Saturday, June 13, 2015

"DRY LIGHTS" by Xavier Chassaing

DRY LIGHTS from Xavier Chassaing on Vimeo.

A trip through an electric desert, Dry Lights unfolds in an imagined environment of cacti and canyons, moving from hidden caves to lonely cliffs along pulsating rivers of light.

This experimental film lies somewhere between a site-specific installation and a performance, where choreographed lights meet organic landscapes. Like an imaginary city flickering in the dark, the lights beacon fragments of vague memories - faded moments, experiences, and topographies. A world in an erratic state of flux that seems to evade any grasp of clear control plays host to constantly alternating physical and mental landscapes. Moving without a destination in the dead hours of night, mesmerising, intermittent apparitions illuminate their surroundings, allowing personal narratives to breed.

Rising to the technical challenge of creating the foundation for this full 3D film almost entirely on my own, I partnered with composer Thomas Vaquié to set the stage for a singular universe to emerge.

More info:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

FIFA Blows

"The U.S. Justice Department unsealed a 47-count indictment in federal court in Brooklyn that detailed charges against 14 people accused of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. The most serious are the racketeering charges, which allege that the officials turned soccer "into a criminal enterprise," according to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who spoke to reporters in New York. A conviction could command a sentence of up to 20 years."
U.S. prosecutors plunged the World Cup’s governing body into crisis, charging nine officials with corruption as Europe’s largest soccer federation called for postponing this week’s FIFA election for president.

Swiss police entered the luxury Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich and arrested seven FIFA officials. Switzerland is probing whether anyone broke laws in awarding upcoming tournaments to Russia and Qatar. Two former soccer executives were also charged in New York, as were four sports marketing officials.

The Justice Department vowed more arrests in a widening probe of racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering.

“They were expected to uphold the rules that keep soccer honest, and protect the integrity of the game,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a news conference. “Instead, they corrupted the business of worldwide soccer to serve their interests and enrich themselves.”

The probe casts a shadow on the leadership of the world’s most watched sporting event, with more than $1 billion in annual revenue and sponsors ranging from Coca-Cola Co. to Adidas AG. While the charges stop short of FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, his future is suddenly unclear. Prosecutors are also looking into the role of the banking industry, and its handling of FIFA funds.

U.S. prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging 14 people, as well as guilty pleas by four others that detail “rampant” corruption dating to 1991. Hours earlier, Swiss authorities arrested FIFA executives and searched the organization’s headquarters in a series of dawn raids in Zurich.

Swiss authorities later seized documents at FIFA’s nearby offices, saying they were examining possible crimes related to selecting Russia to host the 2018 World Cup and Qatar for 2022.

The defendants come from 11 nations. They include U.S. and South American executives who are alleged to have paid more than $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain media and marketing rights to soccer tournaments.

The 162-page indictment spells out dozens of instances in which contracts were awarded in exchange for illicit payments. Corrupt payments from around the world sluiced through the U.S. banking system, according to prosecutors. As a result, prosecutors are examining banks as well, acting U.S. Attorney Kelly Currie told reporters in Brooklyn, New York.

The four-year investigation stemmed from an unrelated probe into Russian organized crime by a task force in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office, according to the New York Times, citing people familiar with the case.

Banking Institutions
“Our investigation is going to look at a broad area of conduct,” Currie said. “A lot of the banking institutions and the ways these moneys were funneled passed through the U.S.”

FIFA generates more than 90 percent of its income from the quadrennial World Cup. The tournament brought in $4.15 billion of revenue in the four years culminating with the 2014 edition in Brazil.

The bribes and kickbacks were meant to influence the host of the 2010 World Cup, which was held in South Africa, the indictment said. Swiss authorities are investigating a criminal conspiracy related to the next two tournaments, awarded in a controversial vote in 2010.

Those charged include the current and former president of the confederation that oversees North and Central American soccer, Jeffrey Webb of the Cayman Islands, and Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago. The organization said it would cooperate with authorities and continue host upcoming tournaments, including the Gold Cup this summer in the U.S.

Cash Payments
They also include FIFA executive member Eugenio Figueredo of Uruguay and Jose Maria Marin, who led Brazil’s soccer federation during last year’s World Cup. Webb has been mentioned as an heir apparent by Blatter himself.

The indictment included details of cash payments to influence the outcome of the 2011 election for president of FIFA. Warner directed Caribbean Football Union officials to collect their “gift” -- each got an envelope with $40,000 in cash, according to the indictment.

When someone exposed the payments to soccer authorities, Warner grew angry.

“There are some people here who think they are more pious than thou,” Warner said. “If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business.”

Scandal After Scandal
The investigations by the U.S. and Swiss promise to upend an organization that has endured one scandal after another under Blatter. FIFA said the presidential election, as well as the World Cups in Russia and Qatar, would take place as planned.

“This is not good in terms of image or reputation but in terms of cleaning up everything we did over the past four years, this is good,” FIFA’s chief spokesman, Walter De Gregorio, told reporters. He said the World Cups in Russia and Qatar would go ahead as planned.

Aside from nine current and former FIFA officials, four sports marketing executives also were indicted, along with an intermediary accused of facilitating illicit payments.

Prosecutors began collecting guilty pleas in sealed courtrooms in 2013, including two sons of Jack Warner and Charles “Chuck” Blazer, a former FIFA executive committee member. Blazer secretly recorded conversations while cooperating with prosecutors, the New York Daily News reported last year. Brazilian Jose Havilla, founder of sports marketing company Traffic Group, agreed to forfeit more than $151 million as part of a guilty plea, the Justice Department said.

Soccer and marketing firm officials took steps to hide their illegal activities by using sham consulting agreements, shell companies and intermediaries such as bankers, financial advisers and currency dealers, according to prosecutors.

The defendants also used bulk cash smuggling, safe deposit boxes, and real estate purchases to hide assets, the U.S. said.

Money Laundering
Investigators “exposed complex money laundering schemes” which included tens of millions of dollars in places like Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands, said Richard Weber, chief of criminal investigation for the Internal Revenue Service.

Six FIFA officials arrested in Zurich on Wednesday are contesting their extradition to the U.S., setting the stage for a legal battle.

For those contesting extradition the Swiss will ask the U.S. to submit a formal extradition requests within 40 days as provided by treaty. A seventh soccer official has indicated willingness to be extradited and may be handed over “immediately,” according to the statement.

UEFA, European soccer’s governing body, called on FIFA to delay its election and congress scheduled for Friday. The executive committee said a vote could be held within the next six months. UEFA members are meeting Thursday and will decide on further steps, the group said in an e-mailed statement.

Blatter, 79, who has run FIFA since 1998, won re-election for a fifth term in a vote held in Zurich.

More information:
» CNN: FIFA Corruption Probe Targets 'World Cup of Fraud'

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kung Fury and "True Survivor"

Kung Fury is a 2015 Swedish martial arts comedy short film written, directed by, and starring David Sandberg. It pays homage to 1980s martial arts and police action films. The film was crowdfunded through Kickstarter from December 2013 to January 2014 with pledges reaching US$630,019, exceeding the original target goal of $200,000, but falling short of the feature film goal of $1 million. It was selected to screen in the Directors' Fortnight section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, losing to Rate Me from the UK.

Sandberg is a Swedish filmmaker who has directed television commercials and music videos. In 2012, he quit the commercial directing business and focused on writing a script for an action comedy film set in the 1980s, inspired by action films of that era. He initially spent US$5,000 on producing and shooting footage with his friends, which became the trailer.

In December 2013, Sandberg released the trailer and began a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the film's production with the goal of raising US$200,000 to produce a 30-minute version of the film and stream it online for free. A second goal was added with the target set to $1 million to rewrite the story into a full-length feature and a possible distribution deal. Most of the raw footage over green screen had been filmed using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and a Sony FS700, but additional funding was required for post-production.

The film made its debut at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and premiered on YouTube, the Steam PC gaming platform, SVT2 in Sweden, and the El Rey Network in the United States, on May 28, 2015. By June 1, the film received over 10 million views on YouTube. As of June 9, 2015, the video has scored over 14 million views on YouTube.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spotlight: David Letterman

"Letterman taught us how to watch television, how to critically engage with our culture, how to laugh at both the banal trivialities of life and the crushing weight of an often thankless and aimless existence. David Letterman changed television and how we look at the world around us. He deserves his retirement, he’s more than earned his private time with his family, but for a generation of Americans his absence will sting like the loss of a father. And somehow he did it by hosting a talk show."
When the final episode came, after weeks of accolades and tributes to his genius, David Letterman made sure he punctured the emotion of the moment with a little old-fashioned, self-deprecating sarcasm.

"We've done over 6,000 shows ... and I was here for most of them, and I can tell you a pretty high percentage of those shows just absolutely sucked," Letterman told the audience during Wednesday night's Late Show episode, his last after 33 years in late-night television. "And also, in light of all of this praise, merited or not, do me a favor: Save a little for my funeral."

Letterman was doing more than filling his role as TV's Biggest Curmudgeon — a part he has gleefully played for more than three decades now. He was doing something that ensured his last episode would move quicker and feel funnier than even the finale of his longtime mentor, Tonight Show host Johnny Carson.

Whenever it seemed the proceedings might get overly sentimental or maudlin, Letterman would crack a joke that kept it funny and kept it moving. Unlike Carson, Letterman would never tolerate a long, emotional song sung in his honor on camera; instead we got five presidents — four of them seemingly filmed especially for this broadcast — proclaiming "our long national nightmare is over" because Letterman is retiring.

To my recollection, no other late-night host has gotten almost all the country's living presidents to show up in his honor for a finale — not Carson or Letterman's longtime rival, Jay Leno. But Letterman's farewell comes at a time when media and politics have never been closer, and the evidence of Letterman's impact across the landscape of late-night television has never been clearer.

Most of today's late-night TV hosts — the Fallons, Kimmels, O'Briens and Meyers — grew up watching Letterman rewrite the rules of TV talk shows with his post-Carson program on NBC, Late Night with David Letterman. Where Carson was slick, tanned and Hollywood, Letterman was goofy, gritty and perched in the middle of 1980s New York City, recycling bits from his own heroes like Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen for youngsters eager to see someone celebrate the silliness of TV while puncturing its self-importance.

When I asked Letterman about the finale last week, he insisted he hadn't been directly involved in much planning beyond the show's final segment. "It will be a variety of visual images, you know, in various presentation," he said then about his segment. "And then just me saying thanks and good night."

If that quote holds true, then Letterman himself planned the moment when Foo Fighters took the stage and played "Everlong" — a song that the host has said helped him through recovery after a quintuple bypass operation — while images from the entire history of the show flashed by in rapid succession.

In the end, just before the band cranked up, Letterman did say, "For the last time on a television program ... thank you and good night." But there was no emotional quaver in his voice, no hint of tears in his eye.

David Letterman went out of late-night TV the way he came in: on his own terms, guided by a subversive sense of humor that was severely allergic to sentiment or phoniness.

"The people who watch this show, there's nothing I can do to repay you," Letterman said. "Thank you for everything. You've given me everything."

The only question left now: What are fans of great late-night television going to do without him?

"After 33 years, he will go out as the longest-serving host in late-night TV — outdistancing his mentor Johnny Carson by two years — a record that will not be challenged any time soon, if ever. Try to imagine Jimmy Fallon doing "The Tonight Show" at 68, and you will fail. (Jimmy Kimmel I can see hanging on, maybe.)"

More information:
» Paste: Letterman's Top Ten Remote Segments
» Vulture: "Stories From Behind the Scenes of the Show That Changed Comedy Forever"
» Rolling Stone: "How David Letterman Reinvented TV"

Monday, May 18, 2015

Capitals Fall to Rangers in Game 7 of Conference Semifinals

"As Derek Stepan stepped toward the puck on the weak side and cranked it past Braden Holtby, the New York Rangers celebrated their second straight berth in the conference finals, still unbeaten in 10 elimination games on this rink, the longest such streak in league history. The Capitals, meanwhile, trudged off the ice to begin another early summer, another round of vacations spent picking through their three straight defeats, wondering what could have been."
Washington Post:
Coach Barry Trotz had instructed them to play relentlessly and without fear against the Presidents’ Trophy winners, and they felt they had. They had undergone so much change during Trotz’s maiden voyage, revamping their system and eclipsing the 100-point plateau, enjoying breakout seasons across the lineup and home-ice advantage in the first round.

And yet here was the gullet-punching cruelty of the sport they had chosen, reputations and narratives staked on the lost draw of forward Eric Fehr, making his series debut, the initial shot pummeled by defenseman Dan Girardi into traffic and Stepan, all alone, charging toward the back door with Holtby sitting on his backside. Finally, here was the resolution to these skintight semifinals, when the Rangers scored 13 times and the Capitals scored 12, and all seven games were decided by one goal.

“You saw two very good teams go nose-to-nose, with just inches, an inch here, an inch there,” Trotz said. “I think everybody here probably predicted seven games, and you got it.”

There was none of the defensiveness or whining of previous years. Instead there was a mutinous refusal to give up. When Ovechkin had said after their Game 6 loss, “The character of this group, it shows a lot. We’re gonna come back and win this series,” the remark was natural — not a pose, not a brazen guarantee, just spoken out of pure conviction. It was nothing to regret.

The problem was that the Rangers simply presented too many obstacles. The Garden itself was one, all pinwheeling spotlights, heavy metal razoring from the loudspeakers, and the blue-shirted crowd that made an unbelievable wall of sound, a dense thunder that started halfway through the opening anthem and drowned out the rest of the words. And there was Lundqvist, “Hen-REEK! Hen-REEK!” they chanted. He came into the game having won five straight Game 7s, with a .973 save percentage. Then there was the sheer weight of history and the Rangers’ streak. The Caps had lost their last two Game 7s against the Rangers in 2012 and 2013. In 17 elimination games since 2012, the Rangers have won 14, including 10 in a row at home. “I know they don’t want to come back here,” Lundqvist had said after the Caps dropped Game 5. No. They didn’t.

They will think about the ways in which they squandered chances, and gave too many to the Rangers. Like those three power plays in the second period — hold the Rangers scoreless for six minutes shorthanded? It wasn’t going to happen. The Capitals had a 3-1 series lead and were 101 seconds from advancing.

“All the games were close. We fought hard and it was a great series that could easily have gone our way,” Holtby said.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Paul Pierce Drains the Three a Fraction of a Second Too Late

Washington Post:
The Washington Wizards watched their season come to an end in the most devastating of ways against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night. So instead of a Game 7 in Atlanta, they will meet as a team and address the media for the final time Monday at Verizon Center before going their separate ways for the summer.

Game 1: May 3, 2015 at Philips Arena: Wizards, 104-98
The Wizards overcame injury scares to John Wall and Bradley Beal to preserve their perfect playoff record through five games. Wall injured his left wrist near the end of the second quarter but stayed in the game but Beal was forced to watch the final seconds from the bench after spraining his ankle. The Hawks jumped out to a torrid start, posting a 37-point first quarter but managed just 35 points in the entire second half, perhaps due to fatigue after finishing their first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets just 38 hours earlier and blew a halftime at home for the first time all season.

Game 2: May 5, 2015 at Philips Arena: Hawks, 106-90
Wall had expected to play after initial X-rays didn’t reveal any structural damage in his left wrist or hand, but the swelling and pain were too severe to play. The Wizards didn’t wilt without their all-star point guard, but ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. Up seven points with under three minutes remaining, the Hawks put Washington away with an 11-2 run.

Game 3: May 9, 2015 at Verizon Center: Wizards, 103-101
The Wizards built a 21-point fourth-quarter lead without Wall, only to have the gap disappear. The Hawks stormed back with a 17-0 run with a lineup of reserves and Mike Muscala’s three-pointer with 14.1 seconds remaining tied the game to complete the comeback. But Paul Pierce came to the rescue, banking in a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer to avoid the collapse.

Game 4: May 11, 2015 at Verizon Center: Hawks, 106-101
The Wizards trailed by seven points with 1:12 remaining, but stormed back and got the ball in Pierce’s hands with a chance to tie the game. But Pierce missed an open three-pointer from a few feet beyond the arc with 6.9 seconds left and Millsap’s free throws at the other end clinched the Hawks’ win.

Game 5: May 13, 2015 at Philips Arena: Hawks, 82-81
The Wizards got a lift from Wall in his return just 10 days after sustaining his five fractures and led by nine points with 6:15 remaining in the game. But the Hawks responded with a 14-0 run to set the stage for a thrilling finish. First, Pierce drained a corner three-pointer to give the Wizards a one-point lead with 8.3 seconds on the clock, yelling “series” at the Hawks bench as he jogged back to the other end. Wall then swatted Schroder’s runner but Horford sprinted to the rebound unchecked, barreling over Nene to retrieve the offensive rebound for the game-winning lay-in.

Game 6: May 15, 2015 at Verizon Center: Hawks, 94-91
Down 15 points in the third quarter and nine points with 6:39 left in the fourth period, the Wizards mustered a 9-0 run to take their first lead since the second quarter. But they blew opportunities to widen the gap over the next three possessions — Nene missed two free throws, the Wizards had a shot-clock violation, and Pierce missed a three-pointer before Millsap halted a Hawks scoring drought of nearly five minutes. The Hawks eventually took a four-point lead with 30.9 seconds remaining but the Wizards had a chance to tie it at the end. Trailing by three points, Pierce appeared to make a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer but the shot was released a fraction of a second after the horn sounded and overturned upon further review. It was the fourth straight game in which Pierce took a go-ahead or game-tying shot with under 10 seconds remaining. He made three but the Wizards won just once.

More information:
» Washington Post: "A look into the Wizards’ losses in home elimination games"