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Scott Eric Kaufman
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Posted Apr 10, 2014 at Acephalous
...here. Since I don't actually read re-caps, I had to pretend I knew what kind of information they contain and the imagine the kind of attitude I would have toward it. Meaning, yes, I probably just channeled my not-so-inner asshole and made a sarcastic mess of it. But that's why you love me! Also available now is the Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast Steven Attewell and I did on the first episode. Enjoy! Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at Acephalous
This revelation would’ve blown my mind back in 1992, but as it stands, I’m just glad I got to totally nerd-out on a former president. Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2014 at Acephalous
I'm waiting for a copy to arrive in the Onion's backend -- wow, that sounds awful, but you know what I mean -- but I do plan on writing something about it, have no fear.
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You’ll never guess who it is: Professor teaching class on vigilante justice is pepper-sprayed by vigilante seeking justice But of all the bloggers out there who aren’t me, he ranks high on the list of bloggers-likely-to-be-peppered-sprayed-by-a-troll. NOTE: Since I am writing thousands of words a day, I think I'm going to start posting links to them here. I mean, this is my place, I can do what I want, right? Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2014 at Acephalous
SEK'S NEIGHBOR: (standing beneath a tree, yelling into SEK's window) HEY, ARE THESE YOUR STICKS? SEK: (under his breath) Don't say "they're probably the tree's," don't say "they're probably the tree's," don't say "they're probably the tree's." SEK: (out his window) THEY'RE PROBABLY THE TREE'S! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: SO THEY'RE NOT YOURS? I CAN THROW THEM AWAY? SEK: YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT WITH THEM! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: SO I CAN THROW THEM AWAY? SEK: SURE! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: BECAUSE I'M GOING TO THROW THEM AWAY! SEK: GO AHEAD! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: IN THE TRASH! SEK: GOOD JOB! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: THANKS! SEK: YOU'RE WELCOME! SEK'S NEIGHBOR: GOOD TALK! Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2014 at Acephalous
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How do you think Twitter reacted to the recently released trailer of the Will Smith-produced Annie remake? Pretty much as you'd expect... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2014 at Acephalous
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"God, why did you create so many fucking idiots?" Given that I also write for The Onion, I feel I should point out that this article is not from The Onion. But if we were better people — did less of that awful sinning against the Lord and stuff — we could live in a world where it would be. Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2014 at Acephalous
My new "Internet Film School" column is up. Sample: Typically, romances rely on a small stable of predictable-but-effective techniques that convince the audience it’s witnessing the first, chemical blush of fresh love. The most basic of these techniques is the two-shot, in which the director places both prospective lovers in the same frame. A series of two-shots, stacked one after the other, has a cumulative effect on the audience, which begins to expect to see these two characters together in every shot. After a while, shots that only contain one of the lovers will strike the audience as oddly empty, even if the sole lover in it is centrally framed in a way that would make it impossible for the other to be in the shot. By manipulating audience expectations in this way, the missing lover becomes an absent-presence in the film, something the audience wants to see. If the director only includes one lover in shots for an extended period of time, the audience will begin to feel that something is “wrong,” because the director is confounding the expectation he or she created. When the director relents and fulfills that expectation with a two-shot of the lovers reunited, the frame suddenly seems somehow more “correct” to the audience. The problem Jonze faced in directing Her becomes obvious... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2014 at Acephalous
GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Hey friend, it’s windy, ain’t it? SEK: I guess. GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Mind if I park in your driveway? SEK: A little. I might need to use it. GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Thanks, I’ll just be a while. SEK: I didn’t say “Yes.” GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: You want me to park in the street? SEK: It’s not a heavily trafficked road. GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: It’ll just be a while. I won’t block you in. SEK: You will, in fact, be blocking me in. And what happens when my wife gets home? GUY AT SEK’S DOOR: Can’t she park on the street? The head SEK doesn’t have explodes. Finis. Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2014 at Acephalous
While at The Raw Story retreat last weekend in San Francisco, my colleague Arturo Garcia and I had a long conversation about the show that went something like this... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2014 at Acephalous
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Can be found here. It concerns "realism" in film, and how utterly awful the working definition of it is. Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2014 at Acephalous
I might have you trumped. Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2013 at Acephalous
SEK’S NEIGHBOR: I heard you talking on the phone about some “doctor” you think is all-powerful. SEK: What? SEK’S NEIGHBOR: On your phone, you were telling someone about this “doctor” you found, could do all these — come back from the dead. SEK: Wouldn’t surprise me. SEK’S NEIGHBOR: Is his name “Jesus”? SEK: Nope. SEK’S NEIGHBOR: What’s his name? SEK: I don’t actually know. SEK’S NEIGHBOR: Yet you said you’d trust him. SEK: Sounds like me. SEK’S NEIGHBOR: I can tell you his name. SEK: No, really, it’s fine – SEK’S NEIGHBOR: I know his name. He whispered it in my ear every night until – SEK: No, really, you don’t understand – SEK’S NEIGHBOR: His name is – SEK: “SATAN,” I know, his name is “SATAN.” SEK’S NEIGHBOR: “SATAN.” SEK: I know. SEK’S NEIGHBOR: As in, “THE SATAN.” SEK: I’ve had this conversation before, quite a few times, in many a context. SEK’S NEIGHBOR: “LUCIFER.” SEK: Please, I know what you’re gonna – SEK’S NEIGHBOR: “BEEZLE THE BUB.” SEK: I think you mean “BEEZLE OF THE BUB.” SEK’S NEIGHBOR: You would know better than me. SEK: Because I’m a Jew? SEK’S NEIGHBOR: And yet you live right next door. Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2013 at Acephalous
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I watched Man of Steel again yesterday, and all I can say is that on second-viewing, I'm impressed by Zak Synder's subtlety. He captured Superman's insectile origins quite superbly -- native Kryptonians fly aback demon dragonflies and travel the stars in space-beetles! -- and never once tried to compare this creation of two Jews writing at the advent of the Second World War to anything inappropriate: I was also impressed by his integrity. During the hour-and-a-half-long climactic fight scene, Snyder could have gone for gore and showed the human toll of Superman's decision to move the fight from one heavily populated area to the next, but he never let you forget that the Real Victims™ are people too, my friends: I mean, Zod was blinded by our Terran sun when he threw Superman into that 7-11's gas pumps. It was just an innocent bystander! Fortunately, Superman's here to avenge those pumps' deaths: Zod will have none of it. "I'm stronger than you, a warrior bred," he tells the symbol of Truth, Justice and the Americans Who Matter, right before tossing him into one of our most sacred temples: Now Superman's the one having none of it. "YOU CAN BREAK MY PANCAKES, BUT YOU CAN NEVER TAKE MY -- But before Superman can stop Zod from trolling the planet, a minion throws a U-Haul van that you can rent for $19.95 a day by calling 1-800-GO-U_HAUL at an army helicopter, so he can't worry about the broken pancakes, because he has a more important person to save: JESUS CHRIST -- no pun intended -- are you an idiot? You already saved him. 7-11 is fine. What you mean he's still in danger? I don't care how that shot's framed, Kal-El. She's about to literally shoot that man with eye-lasers. Where are your priorities? "Son, I need you to punch her face for America." THANK YOU DETECTIVE STABLER. Maybe we can grossly manipulate him into -- Did you just 9/11 Metropolis? WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? Can't you save anything? You've got to be fucking kidding me. That's it, I'm done. Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2013 at Acephalous
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: 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: 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. Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2013 at Acephalous
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!") Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2013 at Acephalous
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: 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: 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. Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2013 at Acephalous
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. Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2013 at Acephalous
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: 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: 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. Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2013 at Acephalous
I have a new Internet Film School column up at the AV Club, and as the title clearly indicates, it's Halloween-themed. Continue reading
Posted Oct 24, 2013 at Acephalous
SEK was driving to the Winn-Dixie, about a block away from his house, when a man ran into the street waving his arms wildly. SEK pulled over, thinking the man’d just chopped off some vital extremity with his lawnmower or something. SEK: You need help? MAN: Hey, you don’t live around here, do you? SEK: I — are you all right? MAN: I don’t know you. SEK: I live just around the corner (SEK said, pointing to his domicile). MAN: Your music was really loud. SEK: I’m deaf, so sometimes it gets a little loud. Sorry about that, I’ll try to – MAN: What’s with your hat? Is that a gang thing? SEK: !?! MAN: Well? SEK: It’s a lazy thing. Didn’t feel like combing my hair this morning. I’ve gotta get back home soon, get to work, you know? MAN: – And SEK drove off. On the way home, this Zimmermaning neighbor waved at SEK as he drove by. Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2013 at Acephalous
A few weeks after the finale of Lost, Chad Post attempted to defend it by claiming that its nonsense was the stuff of art. “What’s interesting,” he argued, “is how these six seasons functioned as … a great work of art [that] leaves things open to interpretation, poses questions that go unanswered, creates patterns that are maybe meaningful.” I’m not interested in discussing the merits of the Lost finale – whether all of the “survivors” Oceanic 815 were dead the entire time or some of them were only dead most of time doesn’t matter, as they’re both the narrative equivalent of convincing a child you’ve stolen its nose: it only works because kid’s not equipped to know it doesn’t. Defenders of the Lost finale, of course, have no such excuse and are instead forced, like Post, to recapitulate aesthetic theories they half-remember from high school – in this case, the quasi-New Critical theory that elevates the interpreter over the work of art. It’s the critic, after all, not the artist, who benefits from “leav[ing] things open to interpretation.” The New Critic was an archeologist of ambiguity, teasing from every contradiction he encountered a paean to the antebellum South. They valued ambiguity as an aesthetic virtue because poems and novels that possessed it could be made to be about anything, which freed them to make statements like, when it came to great works of art, “all tend[ed] to support a Southern way of life against what may be called the American or prevailing way.” And they did so by being ambiguous, which allowed the New Critics to say, without irony, that great works of art celebrated “the culture of the soil” in the South. This, dear reader, is the brand of literary and aesthetic theory you were likely taught in high school, and by its druthers, Breaking Bad‘s not even a work of art, much less a great one.* In fact, by this standard, it’s quite possibly the least artful narrative in the history of American television, and because of this, it’s the first show that deserves the label “naturalist.” The naturalist novels of the early 20th Century were tendentious in the most base sense of the word: any tendency that appears in characters’ personality early in a book will, by its end, have metastasized into impulses so vast and deep you wonder why they even tried to repress them. For example, in the first chapter of McTeague (1899), Frank Norris compares his titular character to a single-minded “draught horse, immensely strong, stupid, docile, obedient,” whose one “dream [was] to have projecting from the corner window [of his "Dental Parlors"] a huge gilded tooth, a molar with enormous prongs, something gorgeous and attractive.” There’s your premise: McTeague is dumb and stubborn, especially in the service of his vanity. In the next chapter, when he tries to extract a tooth from the mouth of a patient he’s fallen in love with, it’s no surprise that “as she lay there, unconscious and helpless,... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2013 at Acephalous
This is the first of a two part podcast. The second part will be available on Monday. Audio: You can listen to the above podcast here. Archives: Back to the beginning with "Winter Is Coming" (S01E01). Our very civilized discussion of the premiere (S03E01). Fancy-talking about “Dark Wings, Dark Words” (S03E02). Here we are blathering on about “Walk of Punishment” (S03E03). Don’t watch — because you can’t — us discuss “And Now His Watch Has Ended” (S03E04). The rudely interrupted first half of our discussion of “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05). The second half of our discussion of religion in “Kissed by Fire” (S03E05). In which we discuss “The Climb” sans spoilers (S03E06). “The Climb” with spoilers (S03E06). “Second Sons.” We has them (S03E08). Belatedly, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (S03E07). You’re all invited to an epic performance of “The Rains of Castamere” (S03E09). This is the end … the end of Season Three (S03E10). Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2013 at Acephalous
Copyright (c) 1980, 1982, 1983, 2006, 2013 Sekocom, Inc. All rights reserved. OBAMACARE! is a registered trademark of Sekocom, Inc. Revision 23 / Serial number 8940726 West of Apartment Complex You are standing in an open field in west of a white apartment complex, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here. > e The door is locked. There is evidently no key. > kick door I don’t understand that. > chicago jackboot thug kick I don’t understand that. > black panther power You don’t understand that. > power of greyskull Fine. By the Power of Greyskull you open the door. You are in the kitchen of the white townhouse. A table seems to have been used recently for the preparation of food. A passage leads to the west, and a dark staircase can be seen leading upward. To the east is a small window which is open. On the table is a computer open to Healthcare.gov. > what is dot gov Healtcare.gov is a website on the Internet that you can use to find affordable health care. > what internet This is going to be a problem. > WHAT INTERNET A series of tubes. Information goes through them. You will like it. > e You look out the window but see nothing of interest. You return to the computer and look at Healthcare.gov. > no dont Yes, you do. > no, dont Yes, you do. You choose the state you want to have health insurance coverage in and hit return. > then what Hold on. > then what Hold on. > SO THEN WHAT Fine: > what in fuck is that That is an image file. Computers have them now. > naked ladies I don’t understand. > want see naked ladies Really? You discovered the Internet two minutes ago and all you want to see is naked ladies? > NAKED LADIES Fine: > saw that You are waiting for the opportunity to acquire good healthcare coverage at a reasonable price. > am wait for naked ladies As soon as you have finished signing up for healthcare coverage you can see some naked ladies. > now Let me check: > what about now Let me check: > LADIES NAKED NOW What if you got eaten by a grue? What would happen to you? > kill computer You do not want to kill the computer. > kill internet You cannot kill the Internet. > kill kill kill You really want to kill something? > KILL KILL KILL Fine. You have a head cold. > what You have a head cold. This morning it migrated to your lungs. You are coughing an awful lot. > i am You are. You seem to have acquired a nasty case of bronchitis. > go doctor You do not have a doctor. You cannot afford one. Your cough is getting worse. > fix it You cannot afford to fix it. You are on the floor covered in specks of blood. You are drowning... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2013 at Acephalous