that.

I remember being amazed by the art for The Royal Tenenbaums when it first hit, and whiling away many an hour poring over not only the poster, but the soundtrack album’s sleeve and all the great material that came with the Criterion DVD. Now I take it for granted. If there’s one thing Wes Anderson is good for, it’s design. His films themselves are rich feasts of design in and of themselves, of course. (Some would argue that’s a fault or a weakness – but not me.) And it extends off the screen too. Like few filmmakers (Tarantino is one of the others), and much more like a musician (the Beastie Boys are an an example that’s fresh in my mind) or a quality independent record label (SubPop, Warp), Wes is clearly invested in making sure every single thing, every bit of collateral, associated with his films is thoughtful, special and worth looking at. Nothing is prefab or half-done. Anyone can slap a film still onto a DVD package, but Wes is there to make sure there’s hand lettering and a drawing of the boat in cross-section – if only because the fanboys who think just like he does will go, “That’s awesome.” And it has a way of extending and enhancing the alternate universes he creates within his narratives. (That’s why I’m so psyched about Moonrise Kingdom getting all this attention as the opening film at Cannes this week – it’s like the revenge of the nerds.)

The campaign for Moonrise features more terrific custom lettering (but you knew that). Here’s the French poster:

Even better is the series of character-driven “motion posters” that were released as exclusives to various websites last month. (IndieWIRE compiled them all into one blog post.) If you don’t normally follow links when you’re reading online, do yourself a favor and make an exception this time – I can’t embed these motion posters and they are definitely worth checking out. Click on the stills at the top of each poster to rotate the images and see different quotes from the film. Normally this kind of thing is a really tedious marketing tool for big-budget blockbusters, but leave it to Wes to transform it into something fresh and exciting.

Moonrise Kingdom premieres in Australia at the State Theatre next month as part of Sydney Film Festival. There couldn’t be a better place to check out a Wes Anderson film than the State, with its red velvet, marble and crazy ornate mishmash of art deco, neoclassical and just about every other style dreamed of in 1929. I can’t wait.

9 Eyes

Check out 9 Eyes, the amazing photo gallery of images captured from Google Street View:

The page’s title refers to the device, basically a pole with nine cameras attached, that is Google’s weapon in its ongoing campaign to photograph… well, everywhere and everything.

In the last few years Google has dispatched a fleet of vehicles armed with the nine-in-one cam all over the world in an attempt to get as much visual data of our planet’s streets and byways as possible. Thanks to this endeavor, surely the largest photographic project in history, we can now access images of every imaginable corner of the world – and plenty of unimagined corners.

9 Eyes’ “curator,” Jon Rafman, combed through the all-but infinite archive of images on the Google Maps’ Street View function (along with other Street View blogs) and selected images for their artistic or documentary value. The results are spellbinding: a sequence of randomly made, ingeniously selected images cascading down the page one after the other with no context, no explanation, each one revealing something beautiful or bizarre or breathtaking.

After a while, the cumulative effect made me laugh out of delight and disbelief – and once or twice I even felt tears jump into my eyes. It has something of the effect of Koyaanisqatsi, the majesty and mayhem of our shared destiny presented nonjudgmentally. It seems to tell a story. But it’s a weird story.

“Google Street View is the greatest photographer ever – when paired with a good editor,” wrote a friend of mine. Rafman has brilliantly curated this project as if he was dealing with the work of an artist – or indeed, many of them. The “show” alternates between grim photojournalism – prostitutes, paramilitary forces, hostile baby gangsters on prosaic street corners – and glimpses of staggering beauty. Some of the images have the fascinating industrial forms and postmodern juxtapositions found in the work of Andreas Gursky and Edward Burtynsky. Rafman also cleverly includes lovely rainbows of digital noise to illuminate his collection.

I can’t even begin to imagine all the work that went into the editing.

Mistakes make for some of the most interesting photos. The random framing and lighting of a camera test or a drunken snapshot reveals an object or room in unexpected ways. Candids let us study weird, unselfconscious body poses. Examples have only proliferated in the digital age. I’ve often thought such photos would make a great show; 9 Eyes is the logical progression of that idea. Google Street View is a database of millions of candids.

It’s something to see some of the things that we think of doing in the street. Look at how many people are laying down in these pictures – some for good reasons (they’re hurt, or they’re drunk), but with others there’s no guessing. They look like characters in an absurdist film.

At times, a particular quality of light or movement will make a person or object seem unnatural. In one photo a group of little girls running towards the camera look like they’re floating above the ground. Some of the images are so inexplicable they seem to be dreams.

Other things you see a lot of on 9 Eyes:

  • animals
  • car accidents
  • guns
  • people flipping off the camera
  • people under arrest
  • people scaling walls
  • prostitutes
  • Segways

I love how in many cases there’s no obvious way to tell where in the world these things are taking place. It’s a testament to the underlying unity of our civilization: how similar are the corporate plazas, how similar are the ghettos.

Questions:

  • Did the Google drivers (or technicians or whatever they are; I can’t imagine they’re well-paid) ever stop to help the many accident victims seen here?
  • Can Google’s photographs be used as criminal evidence?
  • Did the drivers ever sneakily alter or improvise their routes to purposefully photograph something crazy or beautiful? Is it all really random?
  • Come on, how the hell did they get that snapshot of the gorillas?

The lack of text on 9 Eyes is one of its strengths, but Rafman provides thoughtful commentary on his creation at Art Fag City:

IMG MGMT: The Nine Eyes of Google Street View

It’s a great supplement to the gallery, with some photos that didn’t make the cut, and captions that shed different light on the images.

At the heart of his project, as Rafman explicitly states, is the question of whether any one company or entity has a legitimate claim on fabricating our vision of our world. Are all of these prostitutes and victims and people and animals doing strange things what the world really looks like? If there’s something funny or disturbing here, if it seems like art, or a hallucination – is that just a trick of the process? Is this our world, or just the world as Google sees it?

Or actually, since we’re at one more remove, is it just the world as Jon Rafman sees it? Never mind, I’ll take it for now.

Surf Gaza!

Last year, The National, the English-language newspaper in Abu Dhabi, ran this piece about the Gaza Surf Club. One of the best articles I’ve read recently, it’s an account of the brief history of surfing in one of the world’s most desperate places, and the efforts of a few humanitarian workers to get surfboards through the blockade. The goal is to start a legitimate surfriding scene and provide an outlet for recreation to relieve the tension and boredom.

The realities of politics, economics, and war often dictate how people can spend their leisure time. But the surfers of Gaza are out to prove that enjoying the water is not just for the privileged and decadent. They have almost no resources — in many cases they don’t even have boards. And they don’t have the luxury of choosing to ignore or escape society the way Western surfers and other countercultural types might. They can’t just drop out. So there’s real inspiration in their determination to surf no matter the obstacles.

“It really damages you mentally,” he said of the blockade. “The best thing to do, in order to stop thinking about anything, is to go swimming.” It was the same with surfing, the others said.

“We feel like we’re in prison in this place,” El Reyashi said. “We want to feel freedom like everybody in the world.”

“Surfing is like freedom,” 15-year-old Ghanem said. “When I practice my freedom, I feel like I have broken the siege.”

Given all they were dealing with, I asked, Why didn’t they join Hamas or some other political or militant group?

My interpreter drew in a breath of concern. “That’s a personal question,” he said. “Usually we don’t ask this question, but I will ask it for you.”

He did ask, and I heard laughter cutting through the wind on the phone.

“My faction is the sea,” El Reyashi said, with quick agreement from Ashour. “We don’t believe in anything else.”

Many surfers talk about peace, but surfers in Gaza have a unique opportunity to put it into action where it counts. Talk about gnarly.

The other day I saw this video on the New York Times‘ website:

It’s heartening to see the Surf Club’s effort to teach Palestinian children (including girls) to surf, and not just because of its barrier-breaking social implications. Considering I’ve made it a personal goal to learn to surf here in Australia, and have often wondered if I actually have the nerve, there’s something great about seeing these underprivileged kids just go for it.

My favorite bit is when the Palestinian kid says of the sea: “It doesn’t mind us, and we don’t mind it.”

Here’s another good article on Spiegel Online, also published last year, about the struggling surf scene in Gaza, this one focusing on the instrumental role played by Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, the famed surfing bohemian who travelled the world with his large family in a camper van for decades. (They were the subjects of the well-received 2007 documentary Surfwise, which I haven’t seen.) in the 1950s Paskowitz singlehandedly founded the surfing scene in Israel. In 2007, despite his staunch Zionist beliefs, he and a team of other surfing humanitarians from Israel and the States started bringing surboards to Gaza, where in many cases devoted surfers there had been using discarded and damaged old boards, or even wooden planks with knives inserted for fins.

So how did it feel to ride a wave? the Palestinian surfers were asked.

“It is the best thing in life,” said Mohammed Abu Jayyab.

“We can express our love and our energy this way,” said Taha Bakir.

“I wish to have someplace to practice,” another surfer said. “I dream of surfing on an ocean, which would be better than this sea.”

Gazans aren’t allowed to travel, and the Mediterranean produces waves only after a local storm. It isn’t large enough for the deep-ocean swells that bring big surf to places like Hawaii, Morocco or France.

“… And what do other Palestinians on the beach say, when they see you surf?” I asked.

“They still think it’s strange.”

Incidentally here’s a highly-entertaining compilation of clips from Surfwise:

Other links: