Sunday, April 06, 2014

Pedro Costa on Nirvana: 20 Years Since



"I will refer you to a group I like a lot, but which was completely murdered: Nirvana. They had everything: poetry, passion, politics, economics. If you go to YouTube, see the video when they received an award, you will see that they were not silly. There is an intervention, in accepting an award from MTV; they say: 'Do not forget the Goebbels,' — as if to say: 'Be careful with the things you sell,'..."

Thank you Andy Rector for this translation and this sanity.

Thank you, too, Pedro, and to Kurt — his bandmate Krist Novoselic wrote earlier today on Twitter: "Dear Kurt, It's been 20 years since you left and I think about you every day. — Love, Krist."

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

i hate myself :)


One of the best American films of the last few years is Joanna Arnow's i hate myself :).

Ostensibly it's a "diary film," a term which means less and less as all our media converge into something indistinguishable between film, festival projection, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Simple Machine, NoBudge, and so on. Dan Sallitt has already beaten us all to the punch by expounding upon the nuances of the film back in July 2013.

Premise: Arnow and a then-boyfriend, a super-amped-up Type A to say the least, spend their lives-then together, vacillate between the latter's Harlem place and the former's more docile Brooklyn digs; one assumes based on the interviews with Arnow's parents that the BK segments come with a dose of largesse. Employment on either side is never, or barely ever, touched upon. The privilege of life-long Brooklynites before the 2000s-2010s. I could be wrong about everything here.

And I don't want to say much about this film. Why? Because, as I feel I've already been too indiscreet in even describing surface elements of this picture that posits itself as an exercise (no, that's not the right word) in indiscretion. Far from a provocation — sexual, emotional — Arnow's film is both the last splaying-open of the last-decade's-long "disclosure trend," taken to its utmost degree. A confession and a masochism, with regard to her chaining to a hell protagonist, her own (disingenous? - such has been the trend) stab at fly-on-the-wall invisibility, her own laying bare the pieces that inevitably create a future of bad marriages, good marriages, artistic triumph, dowager (in)certitude, all or any or none of the above.

Although the play of possible fiction that Dan highlights in his piece is fascinating, I don't feel this is anything beyond pure flayed confessional. Again, I don't feel it's right even to delve into this aspect "analytically" here: if you've seen the film, perhaps you'll agree it would seem untoward.

The star of the film is not the boyfriend, for all his drunk Summer sweaty über-provocations with regard to race-baiting and taunting of Arnow herself — which come off as defense mechanisms ne plus ultra... It's Arnow herself, who, in paradox to the very nature of this project, distinguishes herself, whether known by herself or not, as one of the kindest and most sympathetic heroines of the recent cinema. Her sweet face and bared breakdowns evince an honesty and a struggle that few filmmakers of recent times have had the chutzpah to follow to some kind of nth-degree. Again, this is perhaps the last film of its kind in this era. The explicit sexual scenes are at once lynchpins of the scenario as it were, and entirely immaterial. This is who we are at 2014: Cosmos, A Cinematime Odyssey.

As it happens, and in review, it turns out I've said nothing about the film. But what more could I say, unless I were more explicit, and cheerled the influx to see it? Well, no dice: i hate myself :) had a short run at NoBudge, had a Rooftop stint, was rejected from many festivals. In lieu of institutional laurels, perhaps viewers can listen to the contingent of fans on the blogo-social-media-sphere and get with the program. As someone once said, "Nothing but cinema may not be the whole cinema." To which I'd add: "The whole of 'the Cinema' may not be the whole cinema." Reject small capsules and smaller conclusions, blog-capsules and festival-farmed synopses: Here is a film that requires being seen by all enthusiasts of movies and empathy, of Roger Angell's recent New Yorker piece on turning 93, and of the wish that champions still come to protect the fragile in streets and on screens. "Joanna, can you hear me?"

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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Travel Plans


A short 7-minute follow-up to Broken Specs by Ted Fendt — this one called Travel Plans. There are no travel plans, per se: the protagonist comes upon a Greyhound bus ticket (spoiler alert) on a sidewalk, which might have been shed by the psyche of a friend-of-a-friend who has previously discussed her own plans to keep on moving in her travel.

When the three convene (in what appears to be the same kitchen as in Broken Specs?), a rapport is not formed, but a miniature-train station becomes the real place where none will bond, and, of course, this platform calls to mind, as a cinephile in-joke, in the same way that Moullet would do it, Gorin's Routine Pleasures. Use what you have at hand.

The guy who'll eventually take off from the two other characters, for the sake of getting to his job at UPS, eventually winds up crashing at the house of an elder UPS'er. This older guy tells him him about "fake walls" and that they "had fun back then," and in one instance there were "Class-C explosives." You get the sense these are all the stories he has to share.

So that's it. An entire movie made out of something you can sum up, retell the entire thing, in one minute to friends who don't have time for the watching of it or much else. It's not binge-viewing after all, — it's only seven minutes. It's shot in Academy ratio, and on film. That, it seems to me, is one of the most important clues to what should be considered an enigmatic film, precisely because its telling is so simple. This isn't to touch upon the change of weather, the snowfall that blasts the protagonist after discovery of the Greyhound ticket. His destination, and presumable abandonment of his job, — these too are plot-points up in the air — dispensed with, really, by Fendt in the editing and conception of the picture.

Without being too modern, without being too postmodern, Fendt's picture shaves away at something that's been happening in the low-budget way. Where does Fendt go from here? Where does his protagonist go from here? These are the separator-questions that make Travel Plans such a wonderful artwork, and something no festival sidebar has yet decided to touch.

Travel Plans / Ted Fendt / 2013

Broken Specs


One of the best comic shorts (6 minutes) I've seen recently — Broken Specs by Ted Fendt, whom many people already know as the great translator of significant French texts by Godard, Straub, Moullet, Daney. It begins with shots like Caroline Champetier-era Godard, cuts to the credits the same way an '80s Godard might. Haddon Township, New Jersey. Smashed glasses. "Mike," the protagonist, eats NJ pizza with his family, his father with glasses pristine. Mike's fall into the pie. A (high-school? home-from-college?) party comes next. The comedy goes far and quick. It's a cross between the end of Bujalski's Funny Ha Ha and all of Rohmer's Paris vu par episode Place de l'Étoile.

I will never forget the refrigerator magnets of football-playing kids, something like the Facebook posts of a friend-from-when-I-was-young whom I recently reconnected with, whose life revolves precisely around the family, four kids, all ten or eight, — while some of us still suffer, barren, unattended, make the movies. Not that Fendt's in a category as pathetic, by any means, but it's a small glimpse of where a life fifteen years prior meets the improbabilities of this, the unbelievable now.

Broken Specs [2012]
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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Fait Accompli: Episode 1: Caused (Reduxpost)



From Jesse Furgurson's blog, in his top movies of the year, slotted between Blue Is the Warmest Color and Gravity:

"Is it sci-fi? Is it mumblecore? Is it a Rivette riff? Is the sound supposed to be doing that? Is this rambling half-impenetrable conversation ever going to end? Am I wasting 90 minutes of my life? But if this is just navel-gazing, why does it have so much of the world in it? Is it some kind of a diary? Is it all about the image, and what digital can do with it? Da fug? Am I just sleep-deprived or is this scene as good as I think it is? Why do I feel like I'm watching Film Socialisme (2010) all of a sudden? Is this the future? When's Episode 2 coming out?"

From Zach Campbell's blog entry, Year's End, in the "Asterisks" section among great films by Gabe Klinger, Dan Sallitt, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, and Gina Telaroli: "Craig Keller's Fait Accompli: Episode 1: Caused (another very beautiful work to look at and seep into)..."

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The first (pilot) episode of an ongoing film-serial. (Subsequent episodes 10-20 minutes.) Click the full-screen icon to watch. Best watched with headphones on laptops, iPads, or iPhones, or also via AppleTV, Roku, or any smart-TVs that stream Vimeo content. Or hook your (newer) Mac up to your TV via the HDMI out.

directed and edited by Craig Keller

scenario by Craig Keller

starring:
Craig Keller
Sunita Mani
Jeffrey Gardener
Jennifer Prediger
Homayoon Khorram

special appearances:
Todd Reichart
Caroline White
Tallie Medel
Jessye Casale

music: Jake Rabinbach / Craig Keller

produced by Craig Keller and Jeffrey Gardener


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Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Top 13 of 1955 (Of What I've Seen)



13. Le amiche [The Girlfriends] (Michelangelo Antonioni)

12. L'angelo bianco [The White Angel] (Raffaello Matarazzo)

11. Wichita (Jacques Tourneur)

10. Killer's Kiss (Stanley Kubrick)

9. Il bidone [The Swindle] (Federico Fellini)

8. The Trouble with Harry (Alfred Hitchcock)

THREE-WAY TIE FOR 7:

7. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Revenge" (Alfred Hitchcock)

7. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Breakdown" (Alfred Hitchcock)

7. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "The Case of Mr. Pelham" (Alfred Hitchcock)

6. Land of the Pharaohs (Howard Hawks)

5. To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock)

4. Yô-kihi [Imperial Concubine Yang] (Kenji Mizoguchi)

3. Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray)

THREE-WAY TIE FOR 2:

2. Nuit et brouillard [Night and Fog] (Alain Resnais)

2. Artists and Models (Frank Tashlin)

2. Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich)

FIVE-WAY TIE FOR 1:

1. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton)

1. Mr. Arkadin (Orson Welles)

1. Lola Montès (Max Ophuls)

1. The Long Gray Line (John Ford)

1. Ordet [The Word] (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Top 10 of 1928 (Of What I've Seen)



10. Dom na Trubnoiy [The House on Trubnoya] (Boris Barnet)

9. Street Angel (Frank Borzage)

8. Mother Machree [incomplete] (John Ford)

7. The River [incomplete] (Frank Borzage)

6. La petite marchande d'allumettes [The Little Matchstick Girl] (Jean Renoir)

5. Four Sons (John Ford)

4. The Docks of New York (Josef von Sternberg)

3. The Last Command (Josef von Sternberg)

THREE-WAY TIE FOR 2:

2. The Cameraman (Buster Keaton with Edward Sedgwick)

2. La chute de la maison Usher [The Fall of the House of Usher] (Jean Epstein)

2. Spione [Spies] (Fritz Lang)

1. La passion de Jeanne d'Arc [The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc] (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

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Friday, December 20, 2013

My Top 14 of 2004 (Of What I've Seen)



14. Abenaa: "Rain" (Abel Ferrara)

13. Hana & Alice (Shunji Iwai)

12. Bergman Island: Ingmar Bergman on Fårö Island Cinema and Life (Marie Nyreröd)

11. Clean (Olivier Assayas)

10. La mala educación [Bad Education] (Pedro Almodóvar) 9. Tanner on Tanner (Robert Altman)

8. The Hand (Wong Kar-wai)

TIE FOR 7:

7. La niña santa [The Holy Girl] (Lucrecia Martel)

7. All the Ships at Sea (Dan Sallitt)

6. Une visite au Louvre [A Visit to the Louvre] [both versions] (Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet)

5. Chats perchés [Perching Cats] / The Case of the Grinning Cat (Chris Marker)

4. Sud pralad [Strange Creature] / Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

3. Triple Agent (Éric Rohmer)

TIE FOR 2:

2. The Dangerous Thread of Things (Michelangelo Antonioni)

2. Notre musique [Our Music] (Jean-Luc Godard)

TIE FOR 1:

1. 10 on 'Ten' (Abbas Kiarostami)

1. 2046 (Wong Kar-wai)

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Top 14 of 1953 (Of What I've Seen)



14. The Blue Gardenia (Fritz Lang)

13. La signora senza camelie [The Lady Without Camelias] (Michelangelo Antonioni)

12. All I Desire (Douglas Sirk)

11. Jigokumon [Gate of Hell] (Teinosuke Kinugasa)

THREE-WAY TIE FOR 10:

10. Gion bayashi [Gion Festival Music] (Kenji Mizoguchi)

10. Gycklarnas afton [Carnies' Twilight] [aka "Sawdust and Tinsel"] (Ingmar Bergman)

10. I vitelloni [The Sucklecalves / The Fellas] (Federico Fellini)

9. The Big Heat (Fritz Lang)

8. Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot [Monsieur Hulot's Holiday] (Jacques Tati)

7. Eaux d'artifice (Kenneth Anger)

6. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller)

5. I Confess (Alfred Hitchcock)

4. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks)

3. Sommaren med Monika [Summer with Monika] (Ingmar Bergman)

SUPREME THREE-WAY TIE FOR 2:

2. Ugetsu monogatari [A Tale of the Rain and the Moon] (Kenji Mizoguchi)

2. Mogambo (John Ford)

2. Madame de... (Max Ophuls)

SUPREME THREE-WAY TIE FOR 1:

1. Tôkyô monogatari [A Tale of Tokyo] [aka "Tokyo Story"] (Yasujirô Ozu)

1. The Golden Coach (Jean Renoir)

1. The Sun Shines Bright (John Ford)

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Top 15 of 1938 (Of What I've Seen)



15. Four Men and a Prayer (John Ford)

14. Holiday (George Cukor)

13. Fantasia sottomarina [Undersea Fantasy] (Roberto Rossellini)

12. The Singing Blacksmith / Yankl der Shmid [Yankl the Blacksmith] (Edgar G. Ulmer)

11. Angels with Dirty Faces (Michael Curtiz)

10. Three Comrades (Frank Borzage)

9. You and Me (Fritz Lang)

8. Anma to onna [The Masseurs and the Woman] (Hiroshi Shimizu)

7. Werther (Max Ophuls)

6. Child Bride (Harry J. Revier)

TIE FOR 5:

5. Quadrille (Sacha Guitry)

5. Jezebel (William Wyler)

4. The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock)

TIE FOR 3:

3. Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks)

3. La bête humaine [The Human Beast] (Jean Renoir)

2. La Marseillaise, chronique de quelques faits ayant contribué à la chute de la Monarchie [The Marseillaise: A Chronicle of a Few Events Having Contributed to the Fall of the Monarchy] (Jean Renoir)

1. Aleksandr Nevsky (Sergei Eisenstein)

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Friday, December 13, 2013

My Top 10 of 1946 (Of What I've Seen)



10. Bedlam (Mark Robson and Val Lewton)

9. Cloak and Dagger (Fritz Lang)

8. Gilda (Charles Vidor)

7. Fragment of Seeking (Curtis Harrington)

6. A Scandal in Paris: The Story of Vidocq (Douglas Sirk)

5. La Belle et la Bête [Beauty and the Beast] (Jean Cocteau)

4. The Stranger (Orson Welles)

TIE FOR 3:

3. My Darling Clementine (John Ford)

3. Canyon Passage (Jacques Tourneur)

TIE FOR 2:

2. Paisà (Roberto Rossellini)

2. Utamarô (w)o meguru go-nin no onna [The Five Women Around Utamarô] (Kenji Mizoguchi)

TIE FOR 1:

1. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock)

1. The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks)

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My Top 12 of 1985 (Of What I've Seen)



12. Miami Vice: "The Home Invaders" (Abel Ferrara)

11. Rocky IV (Sylvester Stallone)

TIE FOR 10:

10. AK (Chris Marker)

10. Ran [Chaos] (Akira Kurosawa)

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street: Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (Jack Sholder)

8. Mala Noche / "Bad Night" (Gus Van Sant)

7. Sans toit ni loi [Without Roof or Rule] [aka "Vagabond"] (Agnès Varda)

6. L'île aux merveilles de Manoël [Manoël's Marveled Island / Manoël's Treasure Island] (Raul Ruíz]

5. Détective [Detective] (Jean-Luc Godard)

4. Hurlevent (Jacques Rivette)

3. Police (Maurice Pialat)

2. Tong nien wang shi [Childhood's Past Events] / The Time to Live and the Time to Die (Hou Hsiao-hsien)

TIE FOR 1:

1. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann)

1. Je vous salue, Marie [I Salute Thee, Marie / Hail Mary] (Jean-Luc Godard)

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Top 10 of 1993 (Of What I've Seen)



10. Short Cuts (Robert Altman)

9. Trois couleurs: Bleu [Three Colors: Blue] (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

8. Body Snatchers (Abel Ferrara)

7. Ozu to hanashiru [Talking with Ozu] (Kôgi Tanaka)

6. Je vous salue Sarajevo [I Salute Thee, Sarajevo / Hail Sarajevo] (Jean-Luc Godard)

5. Le tombeau d'Alexandre [Alexandre's Memorial] (Chris Marker)

4. La naissance de l'amour [The Birth of Love] (Philippe Garrel)

3. Snake Eyes (aka "Dangerous Game") (Abel Ferrara)

2. Hélas pour moi [Alas for Me / Woe Is Me] (Jean-Luc Godard)

1. Hsimeng jensheng [Dream Drama Life] [aka "The Puppetmaster"] (Hou Hsiao-hsien)

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Top 14 of 1977 (Of What I've Seen)



14. Smokey and the Bandit (Hal Needham)

13. Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (George Lucas)

12. The Serpent's Egg (Ingmar Bergman)

11. The Domain of the Moment (Stan Brakhage)

10. Powers of Ten (Charles Eames and Ray Eames)

9. Hishû monogatari [A Tale of Grief] (Seijun Suzuki)

8. Veredas [Pathways] (João César Monteiro)

7. The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara)

6. Mikey and Nicky (Elaine May)

5. Goszâresh [The Report] (Abbas Kiarostami)

4. Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett)

3. House (Nobuhiko Obayashi)

2. Eraserhead (David Lynch)

1. Opening Night (John Cassavetes)



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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Fait Accompli: Episode 1: Caused



1 hour 37 minutes

The first (pilot) episode of an ongoing film-serial. (Subsequent episodes 10-20 minutes.) Click the full-screen icon to watch. Best watched with headphones on laptops, iPads, or iPhones, or also via AppleTV, Roku, or any smart-TVs that stream Vimeo content. Or hook your (newer) Mac up to your TV via the HDMI out.


directed and edited by Craig Keller

scenario by Craig Keller

starring:
Craig Keller
Sunita Mani
Jeffrey Gardener
Jennifer Prediger
Homayoon Khorram

special appearances:
Todd Reichart
Caroline White
Tallie Medel
Jessye Casale

music: Jake Rabinbach / Craig Keller

produced by Craig Keller and Jeffrey Gardener


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Friday, May 24, 2013

Cannes 2013 Best-Of


1. Les trois désastres
[The Three Disasters]
by Jean-Luc Godard
***hors-comparaison / outside of and beyond comparison

===


2. Upstream Color
by Shane Carruth
***supreme masterpiece


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3. Maynila sa mga kuko ng liwanag
[Manila in the Claws of Light]
by Lino Brocka
(1975)
***masterpiece

4. Borom sarret
[The Wagoner]
by Ousmane Sembène
(1963)
***masterpiece

5. L'Inconnu du lac
[The Stranger at the Lake]
by Alain Guiraudie

6. Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012
by Sebastián Silva

7. Harmony Lessons
by Emir Baigazin

8. I Used to Be Darker
by Matt Porterfield

===

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Les trois désastres

On Seeing the Premiere of the New Godard [Part of the Otherwise Unfortunate 3X3D] at Cannes, 18.05.13

(reposted/revised from my Twitter) The Godard short is re-entry hot.

Topics: dimensions (how a building might be in 3 dimensions but when it collapses it's in 2, like... 

...how in Hiroshima people were 3D then became 2D when their ash-shadows were left against walls. Topics covered (cont'd) —

...mathematics and "N"; catastrophes (désastres); dice (dés); cosmos (astres); reality and time; money; cinema; Eisenstein; Orson Welles;...

..and on and on. Narrated by Godard (mostly) and Miéville and more. Broken into 3 sections (1st, 2nd, 3rd disasters). ...

 ... The third section recounts "the story of the dog" through history and what he must wonder if he sits near a fireplace...

 ...and listens to the conversation between a man and a woman. This is one of the most powerful, moving. and poetic passages in all of JLG...

 ..Godard himself appears from moustache down in extreme close-up during this 3rd section, which is punctuated with footage...

...of a dog (in 3D naturally) in the wet autumn-leaf -strewn woods gazing up into the camera. It's an overwhelming image and moment...

...There are also several punctuational moments where b&w stills of director's faces [Welles; Ford; N. Ray] snap from "squished" aspect-ratio to their proper...

...dimensions. Among the HD 3D sequences shot 'in-house', there's the documentation of the assembly of the apparatus, how JLG created his 3D technique, ...

...with two DSLR cameras placed on a mount, beside one another, one rightside-up, the other upside-down; we see the camera[s] "film itself"...

...later revealed (filmed by the same camera itself [from an outer angle]) in an incredible tracking shot to be pointed into a giant mirror (i.e., "the ultimate movie")..

(that is, a JLG-3D camera filming in tracking shot a JLG-3D camera, stationary and unmanned, filming itself in a mirror..

(..which resulting image we see previously a few times) (but it is revealed as a shot into a mirror; not a shot of the camera[s] from across an imaginary 180-degree-line)..

..It closes with JLG in VO denouncing James Cameron ("the master of the Titanic") for perverting depth/profundity with his use of 3D...

...and words to the [very rough] effect that he [Cameron] has no idea what to do with his technology, why he forced this technique upon the world, nor has any clue as to what dimensions are...

... / are used for. The final supertitle reads: "3D / malheur numérique." —

There are things in this movie we have never seen nor imagined.
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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Top 12 Movies of 2012

2012 Favorites

—————

12. In Another Country [Dareun naraeseo] by Hong Sang-soo

The latest installment in the Hong universe puts Huppert off-center in a messy humid context and deceptive mise-en-scène. The cuts are very elegant, and audacious techniques like the HSS trademark digital zoom make perfunctory attempts at solidifying the lead's now-elfin presence in flitty summer garments which by their nature destabilize whatever structural operations one might ascribe to the masterplan at play. She also brings with her colonial associations or orientalist weight. Hong, of course, lives within the land of the living, and remains one of the greatest, least pretentious, directors in the world, the South Korean maker of endless minor masterpieces.

11. Marvin Seth and Stanley by Stephen Gurewitz

The debut feature from Stephen Gurewitz played the inaugural La Di Da Festival in New York a few months ago. Star turns from its essentially three-person cast who constitute the family Greenstein: Marvin Gurewitz, Stephen's father, a gentle and selfless optimist who takes no small amount of shit from Seth (Alex Karpovsky in his most-dickish role to date) while Stanley (Gurewitz) plays the middle-ground. Yet another goddamn road trip movie in a year full of them and there are probably more to come — I've read four road trip scripts and twelve road trip treatments in the last twelve months. And I couldn't tell you when the last time was I went on a road trip. Actually it was two years ago; my friend had to go perform a deposition in Virginia: the destination town center memorialized with a bronze cube the spot where once stood a slave auction block. On the drive back we stopped at a truck stop where a bus-load of inconceivably beautiful co-eds from Madrid got their first taste of Roy Rogers. The final scene with Karpovsky's come-around is expertly conceived, and the opening is brilliantly and hilariously acted by Gurewitz who veers toward violent conflict with a cab driver over carrying luggage — it's like something out of a midget-Chinese Bookie.

10. Red Flag by Alex Karpovsky

The second film in a year from Alex Karpovsky (I still haven't seen Rubberneck) about his road trip to self-promote his earlier feature Woodpecker after breaking up with a girlfriend (Caroline White, underused) with whom he makes an ambivalent attempt to reconnect following a one-night stand mid-tour with an obsessive groupie (Jennifer Prediger, superb here and as funny as in Richard's Wedding by Onur Tukel, who also appears). A film of caution signals, as the title indicates: reckless sex, reckless love, perils of obsession and of obsession's flip-side: self-absorption, self-involvement — in one word less, total fucking narcissism. Maybe the last word of the micro-budget meta-film. Best shot in the film: Caroline White looks up from the kitchen table during Karpovsky's streaming rationalization: the best are-you-KIDDING-me expression ever filmed.

9. This Is 40 by Judd Apatow

Yesterday I wrote something on Twitter: "Loved it. Sprawling + relaxed + hilarious. Also, Maude Apatow is amazing. I don't think I've seen anyone do aggrieved outrage better." I don't have much more to add. Except that there's no point in directors shooting in 2.35:1 anymore, although it's turned into something of a Hollywood standard — they're not framing Moonfleet, and in six months' time when the film is seen from that point in perpetuity only on 16x9 flatscreens, it's either going to be letterboxed (Blu-ray/DVD/VOD) or (when it appears on cable) cropped to 1.78:1. Whichever way you see it, the Albert Brooks, Melissa McCarthy, and Charlyne Yi scenes will blow you away, too.

8. The Comedy by Rick Alverson

Brilliant, upsetting, hypnotic, and sincerely funny rendition of a possible trust-fund dude (Tim Heidecker) who incarnates the existential end-point of "Irony," emotional detachment, and (not ennui) passionlessness. It's a reset of Gus Van Sant's (remember him?) Last Days, Kurt Cobain dead now for over 18 years. Alverson's previous feature, New Jerusalem, starring the great Will Oldham, is now available on VOD — I haven't seen it yet, but can't wait to.

7. The Unspeakable Act by Dan Sallitt

The gorgeous, deep, third feature film of Dan Sallitt (pronounced "Suh-LEET"), centered around the breakout performance of Tallie Medel, who is probably my favorite actress besides Juliette Binoche. I did a long interview with Dan that was published around the time of its summer world premiere at BAMcinémafest and goes pretty into-depth on the film, which you can read here. And I made a short film with Tallie which you can watch here.

6. Sound of My Voice by Zal Batmanglij

A small concise debut feature about the infiltration of a charismatic Southern California cult-leader/would-be messiah's inner sanctum. It nails suburban middle-class houses and points to the untold stories that take place behind the windows that open onto drywall and landlord beige. Recessed spotlights in kitchens. Actually suspenseful script. There's a recurring set-up that has to do with the two protagonists (Christopher Denham and Nicole Vicius) prepping for meetings with the leader — clip-snap-pop insert-shots of the ritual, but the sequence gets shorter every time and what at first instance comes off as a crappy American genre-movie technique for moving the story along eventually metamorphoses into dismissive shorthand telegraphs. Genuinely suspenseful, closes genuinely unsettlingly with a non-shitty pay-off. This is a B-programmer that plays like an A-movie, in the way some Siodmak films used to, and not in the sense of cinephile apologia for the higher-Rotten-Tomatoes superhero flicks. Fox Searchlight should keep bankrolling pictures of this scale and have them be put together by the same team. The cult-leader "Maggie" is played by Brit Marling, who co-wrote the script with Batmanglij, and who starred in and co-wrote with director Mike Cahill Another Earth, and who said in an interview I read or watched that she and Batmanglij would like to make two more movies continuing the story from Sound of My Voice. For me, and to show why I'd only recommend this picture, Marling is my favorite young American actress besides Tallie Medel. Batmanglij's new film The East, also starring and co-written by Marling, will premiere at Sundance next month, and also stars Ellen Page, Alexander Skarsård, and Julia Ormond. It's the Sundance film I'm most anticipating besides Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess.

5. Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim

I think I paid $30 on OnDemand to see this, because I watched it three times. I'm not usually in the mood for invoking au courant critical receptions of movies, because I couldn't give a shit. Here, I'll break my disinclination in order to say that most of the "takes" on this film are fucking insane. Despite Will Ferrell's presence (who, here, is not terrible), this is easily the funniest movie since parts of Borat, since some parts of In the Loop and Four Lions, since Clifford, since Freddy Got Fingered. It's the anti-Blues Brothers, which is, always has been, a complete piece of shit. Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie is the most ruthless and incendiary take-down of the modern Hollywood idiom — moving on from the televisual/early-Internet rabbit-hole of the Adult Swim show — ever made. Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie is, unequivocally, a masterpiece. If you think The Blues Brothers is hilarious you're an idiot.

4. Damsels in Distress by Whit Stillman

I think this might be a 2011 film, but I only got to see it in theaters this year (I went a few times) and, for me, it's another masterpiece — and the greatest Stillman film. A lot of friends of mine who've seen it either hate it or are on the fence. I would say that I love the way ideas, notional flights-of-fancy, and rhetorical turns of phrases are taken in Damsels in Distress to their extremity, their utmost conclusion — and in so doing a kind of conversational utopia is asserted in which at least one of the conversants do not just 'drop the subject' because it's hit a baton-pass lull but instead take it to the end-iteration of whatever point needs to be made. (e.g.,: the "Xavier/Zavier" monologue.) Additionally, Stillman's mise-en-scène has never been more focused: he instills a clean, almost Hawksian grammatical clarity to his shots and cuts unlike little else seen in modern movies. (e.g.,: the quick insert shot when Hugo Becker and Analeigh Tipton chop vegetables.) I could go on and would like to at some point — other highlights include the highly word-worked script à la Stillman (I read someone who wrote something to the effect: "It is so refreshing to hear characters who speak in complete sentences," and I agree to a certain extent but this doesn't exactly get to what's good about the dialogue, and of course this was probably a veiled dig at mumblecore), and the boarding-school milieu. Easily one of my favorite films of all-time, and one that gets better and richer with every viewing, like most movies do.

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TOP THREE / NO RANKING

Louie: Season 3 by Louis C.K.

The greatest single season of 'episodic television' (and one which is actually TRUE CINEMA, at that) in the history of the medium — better than the final season of The Larry Sanders Show, than the phantasmagoria of the end of Roseanne, than the most recent season (the "New York" one) of Curb Your Enthusiasm, than the British Office, than Peep Show (shout-out Hannah Fidell), than Get a Life, than the best of (and especially the last episode of) The Sopranos. And better than "Wrist Hulk." (Which, for all I know, he may have written.) So much has been written about Louis C.K. at this late stage that I'll only jot three things. (1) Season 3 is the funniest, most humane, absurd, tears-inducing whatever-it-even-was-from-one-week-to-the-next scalp-grasping WHAT since the first Gatti/Ward fight. (2) The DP of Pootie Tang was Willy Kurant who shot Godard's Masculin Féminin, Pialat's Sous le soleil de Satan, and, most recently, Garrel's A Burning Hot Summer. (3) The ad absurdum conceit of guest-star-appearances on this season wiped away the cliché of gratuitous drop-ins by dint of the sheer jaw-dropping quality of the performances: Gaby Hoffmann, Melissa Leo, Parker Posey, Maria Dizzia, Sarah Silverman, Chloë Sevigny, etc. (and the surprise-guest-spot turn of the Master in the 3-episode Late Show arc). Literally, the best, and without a "thing that I saw this year counting almost every movie" qualifier. The best. And this on the heels of the Live at the Beacon Theater web-on-demand-$5-download special at the end of last year, which is the best stand-up set I've ever seen. How is all of this possible? Nothing is more fucking annoying.

Open Five 2 by Kentucker Audley

"The Sort-Of Sequel to Open Five." A few things here: this film along with Stephen Gurewitz's Marvin Seth and Stanely and a couple other pictures like ones by Amy Seimetz and Dustin Guy Defa (neither of which I've seen yet) premiered at La Di Da in NYC in September; Open Five 2 has played at two other places since, once in Memphis, and once in Wrocław. Right now, the film is available to watch for free, streaming, in HD, indefinitely, at NoBudge, which is also where Marvin Seth and Stanley was watchable for a bit. (You can check out the OF2 trailer, one of the most exhilarating ever cut, in my opinion, along with an hour-long archived/YouTubed Ustream Q&A with the director-star which is worth your time where among other things he gives the sharpest response about why 'older people' haven't been in his films to date, although they actually have.) — Part of me dislikes the term "mumblecore" but most of me no longer cares and thinks it's okay and kind of charming and it's okay, again. Most of the mumblecorers, so to speak, have proven themselves as lasters and still-further-going expeditioneers. To that point, and this is just my opinion, Open Five 2 is the best movie anyone who ever got lumped into the category has ever made — and I love a lot of those films. I never much took to using the categorization to begin with, because to me movies are movies. (And why, on this list, are there so many American movies? This might be the first year ever with as much for me, and so maybe there are some things filmmakers need to have a long hard self-exam about, and which festival magazines are oblivious to though maybe the French are now more aware beyond just the Safdies and Alex Ross Perry.) (Separately: Cinema-allusion and plan-séquence and waiting-for-government-funding are dead.) So what's in Open Five 2? A film broken up into two halves, where the first is another road trip (like in two other films on this list), intermittently so, and which provides the opportunity for one of the most cogent and powerful/breathtaking take-downs I've ever seen on screen, via Kentucker, having to do with annual-income and frustration and general annoyance at a certain disposition or confrontation, — and which also provides the opportunity for an articulation, via Jake Rabinbach, of love and the way people operating in relationships actually operate, while he's steering the vehicle, and which, alone, friends of mine and me had a long conversation about in a BBQ joint after the La Di Da showing. The first half of the picture is exciting exactly because it's kind of meandering, and sort of a knowing (and slippery) retread of "established" templates (road trip, certain ways of cuts looking and talking), etc., interspersed with the electrifying moments, the beautiful images, snow at last. The second half: — I said this once before about the first Open Five film, but: this movie is another record, in every sense: there is a 'Side 2' here definitely, and there's a flip-point where the movie doubles-down. A new rhythm comes on around the 40- or 45-minute mark after Kentucker returns to Memphis, gets back in the vicinity of Caroline (Caroline White, also in Karpovsky's Red Flag, cf. above); they make a go of reconnecting after some fraught recent times. I won't say much from this stretch of the movie, beyond the fact that in the overwhelming climax of the film White and Audley, together, make the case by admission that whatever the future might hold, at least here, there in the scene, there is love, not movie-character love but the raw flay and exposure: — and here in a time when everything looks cheap and stupid and facile or abstract in most movies: finally something alive, something moving, a plea to try to live our lives better, — this, in one of the most beautiful-looking films of recent times, and I love it because the core surpasses its own (excellent) image/sound aesthetics. ( — ...that is, someone might for example make a film about "turning 40" and it's somehow never about 'turning 40' it's about 'performativity' or is somehow ultimately a subtext because that somehow trumps the subject 'in critical aesthetics.') In an epoch when I hate when movie reviewers or their staff-editors often repurpose a past-/pop-culturally-relevant movie title, or quibble on the thing, for their headline, — in this instance it would certainly occasion — and without much Godfather: Part III operatics — "ONE FROM THE HEART."

Like Someone in Love by Abbas Kiarostami

One of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. One of his greatest films. (He's only ever made masterpieces.) The title is completely presented in English, on the digital negative (just like the titles of the Dinah, Ella, and Björk recordings, all of which the director loves; at first he was going to call the film The End, as in the title-card you see at the end of studio-era Hollywood movies). The film was shot in Tokyo. In a sense, Like Someone in Love represents a companion-piece to Certified Copy. A colleague told me that that particular film (another of the greatest of the 2010s, something on the level of Buñuel's best) was no good because he couldn't stand Binoche's "schtick." (A "schtick" that repulsed him from one movie of hers to the next, apparently.) This sentiment of his reminded me of the Truffaut film The Man Who Loved Women, which I've never seen, because this man must not understand what there is to love about women. Anyway, there is no way to retread Kiarostami's film on this blog entry: I simply wouldn't want to give away spoilers — I'm not a child, but people see films to be surprised, to experience the pleasure of surprise: this is how it works, and I agree wholeheartedly that it should be this way. So: most people reading this have probably read a little bit about the picture and already know about its general contour: okay: the first scene is a tour-de-force of sound and looking and discerning; there's a cab-ride afterwards which is shocking in its power and surprise; an apartment scene with suspense, palm-and-reveal (Kiarostami, the anti-Italian-magic-realist magician); a utilitarian afternoon scene, daylight but claustrophobic and also car-based, a rather protracted scene slightly boring the first time around (I was at MoMA btw on the first day they opened the theater in the new building in 2004: to see Godard's Moments choisis des Histoire(s) du cinéma on 35mm and, earlier, Kiarostami's Five for the introduction of which he had sent a fax read aloud by Mary Lea Bandy, in which he asserted to the audience it was perfectly okay to fall asleep during the course of his film); and a final section which I will not talk about here, because it's the dazzling, dazing ending of this great work, — and is one of the most shocking endings in the history of movies. I have not stopped thinking about this challenging, rapturous movie for months, and maybe never will, maybe never will understand its puzzles completely. But this is part of the exchange with "Kiarostami, the magnificent."

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Mark Tween


I made a short film called Mark Tween, starring Tallie Medel. Click here or on the poster image to watch it at its Vimeo page. Enjoy.


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Unspeakable Act

A couple weeks ago The Notebook posted a long interview I did with Dan Sallitt about his incredible new film The Unspeakable Act, starring Tallie Medel. The piece is here.


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Administrative Note: Part of the more recent downturn on activity here has to do with the fact that I hate Blogspot's/Blogger's updated posting interface. Not that I was too crazy about it to begin with. Further, I've been unable to add the latest posts to the makeshift index you see at the left; a limit of the number of entries allowed has been imposed at Blogger's backend. Any post more recent than that Tempest thing has been prohibited from entering the 'table of contents', and henceforth will be findable only via Google or manual wading beyond the current homepage. No good.
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