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On Netflix and next projects, a night in genre-king Bong Joon-Hos lecture hall

Enlarge / Seated in the simulcast overflow room for Bong Joon-Ho (center). Evidently the first ~350 ..

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Enlarge / Seated in the simulcast overflow room for Bong Joon-Ho (center). Evidently the first ~350 person lecture hall filled up an hour and a half early. There were definitely people sitting on the floor in the second.Nathan Mattise

AUSTIN, Texas—Usually when people line up for two hours or more in Austin, Texas, barbecue awaits at the other end. But the Fleming Lecture Hall at the University of Texas didn't suddenly start producing world-class brisket last Wednesday. Instead, in what may be a first, roughly 700 people lined up and then descended upon the humble classroom for a lecture at 5pm on a weeknight.

Technically, it was a guest lecture. And in fairness, it's not every Wednesday that South Korean genre film legend Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) is both in Austin and available to sit for student questions.

But the best genre-film festival in the US (Fantastic Fest) was taking place a few miles south of UT's campus throughout last week, and Bong's latest work, Parasite, screened among the closing films. The filmmaker's PR rep also happens to be a UT alum, and so a special campus viewing took place earlier in the week ahead of this—the one time no one seemed willing to skip an evening lecture.

  • Earlier this week, Director Bong Joon-Ho in front of what was then known as the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (aka the location of Fantastic Fest). Jack Plunkett / Fantastic Fest
  • L to R: Actor Choi Woo-shik, Actor Song Kang-Ho, and Bong Joon-ho of Parasite at the Toronto International Film Festival. Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for NEON
  • A still from Parasite showing the family at the film's center. Neon / Fantastic Fest
  • Always check your local alt-weekly's event listings, all. Austin Chronicle
  • Bong clearly has a sense of humor and is game for a lot (including speaking to undergrads and having an entire screening audience dress like his film's poster). Heather Kennedy / Fantastic Fest
  • Hmmm… Bong Joon-ho is leading a toast after Parasite finally screened at Fantastic Fest on Thursday evening. Heather Kennedy / Fantastic Fest
  • …because Alamo Drafthouse founder and NEON productions co-founder Tim League (L) renamed the freakin' entire theater in Bong's honor after the director brought Parasite to Texas this week. Heather Kennedy / Fantastic Fest
  • The inscription: "In modern classics like Memories of Murder, Mother, and Parasite, director Bong Joon Ho inspires and challenges us with a pitch-perfect blend of humanity, suspense, humor, and craft. His work reminds us why we love cinema…" Heather Kennedy / Fantastic Fest

Not film school, but films then school

Bong started by quickly admitting to not being the ideal role model for any future film students in attendance. He studied sociology back in his university days in the 1980s, but really he spent more time in a nearby theater than any classroom. "When I first went to college, I thought, 'I'll major in anything and join a film club,'" Bong said. (The filmmaker took questions in English but largely responded for the audience via a translator.) "So I did and rarely went to class."

But South Korea at that time was itself an education—the country was essentially transitioning out from underneath a military regime, so Bong supplemented his sociology studies simply by keeping his head up. "Society was very dynamic with students still protesting," he said. "Observing the students around me was my education rather than just textbooks."

Any advice, teach?

Given a significant portion of the audience was made of UT film students, Bong did offer some practical tips for filmmakers. For instance, he tries to begin his scripts with scenarios rather than individuals. "I come up with the plot and situations—I will rarely begin with a character, but I always think, 'What would they do in this situation,' no matter how random it may be," he said. "Sometimes when a very passionate actor comes to me and says, 'I wrote a three years diary for my character,' and they want [the character's] personal history, I'm also curious about what they're writing. I prefer to maintain that curiosity. I don't believe [a character's] actions and psychology is consistent; they can change depending on the situation."

And when it comes to translating that script to the set from the director's chair, Bong suggests focusing on the literal vision. "I don't think it makes sense to direct their performance. Actor's act; I just help," he said. "So I think about relationships between the actor and the camera—how is it moving? What size is the frame? I tend to obsess over story boards, and you won't find a lot of differences between them and finished films. I meticulously set up the camera and set, then throw actors on there. It's a bit of a paradox, because then I ask them to relax and improvise. I like to be surprised."

For fans of Bong's work, that dynamic between those in control and those subjected to it likely sounds familiar. In the sci-fi/action mash-up Snowpiercer, survivors of some climate change counteractions gone wrong live on a train arranged by societal standing. In the horror thriller Mother, a small village treats a boy with intellectual disabilities poorly to their detriment. Near-future Okja has corporations versus animal activists; Parasite is 99% versus the 1%. Often this dynamic gets dressed up in multiple genres, but the central idea is very based in reality.

"With Parasite, in the US and Europe, they comment on how the film mixes genres," Bong said when asked about how his films get received differently across the globe. "But Korean audiences see it as close to reality. A lot of people mention how their lives are; some smelled themselves after leaving the theater."

While the writer/director's cultural nuance came on campus, Bong's affinity for genre started long before that. He recalls studying some Asian filmmakers closely at university (like Hou Hsiao-hsien), but "the films that have permeated my body and stay in my bloodstream are the genre films from the US I watched when I was little."

As a kid, Bong recalls staying up late at night until his family fell asleep in order to watch AFKN, a network broadcasting American productions for servicemen stationed in Korea at the time. He loved the thrillers of John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy), for instance, and obviously these influences became ingrained only to later resurface in things like Snowpiercer and Parasite.

"They played a lot of midnight films with quite a lot of sex and violence, films you couldn't see on Korean channels at the time," he said. "And because IRead More – Source

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China surveillance of journalists to use ‘traffic-light’ system

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bbc– The Chinese province of Henan is building a surveillance system with face-scanning technology that can detect journalists and other “people of concern”.

Documents seen by BBC News describe a system that classifies journalists into a “traffic-light” system – green, amber and red.

Journalists in the “red” category would be “dealt with accordingly”, they say.

The Henan Public Security Bureau has not responded to a request for comment.

The documents, discovered by the surveillance analyst firm IPVM, also outline plans to surveil other “people of concern”, including foreign students and migrant women.

Human Rights Watch said: “This is not a government that needs more power to track more people… especially those who might be trying to peacefully hold it accountable.”

‘Thematic libraries’

The documents, published on 29 July, are part of a tendering process, encouraging Chinese companies to bid for a contract to build the new system, won, on 17 September, by NeuSoft.

NeuSoft has not responded to BBC News request for comment.

The system includes facial-recognition technology linked to thousands of cameras in Henan, to alert authorities when a “person of concern” is located.

“People of concern” would be categorised into “thematic libraries” – in an already existing database of information about and images of people in the province.

The system would also connect with China’s national database.

‘Key concern’

One of the groups of interest to the Henan Public Security Bureau is journalists, including foreign journalists.

“The preliminary proposal is to classify key concerned journalists into three levels,” the documents say.

“People marked in red are the key concern.

“The second level, marked in yellow, are people of general concern.

“Level three, marked in green – are for journalists who aren’t harmful.”

And an alert would be triggered as soon as “journalists of concern”, marked as “red” – or “yellow”, if they had previous criminal charges – booked a ticket to travel into the province.

The system would also assess foreign students and divide them into three categories of risk – “excellent foreign students, general personnel, and key people and unstable personnel”.

“The safety assessment is made by focusing on the daily attendance of foreign students, exam results, whether they come from key countries, and school-discipline compliance,” the documents say.

The schools themselves would need to notify the authorities of students with security concerns.

And those considered to be of concern would be tracked.

During politically sensitive periods, such as the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, “a wartime alarm mechanism” would be activated and tracking of “key concern” students stepped up, including tracking their cell phones.

The documents outline a desire for the system to contain information taken from:

  • cell phones
  • social media – such as WeChat and Weibo
  • vehicle details
  • hotel stays
  • travel tickets
  • property ownership
  • photos (from existing databases)

It should also focus on “stranded women”, or non-Chinese migrant women who do not have the right to live in China.

A large number of women enter China to find work.

Others have been trafficked from neighbouring countries.

And the system would “dock” with the National Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Public Security and Henan police, among others.

The documents were published around the time the Chinese government criticised foreign media outlets for their coverage of the Henan floods.

Conor Healy, Government Director of IPVM, said: “The technical architecture of mass surveillance in China remains poorly understood… but building custom surveillance technology to streamline state suppression of journalists is new.

“These documents shed light on what China’s public-security officials want from mass surveillance.”

China’s facial-recognition system is thought to already be in use across the country.

And last year, the Washington Post reported Huawei had tested artificial-intelligence software that could recognise people belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority and alert police.

Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said: “The goal is chilling, ensuring that everyone knows they can and will be monitored – and that they never know what might trigger hostile interest.”

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QUALCOMM REBRANDS SNAPDRAGON CHIPS THAT POWER MANY OF THE WORLD’S PHONES IN ATTEMPT TO BE LESS CONFUSING

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independent– Qualcomm has announce a major rebrand of its Snapdragon chips, in a move that could make choosing a phone vastly more simple.

The company sells its Snapdragon chips to a vast range of other companies – such as Samsung, HP and OnePlus – which use them to power devices including mobile phones, watches and laptops.

But comparing those devices can often be difficult, because of the confusing name of those Snapdragon processors, which are marked by a host of complex numbers. Since processors are at the heart of the devices, it can therefore be difficult to know whether a given phone is better than another.

But Qualcomm now says that it will simplify its branding in a host of ways, most of which bring new branding to the line.

The most obvious one is that the Qualcomm and Snapdragon brands will be separated. While they will still be owned by the same company as before, the Qualcomm will be removed from the chips itself.

More usefully, however, those complicated names will be changed.

Until now, Snapdragon products have come with three different names. Each of the numbers was intended to show where it was in the line-up: the first indicating the power, the second what generation, and the third used to separate different products within those generations.

But that was difficult to know and to compare. It also led to struggles with Snapdragon running out of names – it has a Snapdragon 695, for instance, and so only space for four more chips in that line-up.

Instead, it will move to a “new simplified and consistent naming structure for our platforms makes it easier for our customers to discover and choose devices powered by Snapdragon”, it says. “This means our mobile platforms will transition to a single-digit series and generation number, aligning with other product categories — starting with our newest flagship Snapdragon 8-series platform.”

It did not give information on what that new naming system would be, and promised more information would be revealed at another event on 30 November.

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Gigabit broadband: Internet seen as top homebuyer priority

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bbc– A fast internet connection is now one of the most important factors for homebuyers, according to a survey of 294 estate agents across the UK.

Questions about connectivity, usually “full fibre” broadband, are up 69% since the pandemic began, the research, by Omdia for telecoms equipment maker Huawei, suggests.

Speeds of more than 300Mbps are being sought by 34% of buyers – and, according to 33% of the estate agents, can add £5,000 to the sale price of a home – while 23% want 1Gbps.

Asked to name the single most important factor is for homebuyers:

  • 23% said the size of the property
  • 20% said broadband quality
  • 18% said the number of bedrooms
  • 10% said the age of the property is
  • 9% said transport links

“In many cases, customers feel that good internet is a ‘must have’,” James Hummerstone-Pope, from Purple Bricks, said.

“And poor wi-fi and a bad mobile signal can be a deal breaker.

“Fibre broadband definitely makes properties more appealing.

“And people will sometimes walk away from a property if they feel the broadband and phone signals aren’t good enough.”

  • Vodafone to offer full fibre broadband to millions
  • Half-a-million homes to get broadband boost

The government has promised to “bring full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025”.

And research from telecoms regulator Ofcom suggests 18.2 million homes (62%) already have access to 300Mbps or faster.

But only a fraction pay for such high speeds.

And the average UK speed is actually 50.4Mbps.

Critical factors

In Scotland and the South West, good broadband is the most important factor for homebuyers, the survey suggests.

But London-based estate agent Foxtons said while buyers considered the internet important – “particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic” – it was usually outweighed by other factors.

“Choosing which property to purchase is an incredibly complex decision that depends on numerous different factors,” a representative said.

“In our experience, the price and perceived value for money, the size and type of property, provision of outside space, as well as proximity to local amenities and schools are some of the most critical factors in the decision-making process.”

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