Dreaming in Color

Satoshi Kon’s movies, which paralleled the rise of social media, explore the surreal meeting of interiority and public life

True Lies

YouTube gives the viewer the sense that they — and they alone — are always in the process of “authoring” their own experience. Conspiracy media, like those in the lineage of Loose Change, can easily leverage this sense of authorship, making us feel like we’re playing a far more active role than we actually are

Is It My Body

More and more, paranormal tech horror centers around stories of possession: a self taken over by forces that are external to it and yet deeply familiar. These films speak to the sense that the 21st century body is inescapably hybrid, possessed not only by the ecological non-human, but also by the technological non-human.

Get Realer

If CGI makes anything possible, why has it led to so many remakes?

Hanging on the Telephone

Crackle signals an ambiguous past, provoking audience nostalgia for how things used to be without actually having to return to when that was. The failure to cinematically engage with the role of phones in everyday life suggests a similar failure to see the world how it is. The present absence of our habitual phone use has the effect of taking a story out of time: It’s invisible crackle. This leaves films ill-equipped to explore, let alone solve, the problems new communication technology brings.

To Be Discontinued

Unlike the canvas or blank page, the camera is a tool of exclusion: Its frame and focal field subtract from an already existing scene. Motion picture editing and the logic of continuity is a check on this quality. During the same period, discontinuity was a refutation of this artificial consensus. In the aesthetics of discontinuity, the cinema has preserved the energetic cruelty of the avant-garde and waited for its politics to bleed out, leaving behind only the exclusionary mechanism of the camera and its frame.

Motion Pictures

Via gif-based memes, our person-to-person language of motion is gaining a writing system. Like the photograph, which clips a moment out of time and freezes it forever, the gif has captured how it was that we moved in that moment. It liberates motion itself from time and elevates it to a mythology of movement; and it’s in this technological middle space where we find ourselves, right now, able to write this captured motion but simultaneously experience it as art.

Advance Screening

Computer-based technologies change the way media operates as a tool of communication, establishing complex matrices of relationships in a way that fractures the previously unified narrative. In order for cinema to adapt, it has to bend back on the tropes it was founded on, letting them splinter.

Web of Lies

Bad digital sci-fi isn’t necessarily propagandistic, but it does tend to stoke the wrong fears, leaving us complacent in the face of the genuinely fearsome; and it very rarely comes close to identifying the nature of modern authoritarianism, or to questioning our complicity. These are not compelling, artful or thoughtful representations of the digital era — they rely on flawed, and badly outdated conceptions of the internet, which they reduce to a narrative “Other”: a mysterious imposition on our lives, or an alternative reality controlled by malevolent forces, rather than a feature of reality itself. Media that attempts to depict “the way we live now” by envisioning the way we might live tomorrow should not be so simple.

Night Visions

Brian De Palma has always been an early adopter, disorienting the eye with Steadicams and split lenses; he was digitizing his storyboards by the early ’90s. He exploits new technology to shoot from high, cloistered angles and cramped positions — positions only a voyeur could love. “Even pretending you aren't catering to male fantasies is a male fantasy: pretending you're unseen,” the old Margaret Atwood line goes. “You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur.” But now you’re also your own exhibitionist. You can offer selective details through frosted screens; you can overlay versions of reality on semi-transparent frames. You can let watchers know that you’re watching yourself be watched.