Pete Kendall's Socio Times: A Socionomic Commentary

PARK CITY, Utah - You watch "Alpha Dog" in the conflicted grip of fascination, horror and, to be honest, depression.

Writer-director Nick Cassavetes takes a viewer into a heart of darkness that exists right in southern California's San Fernando Valley among mostly white, suburban young people adrift in a sea of drugs, sex, booze and violence. Parents are either "cool" with this or clueless. Traditional social structure has broken down, replaced by a hedonistic youth culture and "gangsta" lifestyle utterly lacking in any moral sensibility or control. What's worse, this is a true story.

This is a well-made ensemble movie in which actors take chances with uncomfortably repulsive characters or roles unlike any previous performances. Cassavetes simply plunges you into an unhealthy environment of social disintegration and never eases up.

Cinematographer Robert Fraisse and designer Dominic Watkins lose a viewer in a suburban nightmare of Valley track homes, Palm Springs nouveau-riche emptiness, desolate parking lots and mundane convenience stores. Talk about the banality of evil.
The Hollywood Reporter, January 28, 2006

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Suburban Gangstas on Prowl in 'Alpha Dog'
Category: MOVIES
By: Pete Kendall, January 30, 2006

Negative-mood art is not meant to be beautiful or handsome, but rebellious and nihilistic for the sake of it, mirroring the way the artist and consumer of the art feel about their own lives.
The Elliott Wave Theorist, October 1994

There are many recent artistic endeavors that display a similar rejection of the standard moral principles of the old bull market (check out the lyrics of the many songs now dominating the music charts). Many of the most celebrated movies explore darker elements of the human condition. Another bear market work of visual art that has a decidedly bearish tone is a performance art series that was sponsored by the Guggenheim Museum in November. In a replay of one piece from 1975, right after the end of the last bear market, Marina Abramovic took a razor blade to a five-pointed star drawn on her stomach. “The place was packed,” says a review on Hotreveiw.org. “Spectators filled the floor in front of her and lined the first few spirals of the museum's ramp, with a scattering higher up. When the first cut was complete, Abramovic blotted it with a white cloth. Slipping her feet into boots that waited nearby, putting on a military cap, and picking up a heavy wooden staff, she stood and cried, her belly heaving, tears streaming down her cheeks as she, and we, listened to a Russian folk song.  She lay down on blocks of ice arranged in the shape of a cross, her body shaking; then knelt on the floor and whipped herself; finally sat at the table and slowly ate a spoonful of honey and took a sip of red wine.

Abramovic repeated these actions, varying the sequence, until midnight.”

When she was finished the crowd applauded for 10 minutes. It was the finale of a series  in which Abromovic also paid “homage” to famous pieces that were last performed from 1973 through 1974, which just happens to be the years of the last major bear market. In a November story in the New York Times, “Self-Mutilation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery,” Abromovics described the point of the exercises: “I like to get rid of the fear of pain by staging the pain I in front of the audience, going through this pain and showing them that it’s possible. It turns into something else. Then you have the energy to do it.” Why is the avant-garde jimmying up its pain tolerance now? Apparently because the public is in the mood, just as it was in 1973 when the Dow Jones Industrial Average was beginning a journey from around 1000 to 600 in December 1974. Of one piece that called for her to cut herself around her fingernails and lips, Abromovics said, “I am so afraid of this piece but the moment the public is there, I’ll go from a lower self to a higher self. I don’t know how. It just happens.” And so it is in bear markets.

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