Friday, 23 September 2011

[507] Dissertension

My original ambition was to blog along with my MA dissertation work, but due to many mitigating circumstances (BytesCorp, mainly), I'm up against the deadline. I'm powering through, though, and at quite a comforting speed, judging by the '#dissertension' hashtag stream. It's quite exciting to be laying tracks as you're motoring along them. Thankfully it's all coming together, and I'm enjoying it.

All will be back to normal service soon - within a week, in fact. Until then, wish me luck.

Monday, 19 September 2011

[506] Adventures in Comics: Orbital Self-Portrait Exhibition

Comics! Remember them? I sure do. It's been a little two-dimensional over here of late (Bytes-work and diss-work), but I still made the effort to go and check out the latest in a long line of ace exhibitions at Orbital Comics.

This time out, it's a bunch of self portraits from some of the UK's brightest comics stars. And what a lovely selection it is!

Filmish creator Edward Ross; and Ink+Paper editor David O'Connell (is that an... ostrich?)

Mancunian Master-comicker Adam Cadwell (who's always got his eye on you)

Timothy Winchester (+ some People He Knows)

It's another marvellous little exhibition from Orbital. What's surprising is how the bevvy of artists subvert the form of the portrait, breaking out of the imposed framing of yesteryear and really letting their personalities flow onto the page. Key examples range from Mark Stafford, who splashes his mug over a fake magazine cover, to Paul Rainey, who gives us a slice of middle-aged life (with a little touch of TMI...). Other ace contributions that I didn't photograph (or didn't photograph well) include Philippa Rice, Luke Pearson, Ellen Lindner (whose piece you can see here), Joe Decie and Tom Humberstone.

If you find yourself around Leicester Square, then make sure you check it out. The exhibition runs until the 15th of October, and you can read more about it here.

Edit: Artist and mega-blogger Sarah McIntyre beat me to the punch, not only by posting about this launch a full two hours before I did, but by snapping some awesome pictures of the artists alongside their portraits. Go and have a look.

Friday, 16 September 2011

[505] 30 Minutes Or Less (2011) Review

Here's my latest review for Little White Lies, which proves that I can be as snarky as the best of them. I'm thinking of ordering a rubber stamp which says 'insultingly phallocentric' and having my merry way with the DVD section in HMV.

A serious aside: I find it interesting how 30 Minutes Or Less is getting a much easier ride from UK-based reviewers than their US counterparts. My review has much more in common with Ebert, Brody and Corliss ('For a soul-sucking 83 minutes, you're trapped inside the film's tiny, ugly mind.'), while my colleagues on this side of the pond, from Peter Bradshaw to David Jenkins, seem to be innocently entertained by the flick. Bradshaw even gave it four stars! Curious.

As is becoming more common by the day, the best way to grasp deadbeat heist comedy 30 Minutes or Less is to look at how it treats not its male protagonists, but its female supporting characters.

There are only a handful of women in the film, and only two are given names in the credits. One of them is Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria), the pretty, ambitious city professional who just can’t tear herself away from lead loser Nick (an improbable Jesse Eisenberg). The other is a callous stripper called Juicy (Bianca Kajlich), who seduces slacker extraordinaire Dwayne (Danny McBride) into formulating a plan to bump off his rich father.

Hackneyed caricatures, both, but at least they’re not relegated to the role of ‘Hot Girl’ or, heaven forbid, a cameo as the pliant chick who gives Nick’s best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) a supposedly uncomfortable, front-seat blowjob.

It’s not that the gents are any better filled out, but 30 Minutes or Less is entirely focused on their world, and is only interested in their manchildish dilemmas, exploring the conflict between laziness and responsibility while joyfully celebrating a lifestyle of film marathons, Call of Duty and Mountain Dew.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

[504] BytesCorp Website; Vigiden Teaser; Ed of the Week

Things are so busy at BytesCorp that this has to be a three-in-one update!

First of all, this week we released a short teaser for our upcoming project: VIGIDEN. It concerns Jeff Tozai. Where did he get to, after we left him in a London backstreet? What happened after he was manhandled by the fearsome Greek Ninten-dogsbody Andreas? And what's this about a news network for video games? All will be revealed soon. Thanks to Cathy Thomas for providing her voice for this.

Also, our website is now live, sporting some lovely artwork from Bytes-Cohort Ebony. Check it out, have a read, we're quite proud of it.

And, finally, our intrepid editor-cum-production-whizzkid Edward Szekely was profiled as part of the 'Job of the Week' feature over at the IdeasTap website, answering all of the questions you're dying to ask about being a Greenscreen Technician.

Some wise words in there, especially this quote from Lucille Ball:

“If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”

On that note, I'd best get back to work. This dissertation isn't going to write itself, you know. In the meantime - spread the word, and give us some feedback, why don't you?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

[503] Artificial Intelligence, Episode One

The second episode of Artificial Intelligence is here! It's Episode One! Here's a blurb:

Welcome to the first official episode of Artificial Intelligence, a new fortnightly conversation about the growing relationship between the developing world of videogames, media, and culture. Matthew Burt, Joseph Ewens, and Michael Leader have been slaving away over a hot recording studio to bring you this finely cooked chunk of video game discussion.
This week they disentangle the increasingly symbiotic relationship between development studios and the communities that blossom around their games. Become a member of the AIPod community by firing your thoughts into the comment box below or sending us an email at

Go and listen. And here is a picture of where we record this seriously intellectual gaming podcast.


Mysterious, isn't it?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

[502] In Appreciation of Ryan Gosling

In anticipation of Drive, here's an article about Ryan Gosling, and his astonishing career so far.

It’s very easy to be cynical about Disney, especially when you look at their parade of child stars that fill up their various kids’ media organs. These tween pop sensations - the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, the High School Musical gang - seem to be bred for preening, sell-out stardom, pumping out CDs, merchandise and crowd-pleasing filler for as long as their corporate overlords wish.

Although, while the impulse to scoff is strong, it’s complicated by looking at the precedent set by the last generation of Disney kids. Back in 1993, if you were to spend some time with the Mickey Mouse Club, you’d see in premature form a bunch of pop culture notables, from Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, to Justin Timberlake. The former have very much coloured mainstream music for over a decade now, and the latter, after doing the same, is now making a promising move into the movies.

He’s not the first, as he’s following in the footsteps of one of the quieter successes from the MMC line-up: Ryan Gosling. Alongside the world-conquering pop stars, Gosling may seem unassuming, especially when you look at the false-starts that marred his teenage years (one season as Young Hercules, another in high-concept teens-on-a-cruise series Breaker High), but his career in the last decade has been consistently surprising, daring and damn near unique in the current Hollywood landscape.

Read the full article here.

Monday, 5 September 2011


Behind The Bytes may be finished, but BytesCorp are still hard at work. We recently moved into our office space at The Woolyard, and have just polished off a short promo video for our desk-mates GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN. It's teasing their forthcoming production 'External', which opens at the Soho Theatre this week.


Exciting, right? For more information about GETINTHEBACKOFTHEVAN, and 'External', visit their site here.

Friday, 2 September 2011

[500] Looking Back at Days of Heaven

Three months after tackling Apocalypse Now, I attempt to wrap my head around Days Of Heaven, a film released in the same year, and born of similar indulgences. It's another ambitious, lumbering Look Back essay, but this time I grapple with Terrence Malick the filmmaker. Why is he treated with such reverence, when he's only made 5 films - and, indeed, when those films have been so divisive?

As Terrence Malick enjoys what could be the most attention he’s attracted in three decades (or, by his measure, three films) with this year’s divisive art flick Tree Of Life, the BFI are releasing a restoration of Days Of Heaven, one of the two films that made his reputation in the 1970s, before his two-decade hiatus from the industry that lasted until 1998’s The Thin Red Line.

In Days Of Heaven, a too-brooding, too-handsome Richard Gere stars as Bill, a young worker who, after a fatal tussle with a steel mill foreman, gathers up his girlfriend Abby (Brooke Adams) and his sister Linda (Linda Manz) and abandons 1916 Chicago to harvest crops out West. Posing as siblings, the trio work for a rich, terminally ill farmer (Sam Shepard), who soon takes a shine to Abby. Spying an easy route to fortune, Bill convinces Abby to indulge the farmer’s advances, so they can score his lands once he croaks.

The film is not so much driven by plot, as it is by imagery, and the Academy Award-winning cinematography by Nestor Almendros (with additional photography from Haskell Wexler) is utterly compelling. Resisting soft-focus, picture card representations of rolling corn fields and rural tranquility, the film’s look is very much a dusty, early 20th century counterpart to Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, with its painterly approach to exterior landscapes, location shooting and natural light.

Especially in this painstaking restoration, the shots that Malick, Almendros and crew come up with are consistently breathtaking, whether they be of endless vistas, scenes of harvesting, or a scarecrow silhouetted against the twilight sky.

However, Malick is often overwhelmed by his ambitious sense of scale. And while this makes for some quite effective broad-stroke moments, on a personal level the film seems remarkably superficial. A surprising amount of the film’s deep emotional effectiveness comes from external, post-production sources. The wistful, homespun framing is entirely a product of the meandering, semi-improvised narration (recorded long after the fact with Linda Manz), and the recurring motifs from Leo Kottke’s buzzing, droning twelve-string guitar.

Indeed, even the film’s most bravura moments are indebted to Ennio Morricone, who contributes a typically exquisite score in this romantic, sometimes nostalgic set of cues. This is particularly evident in the scene where a swarm of hornets decimates the crop, with the howling, traumatised farmer dousing his livelihood in flame. Malick lets loose here, as man is suffocated by biblical plague, and chaos rages along with the fire. It is a terrifying sight to behold, but Morricone’s score - which, reportedly, he contributed under the condition that it would remain intact - is an unsettling, operatic masterpiece, building from restrained, strangled strings and bass-heavy rumbles to an awful crescendo: a wretched march of the profane.

Read the full article here.