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Showing posts from March, 2021

I WANT MY MTV [289]

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Sunday 1 st  August 2021 marks forty years since MTV launched with an opening sequence comparing its innovation, playing musical promo videos around the clock, with the Apollo 11 moon landings.    But that innovation has long since evaporated, just as the words “Music Television” has from under its logo: MTV is now a parade of reality shows, a genre admittedly pioneered by them with 1992’s “The Real World,” its original programming shunted off to automated sister channels which, in the UK, includes names like “MTV Hits,” “MTV Base,” and the infuriatingly tautological “MTV Music.”   The usual explanation given for this shift was the advent of online streaming of video content from around the 2000s, initially with MySpace, and especially with YouTube. This fits with personal experience: I only had a direct subscription to MTV from 1999 to 2002, and what non-musical shows there were numbered few: there was “Jackass” and “The Real World,” but “The Osbournes,” the show that precipitated the

WE HAVE FIESTA AND FERIA [288]

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Two weeks ago, I bought a book I remember checking out, on multiple occasions, from the library of my secondary school. “Let’s Call It Fiesta,” written by Edouard Seidler and subtitled “the auto-biography of Ford’s Project Bobcat,” was published when the Ford Fiesta first went on sale in 1976. I had been transfixed by the vast array of conceptual designs and models made by various parts of the company, as Ford grappled with producing their first “world car” since the Model T, although I didn’t try to draw them myself either back then, or now. The book chronicles how both an oil crisis, and competition from small cars like the Renault 5 and Fiat 127, created the smallest Ford so far. Last week, Ford announced that their factory in Valencia, Spain, built to manufacture the Fiesta, will begin making engines for their electric car range. This marks the end of the road for the Ford Mondeo after twenty-eight years, and the end of their producing and selling large family and executive cars in

WE'LL BRING IT BACK NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES [287]

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“Bandit? This is Mr B., and I'm gearjammin' this rollin' refinery, you got another smokey on the rubber?” I’m surprised I am not more of a fan of Burt Reynolds. Perhaps his career trajectory, by his own admission taking roles that were often more fun than challenging, means we try to focus on his more critically successful roles, like in “Deliverance,” “Boogie Nights,” “At Long Last Love” (with hindsight) and “The Longest Yard.” However, that kind of self-correction does overlook the fact that, if you want a film that guarantees to put a smile on your face, you really can’t do much better than one that gives Burt Reynolds the ability to play a version of himself – that kind of charisma is too hard to replicate. In watching “Smokey and the Bandit,” you are reminded of a lot of films that will come later, particularly the outlandish car chases of “The Blues Brothers,” but also of “Fast and the Furious.” The strange vernacular of CB radio, a powerful device that links whole gr

SWINGS BRINGS NEW TECHNOLOGY [286]

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On 23 rd   August 1994, the K Foundation, an art group best known when performing as pop group The KLF, travelled to the Scottish island of Jura and burned a million pounds of their own money inside a disused boathouse. A visual record of the event was made to a Hi-8 video tape. Even after curtailing their musical career in 1992, continuing royalties from record sales led to a decision on what to do with the surplus that had not been spent on other art projects, so it was chosen to make an artwork using money as its medium. The name of the piece is “K Foundation Burn a Million Quid.” On 3 rd  March 2021, the YouTube channel “BurntBanksy” posted a video depicting the burning a print of a work by Banksy, “I can’t believe you morons actually buy this shit,” marking the moment when a physical work of art becomes a digital one. A non-fungible token (NFT) representing the physical work was minted in a blockchain before the burning, which was subsequently sold on an online auction site for $3

IT’S MORE THAN I DARE TO THINK ABOUT [285]

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One of the many arguments for public service broadcasting is the ability to commission and broadcast a long-form polemical documentary, composed almost entirely of stock footage, telling a huge and difficult story, with the guarantee that it will be watched by a small but highly engaged audience and, because of the rights for the stock footage, cannot be issued on home video. It is entirely the sort of project in which the BBC is expected to invest, but it is also the signature form of Adam Curtis, whose latest series “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” was unveiled on the BBC iPlayer in February 2021.   Curtis specialises in densely-packed stories about how power is structured, from how memory and history is manipulated by politicians in 1995’s “The Living Dead,” through the exploration of concepts of freedom in 2007’s “The Trap,” to how computers distorted our view of the world in 2011’s “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace.” From the feature film-length “Bitter Lake” (2015), whi