31 Strange Medical Conditions (or: Charlie's idea notebook)
Friday, 7 June 2013
Here are "31 Strange Medical Conditions," courtesy of John Green (who is awesome) and the Mental Floss team (also awesome). Charlie doesn't get a mention, nor do his films, but observe this:
#19 - Walking Corpse Syndrome, a.k.a. Cotard's Delusion. Synecdoche, New York's lead character, I probably don't need to point out again, is named Caden Cotard.
#20 - Capgras Delusion. At one point in Synecdoche, when Caden visits Adele’s flat, "Capgras" is one of the names on the building's address list.
#21 - Fregoli Delusion. You know Anomalisa? Charlie's upcoming animated film, based on his own play? When he wrote the play, he originally hid under the pseudonym "Francis Fregoli". (The Coen Bros' half of Theater of the New Year couldn't be performed in L.A., due to scheduling conflicts, so Charlie wrote a second play -- "Anomalisa" -- to double bill with his "Hope Leaves the Theater.")
John Green has a weekly show on the Mental Floss channel. It is cool. I recommend it. I'll embed another episode after the cut. Just for fun. Cos I'm cool, too.
"When I was in hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets weren't going to do me any good 'cause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn't need to eat, or speak, or do anything. I ended up spending time in the graveyard because that was the closest I could get to death." (Source)
Stuff like this freaks me out a little bit. Also those reality medical shows. One day you're perfectly fine; next thing you know, you're foaming at the mouth and paralysed from the eyebrows down because you picked up a pen with a germ on it. Those make me want to sit still in an empty room and stay quiet for a very long time. But even that could cause medical problems. YOU JUST CAN'T WIN, MAN.
I really like this cover of "Little Person," Jon Brion and Charlie's song from Synecdoche, New York. It's by Foxtails Brigade, a chamber pop band from Oakland, California, and Laura Weinbach's vocals really suit this song. Observe the video:
Over at Mental Floss, you can read about 10 reported incidents of Cotard's Syndrome. Synecdoche, New York's Caden Cotard was named after the bizarre condition. Matt Soniak describes it like this:
Cotard’s Delusion is a mental disorder where people suffer the nihilistic delusion that they are dead or no longer exist. First reported in the 1700s, the disorder is still a largely a mystery today. The underlying cause isn’t understood; it’s been linked to bipolar disorder, depression and/or schizophrenia depending on the patient’s age.
Here's #3 on the list:
3. In 2008, New York psychiatrists reported on a 53-year-old patient, Ms. Lee, who complained that she was dead and smelled like rotting flesh. She asked her family to take her to a morgue so that she could be with other dead people. They dialed 911 instead. Ms. Lee was admitted to the psychiatric unit, where she accused paramedics of trying to burn her house down. After a month or so of a drug regimen, she was released with great improvement in her symptoms. (Source)
In which Charlie's name is dropped in an art gallery
Thursday, 24 January 2013
Thomas and Joey point me to a blog entry, in which Joey has a two-degrees-of-Kaufman experience in a gallery -- randomly bumpin' into a woman and her mother, who worked as an RN on the set of Synecdoche, New York. It's a trippy read with a unique style. It starts like so:
BENNINGTON -- Lisa and Julia were putzing around on their phones during lunch in the brew pub across the street when they stumbled upon a link for Fiddlehead at Four Corners. The cuties hit the link and loved one of the pictures -- Brian Hewitt's "Carriage Barn Gala" oil painting -- and then saw a link for the Google Street View virtual tour inside the art gallery. They took and loved the tour and decided to walk across the street to check out Fiddlehead at Four Corners in person.
At first AGD was pretty stoked to hear the cuties tell this little ditty of a tale because Fiddlehead's Street View tour went live on Google just an hour or two earlier, so he immediately thought how sweet it was that this new technology was working as intended. But the longer AGD engaged the cuties in conversation the more he wondered if they weren't in on the jig, whatever that jig might be. (Source)
Master class with Synecdoche's production designer
Thursday, 29 March 2012
Mark Friedberg was the production designer on films for Wes Anderson, Ang Lee, Julie Taymor, Jim Jarmusch and Todd Haynes. He was also the designer on Synecdoche, New York. Friedberg delivered the first in a new series of master classes at the Museum of the Moving Image, and Capital New York have a report on the event. Synecdoche doesn't get a mention past the introductory paragraph, but you still might want to read the article:
His big break came when he was asked to pinch-hit for an absent crew member on New York Stories. "They needed these African masks for a set, hanging on the walls," Friedberg said, "and they knew I was going home every night and painting, so they asked me to make them, and paid me extra for it. It was the first time I had actually gotten paid for something I had made."
Soon, he started production designing for friends' films, and eventually found himself talking to Ang Lee about the design for his 1997 The Ice Storm: "I came prepared for a job interview, but Ang said, "˜I was always curious about art history, but never got a chance to learn. Let's talk about Cubism, because I think it might have something to do with this story.' So I started talking about Cubism, and it turned into this amazing conversation about personalities shown from different angles, and how the ice is like a lens, and there's no real eye contact." (Source)
On the New York Times website there's an interesting article about factory production of fake chicken (for the purposes of eating) -- it's the kind of thing Mr. Caden Cotard might read over breakfast with little Olive, yeah?
IT is pretty well established that animals are capable of suffering; we've come a long way since Descartes famously compared them to nonfeeling machines put on earth to serve man. (Rousseau later countered this, saying that animals shared "some measure" of human nature and should partake of "natural right.") No matter where you stand on this spectrum, you probably agree that it's a noble goal to reduce the level of the suffering of animals raised for meat in industrial conditions. (Source)
Bonus: you can't catch bird flu from a fake chook or turkey. (The animal turkey, that is; not the country Turkey.)
The article includes a link to a 2003 New Yorker review of Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake. (Susan Orlean has been known to write for the New Yorker, and she was a big part of a different Kaufman film. Coincidence?! I THINK SO. Now I'm confusing myself.) Anyway, that review is also worth checking out:
In her towering and intrepid new novel, "Oryx and Crake" (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday; $26), Atwood, who is the daughter of a biologist, vividly imagines a late-twenty-first-century world ravaged by innovations in biological science. Like most literary imaginings of the future, her vision is mournful, bleak, and infernal, and is punctuated, in Atwood style, with the occasional macabre joke—perhaps not unlike Dante's own literary vision. Atwood's pilgrim in Hell is Snowman, who, following a genetically engineered viral cataclysm, is, as far as he knows, the only human being who has survived. (Source)
In 2010, Charlie popped over to Bologna, Italy, to talk about Synecdoche, New York and to receive the prize "Lancia - Celebration of Lives". He mentioned his Kung Fu Panda 2 work and a script which may or may not have been called Tentative. It was a bit confusing. (By which I mean, "I was a bit confused.") ANYWAY. The fabulous Andrea sent me a link to an article about the event (heads up: it's written in Italian) and the article includes some video clips. The audio quality is pretty horrid, though. But it's always nice to see Charlie walkin' and talkin'. The article is here, and below is the first of 3 clips.
The last Broadway production of "Death of a Salesman" was only 13 years ago, starring Brian Dennehy in a Tony-winning performance as Willy Loman, yet audience interest in Arthur Miller's landmark drama appears higher than ever. A new "Salesman" arrived on Broadway last week, starring Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Capote") as Willy and the movie star Andrew Garfield ("The Amazing Spider-Man") as his son Biff, and grossed $613,569 for its first six preview performances "“ more money per performance than the early previews for either the Dennehy production in 1999 or its predecessor, the Dustin Hoffman-led "Salesman" in 1984. (Source)
You can prolly connect the dots yourself, but indulge me, yeah? In Synecdoche, New York, Philip Seymour Hoffman starred as Caden Cotard, a playwright. At the beginning of the film, Caden was directing a production of Salesman. And then he won a MacArthur Grant and staged an enormous play replicating his own life, and it was all very trippy and he **SPOILER**died**NO SPOILER** and we were sad, and now the guy who played Caden is in Salesman and it's doing very well. And now I need a nap.
I don't think I've posted this before. I don't know why. I'm lazy. (Okay, I do know why.) It's the introduction Charlie wrote for the Synecdoche, New York script book, and it's really cool and kinda sweet. It starts out irritably and ends up nice and reflective and stuff. Here's the beginning:
They want me to write an introduction to this thing. They're pestering me. This guy, Keith, at Newmarket Press. I've already consented to and gone through a long interview for this book and am currently mired in endless press for the movie, which opens soon enough but not soon enough for me. I'm traveling the country (San Francisco, Boston, New York, D.C., Chicago, Dallas, Austin, Denver, Seattle—I think that's it) and back and forth twice to Europe in the month of October alone. On a plane almost every night for the entire month. So on top of that, they keep asking me to do this introduction thing and I keep saying, through intermediaries, that I don't have the time or the inclination.
And here's the end:
Maybe it's easier to see people as peripheral. Maybe that's why we do it. It's a weird and daunting experience to let other people in their fullness into our minds. It is so much easier to see them as serving a purpose in our own lives.
In any event, this somehow seems to lead me to some of the things explored in the screenplay that you, imaginary person, are holding in your hands right now. And the relentlessly experienced life of yours that has brought you to this book at this time will now perhaps interact with the relentlessly experienced life of mine as it is represented by this script. I hope we recognize each other. (Source)
And there's a lot of neat stuff in between. I love his intros.
You know how the chronology of events in Synecdoche, New York, is all weird and compressed? Time moves forward at an accelerated rate and nobody comments on it? This phenomenon is particularly noticeable in the opening scene, but you have to really pay attention if you want to catch all of the time-jumping and whatnot. To that end, YouTube user AfterClapENT has uploaded the film's opening 9 minutes, adding captions that point out all the various dates and times that are referenced. (The opthamologist never fails to crack me up, by the way.) The video says it's "Part 1." Not sure what might be in store for Part 2.
Synecdoche, New York: not the worst movie of all time
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Videogum have an ongoing feature where they hunt for the worst movie of all time. Readers are allowed to nominate films, based on a set of rules, and Videogum takes a look at the choices. This week: Synecdoche, New York. You might think they spend several paragraphs bashing the film, but that's not what it is at all.
Because as you will find, although we are discussing Synecdoche, New York in the Hunt for the Worst Movie today, it would appear that the trail has gone cold (good metaphor) because in fact this is not the worst movie. In fact it's a very good movie. It might even be a great one.
[...] why do people think that this is the Worst Movie of All Time? It's clearly not. But obviously people's dislike of it goes beyond a simple dislike and into something deeper. The best I can manage is what I mentioned earlier about some of the film's focus on "existential crisis" feeling simplistic and pushy. Ultimately, I think the movie has a lot more to say, but maybe people get stuck on that. Also, there is plenty of Charlie Kaufman-esque absurdity that does, at times, feel unhinged from any narrative purpose. Even after the second viewing, I'm still not sure why Samantha Morton's house was always on fire? (Source)
And the review finishes with the declaration that the film is good, and you should see it twice. See? Not what you were expecting.
This is nifty and awesome, cos it's true. I love this.
Five years ago, a relatively unknown (and unhinged) director began one of the wildest experiments in film history. Armed with total creative control, he invaded a Ukrainian city, marshaled a cast of thousands and thousands, and constructed a totalitarian society in which the cameras are always rolling and the actors never go home
[...] Khrzhanovsky came up with the idea of the Institute not long after preproduction on Dau began in 2006. He wanted a space where he could elicit the needed emotions from his cast in controlled conditions, twenty-four hours a day. The set would be a panopticon. Microphones would hide in lighting fixtures (as they would in many a lamp in Stalin's USSR), allowing Khrzhanovsky to shoot with multiple film cameras from practically anywhere—through windows, skylights, and two-way mirrors.
The Institute's ostensible goal was to re-create '50s and '60s Moscow, home to Dau's subject, Lev Landau. A Nobel Prize"“winning physicist, Landau significantly advanced quantum mechanics with his theories of diamagnetism, superfluidity, and superconductivity. He also tapped epic amounts of ass. (Source)
This is one part interesting, two parts gross*, and would probably make Caden Cotard beam.
A performance artist who said giving birth is the "highest form of art" has delivered a baby boy — inside a New York City art gallery
[...] The gallery said 19 to 20 people were present for the relatively quick birth in a birthing pool. The gallery gave no other details. A video of the birth will be added to the gallery's upcoming exhibition.
The 36-year-old artist had set up a home-birth center at the gallery, turning the space into a brightly decorated bedroom with ocean blue walls and photo-imprinted pillows. (Source)
The baby's name is Ajax.
*I know, I know. "Giving birth is one of the most beautiful things, yadda yadda."
Rhetorical question: would it have been easier to spend nine months working on a painting?
Scientific American currently has a piece on near-death experiences. They say the answer to such phenomena might be found in new research being done on abnormal functioning of dopamine and oxygen flow. In the article, they mention a thing known as Cotard Syndrome. You might remember that Caden Cotard, the lead character in Synecdoche, New York, was named Caden Cotard.
Recently, a host of studies has revealed potential underpinnings for all the elements of such experiences.
For instance, the feeling of being dead is not limited to near-death experiences—patients with Cotard or "walking corpse" syndrome hold the delusional belief that they are deceased. This disorder has occurred following trauma, such as during advanced stages of typhoid and multiple sclerosis, and has been linked with brain regions such as the parietal cortex and the prefrontal cortex—"the parietal cortex is typically involved in attentional processes, and the prefrontal cortex is involved in delusions observed in psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia," Mobbs explains. Although the mechanism behind the syndrome remains unknown, one possible explanation is that patients are trying to make sense of the strange experiences they are having. (Source)
They include a link to a review of a book, The Tell-Tale Brain: a Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human, and in that review they mention Capgras Syndrome. "Capgras" happens to be one name in the address list of an apartment building Caden visits. Capgras Syndrome is "when a person believes those around him have been replaced by imposters."
So I was in kind of a mood (long story - in real time it takes about 34 years and 3 months to tell), and I went moseying around YouTube as a means of distracting myself from Googling up "noose making", and in amongst videos of a cat who needs an exorcist and a rather in-depth look at squiggling techniques, I came across this cover version of "Little Person" (the jaunty tune from Synecdoche, New York), which song perfectly suits my mood, and I figured I'd share it with my CK homies.
And I am still in that mood. (But I'm kidding about the noose.)
What I need is sleep and a time machine. And pizza. Mmm, pizza.