As many of you know, I spent a great deal of last year writing a senior thesis about the work of American experimental filmmaker Hollis Frampton. Now, I’ve written a short overview of his work and consideration of the new Hollis Frampton Criterion Collection DVD for the online magazine Idiom. Take a gander! Thanks for reading.
(This was originally written for a blog run by my friend Alex.)
The Walking Dead, on AMC. Developed for television by Frank Darabont. Based on the comics by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore.
Siegfried Kracauer first suggested that the films of a nation reflect its mentality. What of a nation’s TV programming? The tone of AMC’s The Walking Dead bears undeniable similarities to the political language that has emerged in the United States during this nascent 21st century. Since their rise to prominence in George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead, zombies have served as potent political symbols; warning against the evils of bioengineering as well as cheekily critiquing mindless consumer capitalism. The Walking Dead separates itself from classical Romero-style zombie narratives by focusing on a band of survivors instead of portraying the outbreak of a zombie epidemic–much like 28 Days Later, a triumph of zombie revisionism. (more…)
Oscar nominations were announced this morning and they might as well have been delivered by Mitt Romney, considering the deafening yawns with which they’ve been greeted. Before you check out the list, I just want to say that the only nomination I was looking forward to was one that didn’t end up happening. Albert Brooks’ turn as a murderous gangster/movie producer in Drive warranted a Supporting Actor nod, though it didn’t receive one. (more…)
by Matt Paley
I recently had the profound pleasure of spending a quiet evening at the normally wild and crazy Acme studios in Brooklyn with my dearest friend Rachel Trachtenburg, her mother Tina, and Acme’s brigadier general, Shawn Patrick. After a dinner and a movie of nachos and Sidney Lumet’s Network (try this as soon as you can), I was tasked with sharing a few of my favorite music videos. Most, unsurprisingly, were received well — Rihanna’s Spike Lee/Keith Herring/Warhol/Basquiat send-up Rude Boy and Beyonce as bored/scorned housewife/Marilyn Monroe in Why Don’t You Love Me? are both incredibly fun and really smart cultural homage — but my very favorite video of the year, Robyn’s pitch-perfect (as far as I’m concerned) Call Your Girlfriend, was roundly rejected. (more…)
by Brian Barth
Yesterday was gorgeous.
I do everything in my power to prepare for a film, but at the end of the day I’ve shot what I’ve shot and I’ve cut what I’ve cut and it’s out of my hands. This is not to shirk responsibility — more to marvel at the moment when all of your time and thought leave your grasp and become something entirely new, all on its own.
Instead of high-tailing it to P-town or sunning ourselves out on the greenway, Emma and I spent our Sunday afternoon hovering over a heavy pot of sticky, viscous, brown liquid goodness. We let it boil (but only just barely), stirred the sediment (with a sanitized spoon) and we cooled the wort (in the coolest of ice-baths).
And after three hours of bubbling and timing and sanitizing and worrying and reassuring, we added the yeast, shut the lid and put the bucket in the corner. We have done all that we can do, now it’s up to the ingredients to mix and ferment and clarify into our first batch of Belgian Amber Ale. We hope. And it’s this exact out-of-control feeling — brewing it all up, breath held back — that’s a critical part of my creative process.
Production for I hope you find what you came here to see begins this Saturday. Glasses raised.
by Jake Teresi
Describe the emotions that your own death arouses in you. Write down, or think carefully about, what you think will happen to you when you die, when you are physically dead. Be as specific as possible.
Now that you have completed this task, I predict that you will have a stronger opinion on whatever follows in this article. Or, really, on any article. In all likelihood, because of this reminder of your mortality, you will be more passionate about your take on Britney Spears not wearing shoes into a public bathroom, global warming, or the successful first week of Transformers 3 (180 million).
This is what is called “mortality salience,” the polarizing effect of the subliminal awareness of mortality. It has been tested scientifically, and was exemplified by the extreme public embrace of George W. Bush, a charismatic, value-driven leader, after we observed, nationally, people diving off buildings to their death on 9/11. We felt for the victims and the victims’ families, but, more importantly, we were reminded vividly that each of us, personally, are going to die. Except for Charlie Sheen. (more…)
by Matt Paley
Earlier today, Paul passed me an article by Bill Simmons (for ESPN’s grantland.com) concerning Hollywood, entitled “The Movie Star.” Now, Simmons might be the most famous contemporary sportswriter – he certainly is in Boston – but (to my knowledge) he is not also a film industry expert. But I do very much like his writing, and I’ll read anything recommended to me by Paul. Still, I wasn’t immediately sold when I read this paragraph early on:
Any sports fan knows he or she will be in situations (at a wedding, at a bar, at work, wherever) in which they’ll get into friendly arguments about things like “The Lakers should trade everyone but Kobe for Dwight Howard” and [you'll] sound like a fool if you aren’t prepared. That’s the real reason we suffer through talking-head shows, sports radio and all the crap online — not just because we’re addicted to being sports fans, but because we’re trying to learn material to use later for our own benefit. Being a movie fan doesn’t work that way.
Spoken like a sportswriter, no? I, surrounded by movie buffs, constantly read up on Hollywood and the film industry from as many perspectives as I can (in large part to avoid sounding like an idiot). Isn’t that why, after all, I was reading this article? But the larger point made was actually a good one: competitive sports, particularly with today’s complex (bordering on ridiculous) analysis, offer pretty good answers to questions of comparative success, or whether someone’s work is improving or declining, or which players are most essential to a successful outcome. Hollywood – particularly because many would argue that good and successful (using box-office return as the barometer) aren’t one in the same – offers much more spin and far fewer answers.
But here’s where Simmons got me: (more…)
by Jake Teresi
I’m always surprised at what hits the web zeitgeist, and what doesn’t. Who thought a 13 year old’s curiously bad youtube video would amass 160 million views? And who could’ve predicted she would transcend youtube to outsell most everyone else on iTunes? And is the home video “Charlie bit my finger” that funny?
Then, on the other hand, there’s this under-appreciated gem. The concept is great: a 5 year old dictates comics to his 29 year old graphic illustrator brother, who makes them come to life on the page. It is funnier than you’d think.
The kid’s logic is hilarious: anyone who has blood spilled on them becomes part-that creature, which adds up to a lot of hyphens as the adventures continue; most of Axe Cop’s enemies are classmates who asked to be on his team earlier in life and had their feelings hurt; and, it’s not uncommon for a character to refer to his “tummy.”
After months of delay and speculation, Kanye West’s “Monster” music video was finally released a few days ago. The video’s display of misogeny, paired with sexually violent overtones, confirms the preconceived judgment of many cynics who previewed an unfinished leak that made its way onto the web back in December. But while everyone else focuses on the graphic content and imagery, I believe there’s a more fundamental criticism to be leveled: the video lacks a major and essential element - honesty.
In any music video, the filmed piece needs to compliment the established audio track. The vigorous and spirited song, which is filled with intense lyrical intonation, clashes with the visually emotionless, slow-paced video performance. In most instances, a proper video requires an artist who acts as an engaging storyteller. In this case, we have artists who are removed from their audience, as well as their environment (only Nicki Minaj’s performance seems properly paired). Why, considering the confrontational and direct nature of the song, do I feel Kanye is only comfortable scratching the surface of the idea here? What could he be hiding?
What do you think? Check it out here!
Less of a review, more of a reflection.
Broadcast News, dir. James L. Brooks (1987)
Probably few of you remember this irritable writer complaining that The Criterion Collection had opted to release James L. Brooks’ 1987 Broadcast News instead of putting out “more Godard.” It seemed like a fair pronouncement at the time, one that few people would disagree with. Then I saw Broadcast News. (more…)
by Jake Teresi
During the year and a half since I graduated, I’ve been trying my hardest to be a productive writer, to prevent becoming one of those kids who says he’s a writer but hardly ever produces anything. Turns out it’s a lot harder for me to stay on point when I’m given free range, and I’ve gone from method to method with varying success:
(1) Only writing when inspired
I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I got my diploma. No more endless due dates and no more having to half-ass anything; a chance to let my projects come together organically. I could now work on what what I wanted when I wanted. But, 6 months in, I realized I hadn’t completed anything other than what was required of me at work.
That’s because this approach doesn’t entirely work, for a few reasons. The times I feel genuinely inspired to write, out of thin air, are few and far between. Generally, inspiration comes after you start writing. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s procrastinated until deep into the night before a paper’s due, thinking I had nothing to say, only to find, halfway through writing it, I was actually nailing it. I observed this many times without ever understanding it was more than the grace of god. Writing is such an uphill battle initially if you’re out of practice. The more out of practice you are, the harder it is to translate your ideas onto the page during moments of inspiration. Even worse, your inability to express yourself properly can spoil that euphoric feeling… so screw this approach. (more…)
by Matt Paley
Adolfas Mekas died yesterday, at 85. It’s easily to speak about what the film world –and the avant-garde in particular – has lost: co-founder of the seminal magazine Film Culture and NYC’s Anthology Film Archive (both with his older brother Jonas), the first film critic for The Village Voice, one of the great voices of the New American Cinema, a godfather of American experimental film. It’s just as easy to speak reverently about his work: his 1963 opus Hallelujah the Hills is one of the most joyous, poetic, absurd experiences you will ever have watching a movie, and I suggest you put it on your to do list. See Going Home (1971) too. But to me and many of the boys who contribute to Saint Eliot, Adolfas will always be, first and foremost, the de facto founder of Bard College’s scrappy, boisterous, anarchic Film Department, which came to be known during his tenure as “The People’s Film Department of Bard College.” It is still a department crafted in his image. His face (last I checked) still adorns the clock in the Film Office, his patron saint (St. Tula, Our Lady Of Cinema) still offers snarky aphorisms (“blame not broken equipment. Your vision may be too small to see what the broken camera sees” is a personal favorite) from forgotten corners of the film building. Ask you then where ‘Saint Eliot’ comes from? (more…)
by Adam Hirsch
All the reasons — both good and bad — that Lindsay Lohan has become a public figure are more or less irrelevant today. She’s Lindsay, she’s inarguably part of the Zeitgeist, and she’s more than likely here to stay.
Oh, and she’s just made the worst film. Ever. The title: ”Lindsay Lohan, Transformed”.
She’s teamed up with the painter Richard Phillips and made a two-minute clusterfuck of narcissism and plagiarism to be shown for — wait for it — the “Commercial Break” visual art section of the 54th Venice Biennale.
(In the event it gets taken down from YouTube, you can also watch it here.)
In case anyone is, I don’t know, a little curious about why this film is so aesthetically pleasing, the answer is simple: the majority of shots from this thing has been appropriated from Ingmar Bergman’s film Persona. (more…)
For those of us who paid even marginal attention to this years Cannes film festival, there were two non-surprises that were somehow engineered to be received as stunners. First, and probably less surprising, was the banning of Lars von Trier, the famously badgerlike Dane; second was the victory of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life over the other highfalutin shoo-ins from other directors who have become Cannes mainstays. Both directors came out on top–though for drastically different reasons. (more…)
by Jake Teresi
Speaking of latent Nazism, here’s a brilliant appropriation piece made by the guys at Everything is Terrible, a blog dedicated to showcasing weird found footage.
Their transformation of this Chuck E. Cheese in-store (presumably 90s) television show is simple: jump cutting to condense it down to its perverse essence. It’s amazing to think of all the mediocre film that is produced daily around the world, the amount of capable crews wasted on ill-conceived junk. I find it refreshing when artists change the context and make a worthwhile piece out of a previous failure.
by Adam Hirsch
It’s Friday afternoon and, ladies and gentlemen, I need you to see this because, in the same vein as The Room, here is a YouTube clip so bad it creates new worlds of thought.
Meet Harald Glöckler. He is a real, German fashion designer with a real line coming out on QVC in the UK, for which this is an actual promo clip. Harald paints, he designs, he writes books! Harald does it all. But Harald doesn’t seem to be coming from the same place as most people.
by Brian Barth
This is exactly why I shoot film. Creation for me is discovery, not control.
by Matt Paley
Tim Hetherington died yesterday, killed by mortar fire in Misrata, where Libyan rebels are clashing with Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces. Hetherington was traveling with Chris Hondros, Guy Martin, and Michael Christopher Brown (photojournalists all) at the time of the attack. All four photographers were wounded; Hetherington died first, and Hondros soon after. At the time of my writing, Martin is reported to be alive, in very serious condition; Brown is wounded but stable.
Hetherington was best known for Restrepo (2010), an intimate, lyrical, harrowingly visceral experience of war, which he co-directed with his longtime collaborator Sebastian Junger. Restrepo is a beautiful film; it’s also a film I’ll be unable to watch again.
I point, instead, to Diary, Hetherington’s last film work, which he uploaded to vimeo only three months ago. A dream-like meditation on the disparate worlds Hetherington moved between and his struggle to unite them, Diary appears now as an affirmation of all that Hetherington lived, and lived for. I won’t say any more about the work – I feel uncomfortable doing so, tonight – except to ask you to watch it.
From Hetherington’s vimeo page:
‘Diary’ is a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of my work, and was made as an attempt to locate myself after ten years of reporting. It’s a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media.
Camera + Directed by Tim Hetherington
Edit + Sound design by Magali Charrier
19′ 08 / 2010
May we possess, as Tim did, the courage to live life in extremes, eschewing comfort for that which drives us; the dedication to push ourselves and our mediums to the very limits; and the strength to document with compassion, reserving judgement. Rest in peace.
by Matt Paley
I discovered the work of Claire Morgan, my computer tells me, on March 23rd, 2010. I know that as soon as I saw her work (via notcot.org, I’m sure), I wanted to share it — a whole folder of images I pulled onto my desktop attests to that — but, until now, I haven’t. Chalk it up to vanity; I must have felt that I didn’t have anything eloquent to add. Criminal, that. Ms. Morgan’s work must be shared.
Meticulously ordered, balanced, constrained, calculated, rhythmical, and yet – to my mind – organic, natural and transcendent. When looking at Claire Morgan’s work, there is, first, the stillness: an entire world frozen in time; fragile, impossible, uncanny, and not to be disturbed. And yet there is also the motion: a sense of wonder, fascination and beauty, of life, of chase, and very often of flight. (more…)
New Yorker film critic David Denby prefaced his list of his favorite films of the year with a tidbit about Boston on film. Denby wrote:
“In recent American movies, Boston—not New York, not Chicago, not Los Angeles, but Boston—has provided the significant setting and a special urban music of slang, oaths, nostalgia, taunts, affection. The cycle of Boston films began, in 1997, with “Good Will Hunting,” which was written by its stars, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who were childhood friends in Cambridge. Dennis Lehane’s soulful Boston thrillers have served as the basis of Clint Eastwood’s masterpiece, “Mystic River” (2003) and Affleck’s directing début, “Gone Baby Gone” (2007). The Boston screenwriter William Monahan wrote “The Departed” (2006), in which Mark Wahlberg, from Dorchester, appears in a supporting role as a fast-talking cop; Wahlberg now stars in “The Fighter,” set in Lowell, just to the northwest of Boston, as the real-world boxer and welter-weight champ Mickey Ward. Earlier this year, Affleck appeared as a Charlestown bank robber in “The Town,” his second film as director, and he plays one of the local executives who get whacked by a downsizing Boston conglomerate in the new “Company Men.” That’s seven major films. Now, you could say that the entire phenomenon is sparked by Bostonian male stars. True, of course, but Affleck, Damon, and Wahlberg wouldn’t get money for these films from the hardnoses of Hollywood finance if the movies weren’t expected to resonate around the rest of the country. So what is the source of Boston’s appeal? All these movies are about white working-class ethnics—Irish Catholics, in particular—who can talk a blue streak, and all of them are about men and women in clans. Families, friends, neighbors. The clan makes you and it threatens to destroy you, and for the heroes (who are all male—Arise, ye daughters of Hibernia!), the question becomes: Do I leave or do I stay? Do I let the clan define me or must I strike out on my own? And for the rest of us, the question might be: Is this neighborhood and ethnic solidarity not only a celebration, an atmosphere of terrific rough talk and family warmth, but a shudder of anticipation, a last united stand in multicultural America?”
A timely question–one I’ll certainly be thinking about. The only shudder here is that Boston becomes, in Denby’s eyes, the last refuge of white America. We all know Boston has a tremendous reputation for racism–but more so than L.A., New York, or Chicago? If Denby wants someone in Boston to make Crash, he shouldn’t insult our intelligence. Even Shaq happily calls Boston home (this is a petty point, I know). And though the whiteys of The Fighter certainly come out clan-like, they’re worlds away from the people in Company Men or even Good Will Hunting. Boston is also home to the highest concentrated number of Brazilians outside of Brazil, another sign on if tremendous diversity which hasn’t yet seen the light of the camera or projector. Yet how right–despite how narrow–Denby’s analysis is will be shaken slightly off balance, I expect, by other films from The Hub, as the city continues its on-screen ascent.
This has long been a Youtube favorite of mine: a 1958 Disney cartoon focusing on the Magic Highway of Tomorrow. One of the weirdest things about this is that it’s all analogue. If anyone can suggest any relevant reading about the switch from analogue to digital computing, please do. For now, enjoy this short ‘toon. Anyone interested in extra credit should compare to this video Le Corbu. Also looks a little like Dubai if that’s more your bag. Meanwhile I’m waiting for our heated pavement to melt the snow outside (this shouldn’t even been an issue thanks to my hovering car).
by Matt Paley
Beautiful. Robert Houllahan, our friend over at Cinelab, just had his video for The Low Anthem’s new single, Ghost Woman Blues, featured on NPR.org (see it here), and it’s something special.
The Low Anthem recorded their (soon to be released) album Smart Flesh in a big, cold, empty warehouse (actually an abandoned pasta sauce factory) in Rhode Island last winter. Rob hunkered down with them, with some 16mm and some 35mm, and set about documenting the experience.
I remember Rob showing me the footage, a few months later — it was easy to visualize a nice landscape piece coming out of it, with that beautiful New England winter quality of light — but I don’t remember Rob telling me what he intended to do with it.
I’m a little surprised how cohesive it all feels, now! When I saw the footage for the first time, I saw it as a diary of the light in the warehouse — and it is, still — but not an expression of a sound or a feeling. But I hadn’t listened to the music yet (Oh, that music!)
The occasional bursts of color are lovely, as are the often different speeds of the film. The imperfect sync on the performers, too, lends a floating, ghostly, out-of-time quality to the images — Rob isn’t encouraging us to feel any immediacy; we’re watching from far away — and he cuts to them at just the right times, because he knows we’re aching to see their faces.
But what’s really killer about the video is how he doesn’t linger on those beautiful tableaus. Many of them don’t get the time they deserve; Rob’s a restless (to the point of irresponsible) editor, and it’s not what we’ve been trained to expect. Yet the images do become distinct moments, and are given appropriate gravity, with his consistent fades to black. It’s a really surprising technique, and with the hurried editing, it pushes the video towards a different feeling, somewhere between really long takes of landscape footage (the way I might have done it) and really choppy MTV (the way most music video artists would have done it). The contrast serves that feeling, that slipping away, that they don’t make em like they used to that Rob is talking about.