Favorite Movies, 2018 (Steven Shaviro)

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Steven Shaviro has posted his top films for the year. Looks like a missed a few!

These are my favorite movies of 2018. I won’t call this a best films list, since there are so many movies I still haven’t seen (for instance, Mandy, Let the Sunshine In, A Star is Born, Vox Lux, If Beale Street Could Talk, Suspiria, and others I am probably forgetting). But among the ones I did catch so far, these are the ones that most impressed me, more or less in (vague) rank order.

  1. Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley). Clearly my choice (despite all the ones I have not seen yet) for best film of the year. The closest we may well come to a comprehensive vision of racialized capitalism today: both how it works and how it feels. Satirical, surrealistic science fiction is the only way to be adequate to contemporary social reality.

  2. Bodied (Joseph Kahn). Social commentary on race combined with exuberant formal inventiveness. Kahn is a great music video director, and his earlier feature film Detention (2011) is one of the most important American movies of the twenty-first century. I reviewed Bodied for Cinema Scope journal: http://cinema-scope.com/features/joseph-kahns-bodied/.

  3. The Other Side of the Wind (Orson Welles). Though Orson Welles shot this movie, and began editing it (until it was taken away from him) in the 1970s, it is still remarkably prescient about our media situation today. I won’t say it is as great as Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil, but it does update Kane in the light of the new media landscape that was just emerging then, and that is in full force today. Dazzling more than moving, but definitely brilliant and relevant. I discussed it at greater length here: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1532.

  4. Annihilation (Alex Garland). Beautiful, speculative, and depressive. Different in many ways from the novel by Jeff VanderMeer on which it is based; but it makes a similarly resonant statement about the alienness of the world that is a (counter-intuitive) consequence of the ruination imposed by the Anthropocene. Filled with haunting moments, like when Tessa Thompson becomes a tree, and when Natalie Portman confronts her spectral double. “It wasn’t destroying. It was changing everything. It was making something new.”

  5. Blindspotting (Carlos Lopez Estrada, Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal). Another brilliant take on race (the inescapable central subject of American life today) and gentrification. Embedded in social reality, but at the same time brilliantly stylized (as when the dialogue turns into hip hop rhymed lyrics). Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal have rightly been praised for their screenwriting and performances; but I would like to give props as well to Carlos Lopez Estrada, one of our best music video directors, who powerfully articulates the story in his first feature film.

  6. Blackkklansman (Spike Lee). Spike Lee has been struggling in the past few decades, compared to his earlier successes. But even his misfires have consistently been cinematographically fresh and formally inventive. Here he plays it straight more than he has for a while, and the result is an effective, audience-arousing, pop-mainstream movie on a subject (yes, racism once again) that big-budget Hollywood still won’t touch. This is a far better old-fashioned movie— the kind with characters you can root for and identify with — than any of the ones that overtly reach for that role.

  7. Madeline’s Madeline (Josephine Decker). All I can say is that this movie actually delivers on something that all too many experimental films unsuccessfully strive towards: it makes us see the world in a fresh new way. Unprecedented, and yet something we have long needed without realizing it. Something of a 21st-century update of Jacques Rivette, with similar concerns about the nature of performance, or the relation of acting to actuality. I have written a bit about it here: http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=1501.

  8. Mom and Dad (Brian Taylor). I haven’t seen Mandy, but it is hard to imagine Nicholas Cage giving a more stirringly and crazily over-the-top performance than he does here. I will never think of the “Hokey Pokey” the same way again. And the movie works effectively as social commentary, as the best horror films so often do — here, a reflection on the dynamics of the suburban nuclear family. (A vision I cannot fail to be disturbed by, speaking as a parent myself). Sharply directed, inverting and deconstructing all the cliches of the genre, by the great Brian Taylor.

  9. Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, Isa Mazzei). A clever and well-made (semi-) horror film about sex work, and what happens when your online account is stolen and you are locked out. In other words, everyday life. (It is refreshing how the movie treats sex work as everyday life in the manner of any other job). This is the sort of movie that I find emotionally compelling and (as my student would say) relatable.

  10. Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont). The best French-Catholic-movie-by-an-atheist (yes, that is a thing) since at least Godard’s Hail Mary (1984). I have never much cared for Dumont’s slow-cinema movies: I saw the first two, and then gave up on him. I watched this only after John Waters called it his favorite movie of the year; and I immediately fell in love with it. What’s not to love about a spare, but beautifully photographed, avant/heavy-metal musical, set in peasant landscapes of the early 15th century, with mystical visions and acrobatic amateur dancing, and with a screenplay taken from the gorgeously hyperbolic and pleonastic poetry of Charles Péguy?

  11. Black Panther (Ryan Coogler). The only recent blockbuster since Mad Max: Fury Road that I can really get behind. Here the action editing is serviceable (though not anywhere near as good as Mad Max), and the plot is just okay (I am in agreement with those who say that Killmonger’s anti-imperialism ought to have been given more sympathy and attention). But the worldbuilding is stupendous, creating the vision of a Black world not crippled by colonialism and enslavement.

  12. Upgrade (Leigh Whannell). Cartesian dilemma: Logan Marshall-Green’s body does all this slick martial arts stuff, while his face registers his mental horror and pain at the fact that he is killing all these people without wanting to.

Militant Acts The Role of Investigations in Radical Political Struggles, Marcelo Hoffman (Jan 2019)

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This looks great!

Offers a history of the role of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century forward.

Militant Acts presents a broad history of the concept and practice of investigations in radical political struggles from the nineteenth century to the present. Radicals launched investigations into the conditions and struggles of the oppressed and exploited to stimulate their political mobilization and organization. These investigations assumed a variety of methodological forms in a wide range of geographical and institutional contexts, and they also drew support from the participation of intellectuals such as Marx, Lenin, Mao, Dunayevskaya, Foucault, and Badiou. Marcelo Hoffman analyzes newspapers, pamphlets, reports, and other source materials, which reveal the diverse histories, underappreciated difficulties, and theoretical import of investigations in radical political struggles. In so doing, he challenges readers to rethink the supposed failure of these investigations and concludes that the value of investigations in radical political struggles ultimately resides in the possibility of producing a new political “we.”

“The kind of archival and synthetic work on investigations that this book evinces has been accomplished nowhere else. Hoffman’s survey provides the reader with an understanding of how investigations fit into the theoretical practice of many important Marxist thinkers, along with an argument for their utility. Further, original insights into these thinkers, which enhance or even contradict our available understandings with better historical evidence, are offered.” — William S. Lewis, author of Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism

“Hoffman focuses on a distinctive, yet little recognized practice of resistance and shows how it impacts and is impacted by the theories of ideology and power in which it was employed. The scholarship is not only sound, but truly pathbreaking in its treatment of various traditions, languages, and even its usage of extremely diverse source materials.” — Kevin Thompson, DePaul University

Marcelo Hoffman is an independent scholar who received his PhD in international studies from the University of Denver and the author of Foucault and Power: The Influence of Political Engagement on Theories of Power. He recently served as a Visiting Specialist Professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Human Sciences of the State University of Campinas in Brazil.

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Being and Motion, Thomas Nail (2018) Published Dec 10th

Being and Motion is officially published and available today.

Buy at Oxford

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More than at any other time in human history, we live in an age defined by movement and mobility; and yet, we lack a unifying theory which takes this seriously as a starting point for philosophy. The history of philosophy has systematically explained movement as derived from something else that does not move: space, eternity, force, and time. Why, when movement has always been central to human societies, did a philosophy based on movement never take hold? This book finally overturns this long-standing metaphysical tradition by placing movement at the heart of philosophy.

In doing so, Being and Motion provides a completely new understanding of the most fundamental categories of ontology from a movement-oriented perspective: quality, quantity, relation, modality, and others. It also provides the first history of the philosophy of motion, from early prehistoric mythologies up to contemporary ontologies. Through its systematic ontology of movement, Being and Motion provides a path-breaking historical ontology of our present.

The Poetry of Georges Bataille, George Bataille, translated by Stuart Kendall (2018)

Just got my copy in the mail yesterday.

Presents a new window into the literary, philosophical, and theological concerns of this enigmatic thinker and writer.

Despite its relative rarity, and the condensed brevity of the poems themselves, poetry occupies a striking place in the literary and philosophical oeuvre of Georges Bataille. For Bataille, poetry had no meaning “except in the violence of revolt,” which it could attain “only by evoking the impossible.” Toward this end, he wrote poetry, as he says in Inner Experience, “with necessity—in accordance with my life.” Although poems appear in four of his major works, and others were published independently in a small collection and in magazines, much of Bataille’s poetry remained unpublished at the time of his death. This volume presents a nearly complete edition of the poems in chronological order. Stuart Kendall provides an extensive introduction and notes highlighting the literary, philosophical, and theological significance of Bataille’s poetry. He also explores the influence of Nietzsche, St. John of the Cross, Blake, Baudelaire, and other poètes maudits and situates the poems in relation to Bataille’s other writings and the period in which he wrote.

Georges Bataille (1897–1962), a medievalist librarian by training, founded the College of Sociology and the secret society Acéphale. He was equally famous for his contributions to French literature, art criticism, anthropology, philosophy, and theology. Bane of theologians, existentialists, and surrealists during his lifetime, he became an essential reference for the poststructuralist generation of French intellectuals, including Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida.

Here.

The Incorporeal: Ontology, Ethics, and the Limits of Materialism, Elizabeth Grosz (2018) Paperback

Philosophy has inherited a powerful impulse to embrace either dualism or a reductive monism―either a radical separation of mind and body or the reduction of mind to body. But from its origins in the writings of the Stoics, the first thoroughgoing materialists, another view has acknowledged that no forms of materialism can be completely self-inclusive―space, time, the void, and sense are the incorporeal conditions of all that is corporeal or material. In The Incorporeal Elizabeth Grosz argues that the ideal is inherent in the material and the material in the ideal, and, by tracing its development over time, she makes the case that this same idea reasserts itself in different intellectual contexts.

Grosz shows that not only are idealism and materialism inextricably linked but that this “belonging together” of the entirety of ideality and the entirety of materiality is not mediated or created by human consciousness. Instead, it is an ontological condition for the development of human consciousness. Grosz draws from Spinoza’s material and ideal concept of substance, Nietzsche’s amor fati, Deleuze and Guattari’s plane of immanence, Simondon’s preindividual, and Raymond Ruyer’s self-survey or autoaffection to show that the world preexists the evolution of the human and that its material and incorporeal forces are the conditions for all forms of life, human and nonhuman alike. A masterwork by an eminent theoretician, The Incorporeal offers profound new insight into the mind-body problem.

Here

A Companion To Marx’s Capital: The Complete Edition, David Harvey (2018)

The radical geographer guides us through the classic text of political economy

In recent years, we have witnessed a surge of interest in Marx’s work in an effort to understand the origins of our current political and economic crisis.

For nearly forty years, David Harvey has written and lectured on Capital, becoming one of the world’s foremost Marx scholars. Based on his recent lectures, this current volume—finally bringing together his guides to volumes I, II and much of III—presents this depth of learning to a broader audience, guiding first-time readers through a fascinating and deeply rewarding text. A Companion to Marx’s Capital offers fresh, original, and sometimes critical interpretations of a book that changed the course of history and, as Harvey intimates, may do so again.

Here.

I Know There Are So Many of You, Alain Badiou (2018)

The history of humanity has only just begun. The Neolithic Revolution may have endowed us with unparalleled means of communication, subsistence, and knowledge acquisition. However, it is clear in today’s world that inequality, power hierarchies, and violence persist on a greater scale than ever before.

In these two lectures, delivered to the large number of young people who gathered in the Lycée Henri-IV and the École nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris to hear him speak, Alain Badiou argues that we are still firmly rooted in the Neolithic era, subjugated by the structures of political power – property, family, and state. He calls for a second revolution to restore to each person their freedom and agency. Through an analysis of recent attempts at political organisation, including the Arab Spring, Occupy, and Nuit debout, Badiou shows that progress toward this goal will only be achieved through an emphasis on sameness, not difference.

This rallying cry to the young from one of France’s most renowned radical thinkers will appeal to the many who read and follow his work, and to the millions of young people around the world who are passionate about redressing the deeply entrenched inequalities and divisions in our societies today.

Here.