[Below is a short meditation on this moving, sensational video for Future of What’s “Party in Heaven.” Future of What is playing the release party for the superb new magazine Psychiana. Check out Future of What here. Check out Psychiana here. And attend the release party this Saturday — details here.] 

In 1998, Waterstones’s Winter/Spring Issue ran David Foster Wallace’s “F/X Porn,” a brief but brilliant summation of CGI’s strengthening choke-hold on the big budget movie landscape. Among other things, Wallace accurately identifies James Cameron’s “heavy cheese” addiction, and correspondingly charts “Cameron’s industry rise and artistic decline from ‘T1’ and ‘Aliens’ through ‘T2’ and ‘The Abyss’ to — dear Lord — ‘True Lies.’” But that is besides the point, which is that by ’98, Hollywood’s big-budget F/X movies were ripe and ready to be compared with porn. Pornography, as described by Wallace (poet laureate of the ’90s), was more or less “half a dozen or so isolated, spectacular scenes — scenes comprising maybe twenty or thirty minutes of riveting, sensuous payoff — strung together via another sixty to ninety minutes of flat, dead, and often hilariously insipid narrative.” If that doesn’t sound like porn to you, it might be because YouPorn didn’t come around for another ten years.

Also in ’98: the Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz to win their third straight NBA championship. In the sixth and final game of the series, at Salt Lake City’s Delta Center, Michael Jordan, already the regular season’s MVP, scored 45 points. The final minute of the game is timeless: forty seconds left, the Bulls trail by three. Jordan makes a layup. The Jazz attack and somehow Jordan steals the ball from Karl Malone. He dribbles himself down court. Ten seconds left in the game. Jordan is marked by Utah’s defensive specialist, Byron Scott. Jordan pushes off hard, like he’s driving to the basket, then stops abruptly and pulls up for a jumper. He drains the shot. His arm hangs in the air like a swan. Marv Albert is orgasmic: “YEEAAAAA, he scores! The Bulls lead it 87-86.” And the minute-long instant replay of Michael Jordan’s final shot (he retired after the victory) becomes a giant media meme. The speed slows down. The camera angles changes. But the outcome is the same: Michael Jordan finishes.

NBA basketball games are forty-eight minutes long, but they always took at least double that to watch on TV not only because of commercials, but also because of all the commentary and instant replays. Instant replays were so successful that every major sports arena has installed screens so that fans can watch what they just saw happen. And I think that’s part of the appeal: you already know the outcome, so rest easy and enjoy the show.

Though DFW seems to have widespread acclaim among ’90s youth, he was from a different generation, a generation with a different relationship to porn. We were raised on CGI blockbusters and to us they weren’t morally corrupting monsters sent to crush some authentic experience of the world. They were reproductions of a thing, and that was their charm. There is something to be said for the ’90s generation’s obsession with reproductions: replays in sports; the birth of YouTube and its bastard child, YouPorn; the widespread opportunity to film and watch yourself doing things like having sex or just sitting down. We increasingly see ourselves as reproductions of ourselves; we study those reproductions and we feel things through them. Watching a video of yourself having sex is, sometimes, more interesting than having sex. It’s no wonder that CGI, like MJ, feels so good.


 

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