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Category Archives: Media (Films & Music)

EMI Embracing the Future?

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I have just read that EMI – one of the ‘big four’ record labels – has appointed Douglas Merrill as the president of its ‘digital strategy’; a post covering “all of the company’s digital strategy, innovation, business development, supply chain and technology activities“.

This in itself is not that impressive. What makes this newsworthy, however, is Merrill’s past… as CIO and vice president of engineering at Google.

Google’s corporate information site says of Merrill (for now, at least):

Douglas Merrill joined Google late in 2003 as Senior Director of Information Systems. In this capacity he led multiple strategic efforts including Google’s 2004 IPO and its related regulatory activities. He holds direct line accountability for all internal engineering and support worldwide.

Previously, Douglas was senior vice president at Charles Schwab and Co., Inc, a multinational financial services company. At Schwab, he was responsible for such functions as information security, common infrastructure, and human resources strategy and operations. Prior to his tenure there, Douglas worked at Price Waterhouse as a senior manager, ultimately becoming a leader in security implementation practices. Before that, he was an information scientist at the RAND Corporation, where he studied topics such as computer simulation in education, team dynamics and organizational effectiveness.

Douglas holds a BA from the University of Tulsa in Social and Political Organization, and an MA and Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University.

I for one think this is great news. With the music industry in deep trouble and constantly being crushed by new technologies, they need new ideas… and fast. Litigation is only going to go so far in helping a struggling company to increase its profits.

As I’ve said before; “we can’t hold back technological advancement and especially the evolution of music and its distribution“. With that said, what the big labels need to do is not sue, but evolve. A ‘digital business model‘ is what is required to revive the industry and with this move it seems that EMI have realised this glaringly obvious fact.

The Girl in the Café – Click!

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Lawrence is a man who personifies how I feel when I’m around new people: he is a man who is slightly uncomfortable in his own skin, a man who hopes others won’t notice this, and is a man who doesn’t do a great job of exactly that. For a lot of people, staying quiet and listening is just… easier.

“Don’t think because I’m not saying much that I wouldn’t like to say a lot.”

Of course, Lawrence isn’t anyone I know; he’s a character played by Bill Nighy in Richard Curtis’ The Girl in the Café and – unlike the films Curtis usually pens – it isn’t so much a rom com as a rom pol – a word I would like to take credit for, meaning romantic-political-drama.

How I came to watch The Girl is almost as interesting as the film itself: randomly traversing the Interwebs one day I passed through LifeHack and onto Ingrid’s wonderful online home. Captivated by her quirky, funky e-cards and her beautiful photographs, I read on and duly added the site as one of my regular reads, soon succumbing and joining The Girl on Tour. I’ll let Ingrid explain:

I think this is a wonderful and important film that needs to be seen by as many people as possible. That’s why I decided to send my The Girl In The Cafe DVD on a tour. The Girl has been on tour for more than a year now, she has visited more than 60 people already, and is planning to visit people in 20 (and counting) different countries. If you want to participate all you have to do is send an email to be put on the list. And when the film gets to you, you watch it, write a review on your blog and send it to the next person on the list.

The mighty Bill Nighy has called this project “very cool” and “very admirable”.

So, what’s it about, and is it any good?

In short, the film charts the unlikely and troublesome relationship between Lawrence (a high-profile civil servant, played by Nighy) and Gina (the delectable Kelly Macdonald – Trainspotting and No Country for Old Men). In truth, however, it’s a story about standing up for your beliefs no matter what the consequences, governmental bureaucracy as an inherent problem within the G8, and the ongoing struggle of trying to solve one of the most important global problems of our time: extreme poverty.

Lawrence works for the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the British contingent working on solving the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals. As the film progresses we see Gina confront a number of high profile politicians over what she sees as their lack of action, and it is here where the film turns into not-so-much a political drama, as an advert for the admirable MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY campaign (or the ONE campaign, as it is better known in the U.S.).

I’m unsure about the numerous confrontation scenes and the over-simplification of such an important issue, but I suppose it is a film and as such it has to make economics and politics enjoyable! The message, of course, is much more important than any film can be: if you read at an average pace, 40 people have died of causes directly linked to extreme poverty since you started reading my post. That is what the film is about.

4 / 5

“Look, you wouldn’t care, perhaps, to meet again?”

“A heart that sighs has not what it desires” – Even More Films of 2008

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My film watching has slowed considerably of late, but those films that I have seen since mid-to-late January have been unusually good (give or take the odd bad apple). Here, take a peak:

Beerfest 2 / 5
The problem with Beerfest (and Broken Lizard in general) is, in my opinion, Super Troopers. If you start your comedy career creating a cult-classic, pretty much everything else you do is going to have to either live up to that or be better. The chances of that are obviously pretty slim, and with Beerfest they were way off. It could have been an enjoyable film – the premise sets the scene for a great no-brainer comedy and there’s enough of a storyline to keep you watching – if only for the next ‘joke’. However, I think Ty Burr from The Boston Globe said it best: “Making a comedy that celebrates binge drinking and cretinous behavior isn’t a crime against nature. Making one that’s as brutally unfunny as ‘Beerfest’ is.

Knocked Up 3 / 5
Not your typical straight-laced comedy, Knocked Up definitely doesn’t fit into the ‘teen movie’ genre, even though it comes from the same team that wrote and produced Superbad and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. In my opinion it’s midway between both of these films; nowhere near as funny and witty as the former and (thankfully) not as base as the latter. It reminds me of Melinda and Melinda – but a more male-centric version.

Sunshine (2007) 3.5 / 5
One of the most impressive science fiction films I’ve had the pleasure to watch in a long time.
You can tell it comes from the pen of Alex Garland (The Beach) and was created under the direction of Danny Boyle (Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) – and they are both definitely good things. The problem with it, though? I think the ending was completely unnecessary.

The Simpsons Movie 2.5 / 5
Blasphemous, I know – but in my opinion The Simpsons definitely didn’t translate well to the big screen. I would have much preferred to have created a 90 minute playlist of my favourite episodes and watch them all consecutively. It’s not that it was bad; it was disappointing because I was expecting great things.

Juno 4.5 / 5
At first I couldn’t think of a single reason not to give this film five stars – it’s an incredibly beautiful and hip comedy/drama. With an amazing cast astonishing in their idiosyncratic youth; cinematography that’s as funky as hell; and with a flawless script to boot (the dialogue’s intelligent, quirky, and ever quotable), Juno was a pleasure to watch. However, I always reserve an entire star to be given on the basis of whether or not I think about the film days, weeks, or even months later. With Juno, I told people it was awesome, but a week or so later I stopped thinking about it: for that it gets half a star taken off. I’ll be watching it again though – it’s too human not too.

10 Items or Less 3.5 / 5
Everything I could say about this film has already been said perfectly on Metacritic. To save you a couple of clicks, here are a few choice critical quotes:
Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “10 Items or Less is nearly an acting class exercise.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader: “An amiable demonstration of how two charismatic actors and a relaxed writer-director can squeeze an enjoyable movie out of practically nothing.
Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle: “Proceeds at that pace to an ending that is as inevitable as it is poignant.

Away From Her 4.5 / 5
As the feature debut of a 28-year-old, Away From Her is an incredible achievement. I could list a thousand adjectives describing this film: beautiful; haunting; unafraid; comforting; the list goes on. This film of love lost – and love found – is a poignant reminder of how fragile the human spirit is and the sacrifices we will all – at some point in our life – have to make. It shows that letting go is the hardest thing to do, but a necessary step, nonetheless.

Me and You and Everyone We Know 4 / 5
Damn, Miranda July is so cool! Billed as “a poetic and penetrating observation of how people struggle to connect with one another in an isolating and contemporary world“, Me and You has triggered something in me – it has made me realise how fragile relationships can be. I’m taking drastic steps because of this film – you’ll see… in a couple of days.

Thank You for Smoking 4.5 / 5
A textbook example of critical thinking, perfect retorts, negotiation, spin, and satirical dark comedy. Smoking is a hilarious look at the life of a tobacco lobbyist. I loved this.

La Science des Rêves (The Science of Sleep) 4 / 5
Distinctly Gondry, this is one of those films that changes dramatically depending on your current ‘real life’ circumstances (just like his previous feature, Eternal Sunshine). In that vein, I think I was at the perfect time of my life for The Science of Sleep when I saw it for the first time about a month ago (as I was when I saw Eternal Sunshine just over a year ago).
Gael García Bernal (Amores perros and The Motorcycle Diaries) does a great job portraying a young man whose dreams are greater, more fun, and happier than his less-than-perfect reality.
Finally – like Juno – it is ever quotable, and I leave you with a few of my favourites (in addition to this post’s title):
In dreams, emotions are overwhelming.
Things will turn out the way you want, if you just stop doubting that I love you.
You have a serious problem of distorting reality. You could sleep with the entire planet and still feel rejected.
‘The Goat on the Cliff’, remember?
This girl is at once all the women that broke my heart. She is so beautiful and generous, and she’s asking me to leave… because she is dumping me. She’s dumping me because I am a cheap drug dealer, and I am a drug dealer because she wants to leave me. The police are going to get me now, this is all my fault.

Podcasts: Like Radio, but Better (and With More 0s & 1s)

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Podcast Wallpaper from OllyHart (flickr)I have never listened to an audio podcast, it’s true. And yes, I know, I know – it’s shocking and it’s a slap in the face to Generation 2.0©. That’s why I’ve decided that now is the time for me to diversify and experiment in this strange medium.

After doing some research and compiling a list of possible subscriptions, I’m presenting them here as a way to keep track of them and also in hope that you may chip in with your thoughts and recommendations to liven up my daily commute.

BBC Worldwide

  • The Naked Scientists – “Stripping science down to its bare essentials” (in association with Cambridge University)
  • BBC Newsnight - Not strictly a podcast, but you can’t miss Newsnight!

National Public Radio (US) a.k.a. NPR

  • Intelligence Squared – also known as IQ2 U.S. While you’re at it, check out the live London Debates.
  • RadioLab – “Science meets culture, and information sounds like music”
  • Science Friday – “Making science user-friendly”
  • Fresh Air – “Probing questions, revelatory interviews and unusual insights”
  • On the Media – “Explores how the media ‘sausage’ is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression”

CBC Radio One

ABC Radio National (Australia)

  • All in the Mind – “From dreaming to depression, addiction to artificial intelligence, consciousness to coma, psychoanalysis to psychopathy, free will to forgetting – exploring the human condition through the mind’s eye”
  • Philosopher’s Zone – “Your guide through the strange thickets of logic, metaphysics and ethics”
  • Big Ideas – “thinking on major social, cultural, scientific or political issues”

IdeaCast – “Breakthrough ideas and commentary from leading thinkers in business and management” from The Harvard Business Review

EconTalk from The Library of Economics and Liberty on “the economics behind current events, markets, free trade, and the curiosities of everyday decision-making”

…Open Source “Inverting the traditional relationship between broadcast and the web: not a podcast with a web community; a web community that produces a podcast”

Physics for Future Presidents with Richard Muller – “What every world leader needs to know”

Scientific American’s Science Talk – “Exploring cutting-edge breakthroughs and controversial issues with leading scientists”

Seminars About Long-term Thinking (SALT) – “promoting ‘slower/better’ thinking”. Part of The Long Now Foundation

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe – “Your escape to reality”

Studio 360 and specifically its Design for the Real World segment – “Get inside the creative mind: a smart and surprising guide to what’s happening in pop culture and the arts”

Philosophy Talk with Stanford University’s Professors of Philosophy – “The program that questions everything… except your intelligence”

The CERN Podcast is recorded in situ at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider with special ‘celebrity’ guests – “A cocktail of entertaining chat shows with a bit of particle physics thrown in”

That’s quite a few isn’t it? Of course there are many more great ones I’ve missed that may be of equal or greater interest to me as all of the above, so if you know of any please let me know (yes, I am actually begging).

How about these popular ones that I left out of the above list purposefully – am I being foolish in demoting these to the footer: Slate’s ‘Daily Podcast’ or ‘Explainer’, This Week in Tech, The Glenn and Helen Show, Shire Network News, This American Life, World Beyond the Headlines, Common Sense, BrainStuff from HowStuffWorks, The Guardian’s Science Weekly, Selected Shorts, The Economist, The Writers’ Block, This Week in Science, Sex is Fun and Open Source Sex with Violet Blue. Regarding those last two: one’s on the physiology of sex and the other is written for women; both are supposed to be interesting; and I imagine they’re both super-NSFW.

Sources or: Where I Found These

The Hobbit’s Labyrinth – Guillermo del Toro to Direct LotR Prequels

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In the first piece of movie news that’s excited me in a long time, I just discovered that Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro is to direct The Hobbit in lieu of Peter Jackson.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan, and when I first heard that Jackson was having a bit of a rift with New Line and may not direct the two planned prequels (The Hobbit will be shot as two films) I was slightly worried to say least. Jackson did an incredible job with the original trilogy and I couldn’t think of another director who could put the same passion into directing The Hobbit whilst keeping the feel of the movie so close to that of the book.

However, I think del Toro is perfect and I congratulate MGM, New Line, and Peter Jackson (he’s the executive producer) on their inspired choice – del Toro brought Pan’s Labyrinth to life as a work of visual art, and if the same emotion gets poured into The Hobbit, well, we’re all in for one hell of a treat.

Thinking back to when I first saw Pan’s Labyrinth I remember being amazed at the realism of this fantasy film and being blinded by the brilliance of the cinematography. I remember having the distinct feeling that I was reading a brand new – even darker – Lewis Carroll fairy-tale directed by an early Tim Burton; all enhanced by the glorious little cinema I saw it in. It was brilliant.

Pan’s Labyrinth 5 / 5
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 5 / 5
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 4.5 / 5
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 5 / 5