by Matt Paley
Oh my god, it’s finally here.
This was one of those projects. None of the lovely people — Lily Susskind, my mighty co-director; Matt Ferro, our genius behind the camera; STE’s own Jake Teresi, our enabler, producer, and host in New Orleans; Carsie Blanton, our musical muse and sponsor – had any idea if and when it would suddenly (in my unsteady hands) transform itself into something lovely, hard and brilliant, and I had only the slightest inkling (and only sometimes).
Certainly, it was a project with the makings of something good. Carsie had managed to round up a veritable who’s who of the world’s greatest swing dancers – Chance Bushman, Giselle Anguizola, Peter Loggins, Amy Johnson, Reuel Reis, Laura Manning and Lisa Casper — and we’d constructed a tiny crew equally versed in dance and film primed to push the boundaries of the dance on film we’d seen before. Thanks to the generosity and excitement of the performers who joined us, our time in New Orleans and the footage we’d collected was unbelievable. But in the editing process, trying to capture the spirit of all of these dancers and their opposing styles, to respect the dance and still cut it mercilessly, to delight in the magic of New Orleans without reverting to cliché, and above all to fit everything into barely three minutes of song seemed an impossible task.
And yet, at long last, here it is! Shot in the streets of the 8th Ward, inside a St. Charles streetcar, on the balcony of Mimi’s in the Marigny, and in the abandoned Six Flags in Michoud, Baby Can Dance is a celebration of life and joy and dance and a city that’s always pregnant with all three. Please enjoy.
by Matt Paley
Rook (Nicholas Garcia) relaxing by his bicycle.
The last few months have seen a remarkable change in me, as a steadfast commitment to my Boston way of life has given way to a rootlessness that has taken me across the country three times, the endless motion powering a thorough examination – and a rapid (westward?) expansion – of self. I mostly feel fractured, exhausted, and underwater – but I’m certain that the struggle will yield a real, sharp clarity in the months to come.
Luckily, when I do surface, I have two lovely travelogues to read.
The Long Haul maps my dear friend Nicholas Garcia’s thirty-two hundred mile cycling journey from Vermont to California. Nick is a lovely, vivid writer, and there’s something particularly refreshing about his journaling style – especially since he’s often updating from his phone, which forces his writing into the tightest of prose – it’s simple, unadorned, but lucid, generous, and crackling with wit.
Speaking of wit: Going Hollywood is our friend (and frequent STE collaborator) Adam Goldman’s document of his trip Westward as he stops in ten of America’s Hollywoods (currently he’s in Hollywood, Florida, having just left Hollywood, South Carolina, having previous hit the one in Maryland and both in Pennsylvania – get it?) on his way to the fabled Hollywood, California. Along the way he’s creating a long-form audio documentary (think This American Life) chronicling his trip and interviewing people about the experience of living in the other Hollywoods. A marvelous project, Adam’s blog is less useful as a travel document than as an excuse to read his writing (and, for a few posts, that of The Busy Signal and Skin Horse Theater’s Brian Dorsam), which is sparkling, consistently hilarious and impossibly charming.
I find that, right after checking the headlines (and the movie section) of my NYTimes app, I move straight to Going Hollywood and The Long Haul whenever I have a moment to breathe and a want to engage with the world. If I were you, gentle reader, I’d start both blogs at the very beginning – you’ll be surprised how quickly and inexorably you’re drawn in to the climb with Rook and Bonesy (as Nick and Jessa call themselves), and how curious and alive the country seems through Adam’s eyes.
For me, their journeys (a bit more straightforward, at least geographically, than mine) are reassuringly measurable, covering actual, physical terrain, and both clear and promising in their unfolding. I highly recommend them both – especially for anyone in the midst of a personal journey right now. Which is all of us, hopefully.
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 Adam Hirsch
Green Lantern, dir. Martin Campbell (2011)
Full disclosure: the Green Lantern is my favorite comic book hero.
So I’m giving Green Lantern the benefit of the doubt, the benefit of the heart, because it’s a rare film that refuses to cross the line into cheap gags and cynicism and this film refuses to do either. Most people who’ve seen it dismiss it as hokey, and just plain bad, but there seems to be a depth that Green Lantern aims for and, well, misses. (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…)
For the past few weeks, I’ve been doing research for an upcoming music video project. The artist I’m working with has instrumentals reminiscent of audio production from the 1980s, so I’m looking to draw creatively from the visual techniques and narrative forms of that era. During my “research” I’ve come across some absolutely amazing stuff. For your viewing pleasure, I’ve placed a few gems below. Enjoy! (more…)
Terrence Malick has made five films in thirty-eight years. All of his films are recognized critically as masterpieces. Keeping with that tradition, his most recent film The Tree of Life won top honors at the Cannes film festival last month. Speaking about the film, head of the Cannes jury Robert DeNiro said, “It had the size, the importance, the intention, whatever you want to call it, that seemed to fit the prize.” DeNiro’s offhand comment is invaluable to deciphering how this film has steadily risen, without much apparent consideration, to a respectable position within the pantheon of contemporary American filmmaking.
The movie is basically the story of Malick’s Texan youth in the 1950s, intercut with glossy meditations on the history of life on Earth. Sean Penn, playing the older version of the young boy we see constantly intimidated by his father (Brad Pitt), wanders awed and aimlessly through a gleaming present-day metropolis. There is a quiet voiceover, often whispered, presumably because only serious things are whispered. As with any of Malick’s films, bizarre moments are captured with a grace that makes them undeniably appealing. In one scene a band of young, directionless boys destructively wander the hinterlands of their hometown; a father intensely urges his son to hit him as the camera floats gently before their faces; children frolic in clouds of hazardous DDT.
What sets these sequences apart from the rest of the film is their total honesty. They don’t defer to clichéd images that stink of Planet Earth—they instead capture the weirdness of being young, the inanities of fatherhood, strange moments that are genuinely past. Even if these aren’t real memories, they’re still something known, something felt, something represented.
However, the elements of the film that haves garnered most praise, confusion, and appreciation are the sequences concerning the origins of life. (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.”
by Brian Barth
Bonnaroo just celebrated its 10th anniversary and I was fortunate enough to be there. Between the delicious Spicy Pie Pizzas, Sweet Water IPAs and the unforgettable Arepas, I caught a couple shows. Here’s who left an impression. (more…)
by Peter Warren
This week, Radar.com released explicit messages sent from the Facebook account of Representative Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Similar messages were discovered on his Twitter account and Blackberry.
Below, the transcript of messages sent from Rep. Weiner’s iPhone 4G to an Unknown Female. (more…)
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!
J.J. Abrams Super 8 is a movie banking on the nostalgia of the Spielberg era of innocent American filmmaking. It seeks to appeal, I gather, not necessarily to kids and teens looking to cool off and get some thrills, but instead to their parents, who remember with fondness ET and The Goonies. What makes Super 8 more successful than other recent kidcentric adventure movies, though, is not its relationship to Spielberg’s action-comedies and science fiction dramas—unless that relationship is understood primarily in terms of historical setting. The movie’s 1979 setting is not an accident, nor is it pure homage. Instead, it’s the only way J.J. Abrams could possibly make a movie that doesn’t involve little kids interacting with computers, cellular phones, and the other assorted technical artifacts that keep kids from actually doing interesting things on screen. (more…)
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 Peter Warren
2004 Euriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay Buttery, bright, citrus zest on the finish, strong notes of this glass has a chip in it I think.
2006 Susana Bobo Crios Rose Crisp, low acidity, strawberries and blueberries, these are the glasses my brother and his wife gave me for my birthday, aren’t they? Well, that explains it.
2006 Muntes Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc Bone-dry, grassy, delicate, not as delicate as cheap glasses, but I guess when Mom and Dad still support you at 35 that’s what you can afford, and yes I know about that check, hints of corn and peaches.
2006 Argile Brut Light, short finish, would make a great Mimosa, solid sparkling from up and coming vineyard in Oregon, which would be a great place for him, because in Portland you can show up at a fancy restaurant wearing nothing but chest hair and that’s considered okay.
2008 Peter Lohmann Eden Valley Riesling Were we even raised in the same household? You’d think our parents kept him in the yard or something. This wine is awful.
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.