Monthly Archives For December 2012

Films of the Year 2012


It is a moot point to say if any year is a good or bad one in cinema, especially if one watches films on theatrical release, as I do, even more so if one is considering films from all corners of the Earth, and only a tiny sampling at that. That said, there were long stretches this year when I wondered whether I was going to see anything of note again; the better releases mostly seemed to come in clumps in the spring and the autumn, with long stretches of unremarkable fare in between. In the end, though, it was a decent enough year, with more than a few films that will be remembered in years to come as classics.

On the awards front, 2012 was a year when nobody was happy with anything. The Artist was a surprise Academy Award winner (or maybe not such a surprise) with many in the US complaining that the Academy was becoming increasingly detached from the concerns of ordinary filmgoers (that a film as ultimately unchallenging as The Artist might be considered an avatar of elitism just shows how alternative a universe the Oscars actually do inhabit). At Berlin, though the Taviani brothers’ Caesar Must Die was in many respects an admirable film, few people expected Miguel Gomes’s Tabu to be overlooked for the Golden Bear in its favour. Michael Haneke picked up a second Palme d’Or at Cannes for Amour, and there was much grumbling about the overweening deference to realist dramas shown by Nanni Moretti’s jury; in truth those films that were rewarded were, by and large, quite good but, like many others, I think it might have been a shot in the arm for unconventional cinema to have given the top prize to Leos Carax’s wonderfully barmy Holy Motors. The Mostra’s arcane rules prevented Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master from winning the Golden Lion at Venice, Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta being a surprise winner instead. All of these controversies are piddling in the wider scheme of things but it was curious how resistant to (qualified) popular opinion the voters were throughout the year.

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On the Need to Wield the Political Crowbar


I heard a Fianna Fail TD saying on the radio that the decision to tie the household charge and the property tax to the funding of local councils was an attack on local democracy. As central funding through general taxation has been removed a failure to collect adequate amounts of the property tax means that funding of local services will be smaller.

Allowing local authorities to increase that charge puts the negative political feedback, particularly in areas where compliance is less, like Donegal, on to the local councils and protects the central government. It was an odd sensation, shouting at the radio (not unusual) in agreement with someone in Fianna Fail (which very much is).

However, I would add that with a smaller budget because of the problems of collecting the Household Charge and the property tax – and the structure of the property tax is almost exactly the same as the household charge and its associated problems, with good reason – means that it would require additional cuts to services.

This will follow the now established pattern of replacing publicly funded publicly owned services with private operations. Again, as has been well established, the private operation will be less efficient, more costly to the public purse in the medium term and the tendering process will be corrupt or suspect, with small operators losing out to larger conglomerates leading to a monopoly situation for the provision of these services after an initial flurry of 'competition'. It’s also been well established that Public Private Projects have been seen for over a decade as a growth opportunity for financial institutions in the IFSC, and the present government has recently provided them with a very specific kitty just for this.

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Wideawake Philosophy


Book Review: After Finitude, Quentin Meillassoux (Continuum, 2008) & Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman (Edinburgh University Press, 2011)

In a letter to Harriet Shaw Weaver in 1926, when he was working on what would become Finnegans Wake, James  Joyce points towards what he is now trying to do in his writing by saying that some things cannot be expressed in ‘wideawake language cutanddry grammar and goahead plot’. Quentin Meillassoux’s style of writing, when it comes to philosophical argument at least, is decidedly pre-Wake for his book After Finitude is characterized by a lucidity and correctness that Joyce was quite capable of but nonetheless had put behind him. Meillassoux writes in a way that is not typical of Continental philosophy and what sets him apart from many of his peers perhaps helps explain why he has gained such praise for his work; for some he has already earned a place in the hallowed pantheon of ground-breaking French philosophers. A remarkable achievement for someone whose reputation is largely based on just one book, although dedicated followers of French philosophical fashion can train their truffle hounds to dig up a scattering of essays, excerpts of an unpublished text, The Divine Inexistence, and a second book, The Number and the Siren, about Mallarmé's poem Un Coup de Dés. Is the Meillassoux phenomenon just another cliquish storm in a Parisian teacup or has something explosively new appeared?

The manifest of works of continental philosophy usually indicates intellectual freight of a heavy and bulky kind and one that sometimes requires cognitive apparatus, like set theory in the case of Badiou’s Being and Event. So it comes as welcome relief to know that After Finitude, a mere 128 pages long,  is one of the more reader-friendly texts of recent French philosophy and that its basic argument is put forth with crystal clarity. The book’s author is not one to wallow in words and there is an intellectual impishness to the writing that adds to its attractiveness.

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