about :: jose nestor marquez

Category: movies & television

The heroes we get (summer of 2014, continued)

Thoughts on the commercially successful superhero movies Guardians of the Galaxy and Lucy. Apparently, superhero movies are a bad place to look for heroes. Guardians of the Galaxy is full of clever jokes and features a disarmingly charming actor as its protagonist. It was clearly made by very talented people whose greatest achievement is to […]


Many film critics, including some of the most astute, have written praises for the 2014 movie “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”. I greatly enjoyed a few scenes and marveled at many shots that are visually stunning. I also found it an offensively lazy and shallow commercialization of its predecessors. This is why. In […]

Chestbursters vs. Engineers

Like many, I found the sequence in which the new Ripley gives “hacks” a sexist computer to giver herself a Caesarian to be the best and truest to form. The magic of the original Alien movie was largely the alien in all its unsubtle sexuality. That is, the species will or drive for self-preservation programmed […]

Mad Men 2013

About 15 years ago I saw Tyler Brule, then just two years into Wallpaper, give a presentation that would forever change my understanding of art and commerce. He explained how Wallpaper was cajoling its clients into letting the magazine’s art team redo their ads so that these would play better as facing pages to the […]

actor and spectator

in the actor-spectator relationship, both participants experience self-knowledge by “trading places” with another person. for the actor, self-knowledge is gained by looking inward, as if into a mirror. the actor is trained to master her own mind and body so that she may produce the gestures and voice that convey another person. the better the […]

the vessel of exploration

For Europeans and their former subjects, the making of planet Earth – a process better known as globalization – begins after the Renaissance, as newly empowered groups embrace the idea that, contra the Church, the world is both knowable and mostly unknown. before The frontier – the unsettled terrain – is thus not just an economic and […]

Blue Valentine: the love story as murder mystery

Surely, for every lover who says “I love you” (which is to ask “Do you love me?”) there is another who asks “What went wrong?” – or, simply, “Why don’t you love me anymore?” Few movies so deftly tackle this whodunnit as well as Blue Valentine. Using the techniques of a mystery – the withholding of […]

The movie Return: wanting for a story.

In the vein of Todd Haynes and Tony Kushner, Liza Johnson’s movie Return dramatizes an intimate, personal crisis to make intelligible a broader social catastrophe. The plot is achingly simple: Kelli is a reservist who returns from war, loses her way, then her job, her car, her husband, her children and finally her freedom. Why […]

What if the movie Contagion were about viruses rather than globalization?

Soderbergh’s Contagion is a movie about the ills of globalization, right down to the ridiculous closing sequence in which deforestation by a multinational is blamed for a viral pandemic. But viruses are more than a MacGuffin, they’re the intersection between the organic and the inorganic, between that which lives and that which exists. Viruses may […]

My problem with Footloose (2011): not enough Mexicans

Footloose (1984) had tension because it was of the moment. The Moral Majority was just entering its apex and small town America was a pop cultural phenomenon (months after Footloose was released, Farm Aid hit the air and Small Town reached #6). There was also, generally, lots of dancing in the streets. Fast forward to […]

Bart Simpson’s tattoo.

Why does this image make us laugh? The tattoo. It translates into the simple world of The Simpsons elements of our complex society. The tattoo as totem. The pirate as hero. The clown as pirate. (Krusty, meet Jack Sparrow.) Using symbols, we take a familiar scenario and transpose it into a new setting so that […]

Is literalism a faith? The problem with wizards and vampires.

Perhaps the reason why literalists have fretted over the popularity of books like Harry Potter and movies like Twilight is not that they fear children will learn to believe in wizards or vampires but rather that children will learn to make believe. The pleasure of make belief is that it is a form of play […]

“It has absolutely no meaning.” Yet.

“There’s nothing intelligent in Alien. It has absolutely no meaning. It works on a very visceral level and its only point is terror and more terror.” – Ridley Scott To be self-aware about making art is an exceedingly rare stroke of fortune – probably, of the bad kind. But there is no such thing as a terrifying spectacle […]

living in the age of digital singles, what of digital shorts?

Computers have transformed music production and consumption by enabling the cheap and easy manipulation of sound. Digitization took apart music culture (industry included) and put it back together again in a very new way. Using free software, consumers took apart the pop album ushering in an era of digital singles. Using samplers, producers took apart […]

Bad action movie plot: Chinese hackers and Mexican cartels

The Vanity Fair expose on likely Chinese hacking of many important corporations and government agencies by Michael Joseph Gross describes a ploy I’d only known from Hollywood movie: infiltrators intercepting calls to the victim’s security dept. in order to field these calls and prevent detection. The scene prompted me to imagine a contemporary kind of […]

Why thrillers set in space can be more vivid than those set on Earth.

I came of age at a time when outer space was a potent symbol in popular culture. This quote from an interview with historian Nicholas de Monchaux sheds light on why: [T]he space of outer space is… a space that humans cannot actually encounter without dying, and so must enter exclusively through a dependence on […]

The agony of success: Kings of Pastry and The Pixar Story

The ancient Greeks defined

What’s so vulgar about The Hangover? Not nearly enough.

I remember exactly where I was when I read the obituary for the music industry on the front page of the Wall Street Journal: it was a gray and cold morning in March of 2002 and I was standing in line to get a coffee at the Atlas Cafe in San Francisco. While the report […]

What Would Carlos Do?

The movie series Carlos is a must-see thriller for anyone born in the last half-century. It fits neatly alongside other chronicles of political terror like Munich and The Baader Meinhof Complex – or, obliquely, The Falcon and the Snowman. As only a movie can, Carlos transports the viewer into the foreign world of the recent past. […]

About a year of tweets, archived here for posterity.

I began this current journal, XSML, with the intent of reducing my own notes to extra small, XML-friendly updates. Increasingly, I have been drawn by the allure of the 140 character limit of Twitter. I may get a round Tuit and synchronize my use of Twitter with this blog. For now, here’s a dump of […]