BANG BANG is our week-long look back at 20!!, or "Twenty-bang-bang," or 2011, with contributions from all over aiming to cover all sorts of enthusiasms from film to music to words and beyond.
Selected 2011 discoveries, briefly noted and across various media by Dave McDougall.
Homeland —— the characters on this show run deep; their history and demons are as much a driver as the twists of plot. Which certainly helps Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin and Damian Lewis and Morena Baccarin act their asses off. Allegiances don't shift as much as they are gradually revealed; even though the audience isn't only in the headspace of Danes' rebellious CIA agent, everything is filtered through the line between the watchers and the suspects, and the further into each world we're given access, the more complicated the line between terrorist and hero. This isn't a war of ideas as much as a war between wounded people who've sided with ideas, and those wounds are what drive both the terrorists and those trying to stop them. This week's showstopping season finale toyed with heavy political and personal dénouement and teased an even greater moral complexity to come. If there's a better show on television right now, I'd like to see it.
The Color Wheel (Alex Ross Perry, 2011) —— A masterpiece, a perfect screwball comedy, and a vicious, misanthropic, prickly little thing. What Ignatiy said, and then some.
And two other filmic masterpieces-to-be-named-later that also tackle communication (and shared histories) between men and women, on which I'll have more to say in the Mubi year-end roundup.
Governments toppled, not by social media but by people going to the streets to battle for their due. But the dynamics of open source protest and new media communication flows were a big part of why this was the year that kicked off an #ArabSpring, an indignado movement, a global coalition of #Occupy protests. It's not just coordination of protests but the ability for knowledge flows to reveal the silent political preferences of a people, and to rally supporters to the cause. None of these movements were created by the emergence of social media -- all grew out of previous organization by activists on the ground, over years and decade -- but it's hard to deny that these movements could only coalesce through communication, and that new forms of one-to-many communication smooth the friction of reaching out to wide audiences.
As the 2008 financial crisis has shifted to become a crisis of solvency and liquidity in the Eurozone, the economic intelligence of the left-ish political blogotwittersphere rises almost as fast as events shift; but the key insight is that, unlike the people-powered movements and revolutions mentioned above, is that the fate of all of our economic lives still hangs in the balance of deals to be cut in back rooms by power brokers. Which, as those same movements will attest, is the opposite of democracy. If the revolutions of Egypt or Libya or Tunisia (or Syria or Bahrain or Yemen, if you're looking for revolutions-in-the-making) were best revealed by the participants themselves in 140 characters (or 140 character updates, compiled), then the stories of our economic dilemmas have been best told by those savvy enough to get to the bottom of capital flows and reveal these inner workings via blogs, articles, and interviews, whose links were embedded in 140-character updates themselves. Information, in all its forms -- pictures, videos, charts, analysis, stories from the front lines -- move and flicker and flow just the ways frames do in the cinema. For me, these were a few of the sources that made the leap to essential in 2011, from the MENA uprisings to the Econopocalyse and the social movements pushing back:
- Al Jazeera's live stream
- Paul Mason's blog
- NNT's Facebook
- zunguzungu / @zunguzungu
Among all the books and blogs and analysis, an epic cornerstone of how to even begin to think of how we got here — David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years.
David McDougall is a writer, filmmaker, and media strategist based in London and Los Angeles. He's got blogs and films and words in various places, some of them on the internet. He twitters here.