I struggle to remember a film that affected me so instantly and profoundly as Béla Tarr’s The Turin Horse. More than that, there have been few times in my life where I’ve walked away from any artistic experience and been so moved by a complete understanding of what creative expression is at its most sublime; Godspeed You! Black Emperor playing under the stars in Big Sur; Gerhard Richter’s October 18, 1977 series in a room; lying under Olafur Eliasson’s sun at the Tate Modern.

Next week, American Cinemateque is hosting Tarr for five nights of film screenings here in LA and I couldn’t be more excited. (I’ve even got tickets for the theatrical showing of the seven-plus-hour Sátántangó.) It’s one of the genuine treats of living in Los Angeles—there are always so many cultural offerings that incredibly rare and substantial ones come about with some regularity.

I rarely let myself get too hyped for something before it happens, but I can’t imagine any of this will disappoint.

An unfortunate truth

The thing about artificial intelligence for me is, well, I don’t really give a shit about it. When it comes to technological advancement like this, I tend to imagine it will take humanity down the saddest, dumbest road possible. The fact that corporations are really stoked on AI is proof enough of that.

While I do think it’s incredibly stupid for people to be this obsessed over algorithms, there is no escaping a thing that will save the rich some money. I don’t think AI means we’ll be fighting off robot armies anytime soon, but I do think American culture will drift further away from genuine humanity and the gifts of creativity and delve deeper into a dark pit of recycled ideas. Branded and franchised culture is the fast food restaurant of 21st century America, and AI will make it that much easier to keep serving the same bullshit year after year.

Is it the end of art? No, the same way the Happy Meal wasn’t the end of food. But what the franchise strip malls and box stores did to the United States over the past 50 years—stagnating the wages of workers, creating food deserts, obliterating small business, make every suburb a variation of the same—branded entertainment will do to our minds over the next 50. From personal identity to social discourse, culture already plays a massive role in how we see ourselves and the world. This will only become more substantial as time moves on.

It’s disheartening to see AI involved in so much creative conversation, because it is inherently old hat. This is a technology that takes known information and reshuffles it—adding nothing to the world, only another interpretation. One of the few actual gifts of humanity is that of inspiration. Ideas can just come to us, and when we look at art, its perfection is in the humanity of it—the intonations of an actor in the moment, the use of aquamarine by a painter, the extra sixteenth-note in a composition. The nature of art is defined by the flourishes of artists whose imperfections create harmony in the most vital and human of ways.

These are things that cannot be learned, replicated, or especially created by a machine. We are not perfect beings and so our imperfect creations allow us to relate over their inherent flaws. Technology will lead to rich people getting richer—but our mainstream culture continuing to devolve into a puddle of shit, and a lot of flashy, meaningless advertisements will sell us trash to enjoy it all along the way.

Earlier this week I watched The Five Devils, and with that, officially hit 1,000 films on Letterboxd. (It certainly feels like I’ve seen more movies than that, but maybe it’s just because I’ve seen Hackers so many times.)

I have a strange relationship with movies—in one hand I love cinema as an art form, and in the other I understand the addictive effects of screen-based media. In the interest of the former, I try to see as many movies as possible, but in caution of the latter, I have to make sure I am not sidelining my life or work with streaming habits. (A circumstance that has happened more than I care to admit.)

There are many strange and fascinating parts about being a movie-lover who moved to Los Angeles in my late 30s, and I’ll write about them as time goes on. For now, the big news here is the writer’s strike—something I was thinking about while watching The Five Devils.

Art in the United States has a troubled history, as ‘success’ is often tied to our market-based concept of the word. Even with film, a medium practically defined by the efforts of Americans here in Hollywood, the business of entertainment has woefully impacted the culture produced. The Five Devils, a French film, was a good movie. It won’t win Best Picture anywhere, but it was a wonderful little tale. It is exactly the type of movie that is made less and less in the USA.

When I look at the WGA strike—and the rejected demands by the industry—there is certainly something to be won for the livelihood of the profession. But beyond that, it shows the entertainment industry playing their hand in regards to the future: There is no interest in human stories, in small budgets, in lower profits. Being profitable isn’t enough—the industry is about Intellectual Property, franchise films, and streaming rights. They’re more than happy to have an AI shit out a couple Marvel movies every year ad nauseum.

Like all art, the best cinema isn’t a formula. Its resonance is defined by the humanity of its creation, the passion behind the imperfections in craft. To my mind, there isn’t much worse than watching the grotesque nature of capital actively work to tarnish the potential of creativity in the name of profit. The US already struggles to keep up with foreign cinema in terms of artistic quality, and it’s not like a shift to more algorithm-friendly content is going to do anything for that.

It’d be a comedy, if it wasn’t such a tragedy.