Sunday, December 30, 2007

Screening Log. I'm Not There.

I'm Not There. (Todd Haynes) (2007)

Please pardon the following pretentious statement, but I feel like I finally understand how to watch a Todd Haynes film. I have never known exactly how to take them. I've always wondered how serious, how campy, how overly dramatic, how farcical, how "arty" (etc.) they are intended to be, and I guess I still don't exactly know because his movies are set on both utilizing and defying every category that can be thrown at them. Now I don't mean to overpraise (because I enjoy his innovations more than I enjoy his films), but he makes films that can be as much fun as one allows them to be and, for me, I'm Not There was a whole lot of fun.

I'm Not There improves on Haynes' earlier deconstruction of the "biopic" in Velvet Goldmine, and to a lesser degree Superstar. The constant, and often obscure, references (my favorite one being "See you later, Allen Ginsberg") kept me busy with just the language and look of the film, and there is clearly much more to be absorbed in future viewings. Yes parts of the film are annoying (the first few scenes with Marcus Carl Franklin as "Woody Guthrie") and others can be far too literal, or just seem out of place (Christian Dylan), but what an unique and refreshing film (especially in today's film world of mediocre formulaic biopics that are more prolonged impersonations than films with something to say or demonstrate; ie Ray, Walk the Line, Dreamgirls). I'm Not There is an extraordinary experience of evasiveness that demonstrates the act as much as it's character(s) or title.

EDIT: Two more things that I feel like praising: 1. casting David Cross as Allen Ginsberg, 2. most of the cover songs in the film, particularly Jim James and Calexico's version of "Going To Acapulco"...which can be downloaded here [link] (mp3 @ 320 kbps).

Screening Log. A Journey That Wasn't

A Journey That Wasn't (Pierre Huyghe) (2006)

From Dia - On February 9th, 2005, seven artists and ten crewmembers set sail from the Port of Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, the southeast point of Argentina. Their journey centered on a search for an unknown island and an encounter with a unique solitary creature that was rumored to live only on the shores of an unnamed island somewhere at the height of the Polar Antarctic Circle.

This adventure was the first part of a film. The second part, the representation of the adventure, will take place in New York.

Join us on October 14 at dusk for A Journey That Wasn't, an orchestral musical in Central Park based on this journey to Antarctica. Using ice, atmosphere, light, and an original score--written by composer Joshua Cody and performed live on the ice by a symphonic orchestra--Huyghe will transform the distant island in Antarctica into musical form. New York-based composer and guitarist Elliott Sharp will be a featured soloist and musical collaborator on the project.

This event is both a presentation and a film shoot. Viewers will be invited to sit and watch the show, which will be presented three times in a row. Each time will last under 30 minutes and may include pauses to re-shoot. The filming will record both the show and the audience members who watch it, so that those present witness the spectacle and become extras in the resulting film. Audience members are encouraged to wear dark or neutral-colored clothing.

This film (along with other of Huyghe's films) can be viewed and downloaded at ubuweb [link]
or via bittorrent at art torrents [link]

Screening Log. Din of Celestial Birds

Din of Celestial Birds (E. Elias Merhige) (2006)

From TCM - Merhige recalls the celebrated works of such film pioneers as the Lumiere Brothers and Fritz Lang through this visually sumptuous short film. In it, he uses the camera as an all-seeing eye witnessing the divine mystery of creation—the soul’s movement into matter and the first glimpse of Eden. To make the film, he employs an astrophysicist, a visionary painter, and a multi-media performance artist, and implements filming techniques that cover the full range of cinematic history.

A short interview with Merhige can be viewed here [link]

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Portrait. Reverend J.M. Gates

The spirited Reverend J.M. Gates.

"Uhh I want to talk to you about..."

Reverend J.M. Gates was the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rock Dale Park, Atlanta, Georgia from 1914 - 1941. His sermons fervently move in and out of discussion and song to cover topics of vanity, hardship, modern evils (well...his idea of modern evils, such as mannish woman, flying machines, chain stores, etc.), and of course the bible and Jesus.

Are You Bound for Heaven or Hell? is a collection of Gates' best and most famous sermons. These sermons are truly amazing, and I have yet to find any recordings that approach them. (If anyone has his Complete Recorded Works and is willing to share or trade then please let me know.)
Are You Bound for Heaven or Hell? (mp3 @ 192kbps) can be downloaded in its entirety here [link]

review at PopMatters [link]
allmusic [link]
used on Amazon for very cheap [link]

Screening Log. Italianamerican & American Boy

Italianamerican (Martin Scorsese) (1974)
American Boy: A Profile of: Steven Prince (Martin Scorsese) (1978)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Screening Log. The Bitter Tea of General Yen

The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Frank Capra) (1933)

Article at Senses of Cinema [link]
Info at Capra site [link]

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reading Log. Movie-Made America

Movie-Made America (Robert Sklar) (originally published in 1975, revised edition 1994)

It started as a very interesting (though brief) overview of Hollywood, but after the chapters on the 1950s it turned into a frustrating and oversimplified characterization of American film.
The first part of the book, covering the rise of movie culture and its transformation from the Nickelodeons of the city slums to the glamorous lives of excess in Hollywood was really fascinating. But past these glamorous years on into the rise of television, collapse of the traditional studio system, the emergence of independent film, and so on, the analysis became too abridged and fell apart. By the end, with his analysis of independent film in the 80s and 90s (and his inflated love for Oliver Stone [irk!]), I grew tired of his accommodatingly easy depiction of film.

Powell's Books [link]
review from Jump Cut [link]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Stamp. Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson, 2005 Canadian 50¢ stamp.
(Aside from the reigning monarch, Peterson was the first living person to receive a commemorative stamp in Canada.)

Obituary. Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson dead at 82.

Obituary at the BBC [link]
Profile at CBC Digital Archives [link]
allmusic [link]

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Screening Log. The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman) (2007)

I'm not sure how disappointed I should feel. I mean it is one of my all-time favorite shows, but how disappointed can I really be when putting it in perspective with the overall quality of the show in the past 7 or so years (...and with the other comedies that have been released lately)? So yes its pretty much an average-to-mediocre, further fetched episode...but somehow it is still a must for anyone who, even slightly, considers themselves a Simpsons fan.

Holiday. Christmas Day Buffalo Dance

Christmas Day Buffalo Dance, San Ildefonso Pueblo, NM. (Photographed by Richard Erdoes)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Screening Log. Between Two Worlds

Between Two Worlds (Edward A. Blatt) (1944)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Portrait. Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp lighting a pipe with a bird on his shoulder.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ephemeron. Friday July 17, 1981

Friday July 17, 1981 at Savoy Manor. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five...with the Cold Crush Brothers and Kurtis Blow & the Super Rhymes. No Sneakers!!

Christmas Card.

From New York Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt and New York First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt. 1930.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Screening Log. Flesh and Fantasy

Flesh and Fantasy (Julien Duvivier) (1943)

Portrait. Carl Van Vechten

Carl Van Vechten, spruced up. March 9, 1934.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Screening Log. Lucky Blue

Lucky Blue (Håkon Liu) (2007)

Screening Log. 65 Revisited (2007)

65 Revisited (D.A. Pennebaker) (2007)

A more sympathetic assembling of Pennebaker's Don't Look Back outtake footage from Dylan's '65 UK tour.

Screening Log. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (Sidney Lumet) (2007)

A film full of frustration, some of it intentional (for the story) but a lot of it accidental (for the audience). Hoffman's performance is the best thing in the film (aside from Tomei's beauty, and extremely sexy funeral dress), but the film feels largely empty and pointlessness. That's not to say that its an overly bad movie, but in the end it will probably be just another film that I will have forgotten about.

Screening Log. The Miracle Woman

The Miracle Woman (Frank Capra) (1931)

I wouldn't say that I dislike Frank Capra movies, its just that after the fourth or fifth one his formula becomes much too obvious and a little too much. So when I started this movie for my Stanwyckathon, I expected it to fall into the same "all-American small town common folk myth" niche (that he defined so well, so many times), but thankfully this one did not...or at least didn't as clearly as his later "classics" would.

Visually this is the most interesting and complex Capra film I've seen, with a good amount of camera movement and an overall beautiful composition. Stanwyck is amazing, and gives one of her best performances as an Aimee Semple McPherson inspired evangelist. David Manners is also excellent as the very convincing blind man who saves her. Sure there were a few convenient moments and awkward progressions, but overall this is my favorite Capra film, with the exception of It's a Wonderful Life (which was just so embedded into my childhood and overall experience that I can't honestly judge anything against it).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Screening Log. Baby Face

Baby Face (Alfred E. Green) (1933)


A very interesting pdf of Warner Bros original editing notes in an attempt to please the very unhappy censors. Apparently the mentioning of Nietzsche's name was even a no-no. [link]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Barbara Stanwyck Show.

The Barbara Stanwyck Show was an anthology dramatic television series broadcasted on NBC from 1960-1961. Though Stanwyck won an Emmy from the show, it was not continued into a second season.

The Hitch-Hiker (29 May 1961) (co-staring Joseph Cotten)

Assassin (15 May 1961) (co-staring Peter Falk as the assassin)

Confession (20 Feb 1961) (directed by Jacques Tourneur)

The Miraculous Journey of Tadpole Chan AKA Little Jo (14 Nov 1960)

So begins my Barbara Stanwyck-athon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Screening Log. Coming Home

Coming Home (Hal Ashby) (1978)

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Musical Artist. Blind Willie McTell

Blind Willie McTell, with 12-string guitar, in an Atlanta hotel room. Nov. 1940.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Portrait. Jane White

The beautiful Jane White in 1941 (taken by Carl Van Vechten).

Screening Log. Manufacturing Consent

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (Mark Achbar & Peter Wintonick) (1992)

Screening Log. M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H (Robert Altman) (1970)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

*please cite or link when reposting*