Alright everyone...after a bit of playing around (and with some major help from my girlfriend Laura who knows HTML) we have officially updated the site. I am pretty much assuming everyone would understand the changes, but just to make you aware of them...here's a post.
With some of our longer posts, our home page seems frequently clogged to me and it is more difficult to track down to find other reviews or articles, assuming that every once in a while we write something that not everyone wants to read. To fix that problem, each of our articles/reviews will appear with their first paragraph. You can then choose to read more (by clicking on the read more option...tough stuff) or scan down to the next thing which is now easier to find and the home page won't take nearly as long to load! Hoorah!
With that inane commentary aside, just want to let you all know that we are working hard to make Out 1 the best site possible, and hope that this is a step in the right direction. We appreciate any and all (constructive) feedback on the site. Thanks for visiting and keep telling your friends!
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Stanley Kubrick’s immensely influential and deservedly canonized science-fiction masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), is a film obsessed with and grounded in evolution: technological evolution, intellectual evolution, philosophical evolution, and spiritual evolution. Not only does the film concentrate on the presence of change and development, but also the lack of change and development that unifies the human narrative by providing a stable, constant, and extra-temporal reality. The film analyzes the core from which humanity has improvised, or at least encounters the illusion of such an fundamental essence. Kubrick’s film explodes the confines of its genre by probing for a metaphysical, philosophical course of advancement that will permit humanity to transcend the confines of time, space, science, and society. 2001 is a film about faith; faith in the possibility, perhaps the inevitability, of change and progress for the human race. Kubrick revels in this progress, and everyone wants progress, right? Well, everyone wants it until that progress means the proliferation of homicidal supercomputers.
2001’s exposition is synonymous with the exposition of humanity. Majestic space shots of the Earth rising over a still moon and the sun rising over the dwarfed Earth, livened by a Strauss’ "Also Sprach Zarathustra,” give way to sunburned frames of rocky landscapes, populated by a clan of humanoid apes. This is Earth at “The Dawn of Man,” as is denoted by the title card. The apes are depicted as bickering over water and resources with other clans, struggling for survival. Amidst their Darwinian travails, they are subject to a strange, assumedly extraterrestrial object: a giant black monolith, perfectly geometric, sleek and sharp, a haunting emblem of intelligence, cunning, and detached rationality. Immediately following the mysterious appearance of the monolith and the hesitantly curious response from the apes, comes the initial act of humanity, in the eyes of Kubrick.
An ape, seemingly enlightened by the monolith’s mysterious powers, lethargically smacks a large bone from a windswept animal skeleton against the ribs of the fleshless carcass. Intrigued by the destructive impact of his strike, the ape begins bashing the skeleton harder, eventually demolishing the animal’s skull in a shot which is visually rhymed with another shot, a flash forward, of the ape using the bone to crush the skull of a live animal, killing it and then proceeding to devour its flesh. The ape has learned to use a tool, perhaps the first spark of technology, the initial act of utility and innovation. Most importantly, the ape has learned to use the tool as a facilitator of dominance and control. This is the key advancement, the evolutionary move, which elevates the apes from their state of submission to nature to their dominance of nature – essentially the first large step toward humanity. It’s slightly depressing to define humans merely as apes that learned how to beat things with bones, but that’s Kubrick’s approach.
Soon after breaking in their tool, the apes apply their newfound conduit of dominance and violence to their social strife. In a gloriously ruthless scene, the bone-wielding ape, humanity’s pioneer, leads his clan against a rival clan to gain control of a watering hole – gaining access to the most essential resource. Full of rage, the bone-wielder attacks a member of the other ape clan, bludgeoning him to death with relentless intensity, verging on glee. Kubrick then employs perhaps the single greatest edit in the history of cinema. The murderous ape, revealed once again during his moment of violent discovery with the skeleton, is shown hurling his bone triumphantly in the air. The camera follows the flying bone in a close-up, admiring its strange grace. Suddenly, the shot is slammed into another, a perfect match cut of a space satellite, stunningly similar to the shape of the bone, floating serenely in a vast expanse of black space.
Perfectly utilizing the Eisensteinian technique of intellectual montage, Kubrick makes remarkable statements about evolution and humanity in this single edit, all grounded in the idea of humanity being defined by its use of tools for the purpose of dominance and survival. Bluntly, the cut suggests the parallel nature of the bone and the satellite: both are human tools, products of technological innovation. This is the constant, essential property of the human condition that 2001 expounds upon throughout its narrative, which continues with the second appearance of the black monolith on the Moon in the year 2001, which prompts an American space mission to Jupiter, where the monolith is emitting a signal, possibly a clue to discovering the nature of the alien intelligence assumed to be responsible for the creation of the monolith. 2001 utilizes a definition of humanity by its relationship to technology and dominance to question the nature of humanity and its value, and, most importantly, what might come after humanity.
The mission to Jupiter is undertaken by two astronauts, Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), along with a crew of three scientists, who spend their time on the ship, the Discovery One, in suspended animation. The final member of the mission crew is a supercomputer, capable of human reasoning and emotions, the HAL 9000 (voice by Douglas Rain), referred to as HAL by Dave and Frank. As the mission progresses, and the power of the black monolith seemingly invades HAL, he grows more aggressive, manipulative, and power-hungry. He begins to lie to Dave and Frank, violating the systematic perfection that the 9000 series is famous for. Dave and Frank grow suspicious and plan to disconnect HAL, feeling him no longer trustworthy.
HAL’s nasty attitude soon escalates to the point of homicide. HAL intentionally detaches Frank from the ship while he is fixing a problem on the hull that HAL intentionally creates, sending him careening into space in one of the most terrifying murder scenes on celluloid. During Dave’s rescue attempt, HAL reveals his rationale for killing Frank, stating, “This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.” HAL has transformed from a tool, a technological device, to, by the film’s definition, a human, employing tools of his own to manipulate, dominate, and survive. This is blatantly revealed earlier when HAL explains the problem he manufactured on the hull, assessing that, “It can only be attributable to human error,” when, in fact, it is HAL’s fault, he commits the “error,” violating his own perfect programming. HAL transcends his limitations – he breaks the human monopoly on humanity, taking the step of the skull-bashing ape. Significantly, both HAL and the ape are inspired by the black monolith, a puzzling catalyst of change and development, perhaps a symbol of chance, fate, or God...maybe all three.
Upon Dave’s return to the ship, he proceeds to shut down HAL in a scene whose remarkable pathos is the definitive proof of HAL’s humanity. As Dave slowly deactivates HAL’s non-necessary functioning elements, those that allow his consciousness and human qualities, HAL poignantly pleads with him, “I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid.” HAL’s slow death is incredibly moving. His fear of dying is tear-jerking, revealing a vulnerability that evokes sympathy, even for a murderous computer. Dave witnesses that the tool has become human. The bone has learned to think, to manipulate. The next step of Dave’s journey to Jupiter answers the seemingly imminent question: if the tools become human, what do the humans become? What is next in the evolution of humanity? How can humans, like HAL, transcend their confines, physically, temporally, and spiritually? What is the next step on the course of change?
Following the shut down of HAL, Dave enters into a strange vortex, traditionally referred to as a “Star Gate” (not like the Kurt Russell movie), which is apparently instigated by the presence of the black monolith, which elegantly glides through the void of space, aligning with Jupiter and its moons, ripping open the seam through space and time which Dave soon travels through. The visual wonder of the Star Gate sequence is unrivaled in cinema, and the transforming power of Dave’s journey through the laserlight, psychedelic rift in space/time results in Dave’s vision of himself in an oddly decorated and brightly lit room, aging. Prompted by the black monolith, once again, change erupts. Dave watches himself change, privy to the knowledge of development, advancement, and evolution that may have been previously only contained in the monolith. As Dave is seen on his deathbed, the monolith appears to him once more and he leans forward, grasping, attempting to embrace the physical manifestation of change. The result of Dave’s acceptance, even yearning, for the black monolith and its qualities of change, evolution, and survival, results in his own rebirth, an evolutionary reconfiguring. Dave appears as a giant, celestial fetus, creeping through space in an orb of bright light.
Deconstructed to his initial state, Dave is reconstituted in a new form, perhaps exceeding the restrictions of humanity, a post-human being – the next step forward. Dave submits to change and the irrational, rather than attempting to dominate it, as the ape did with his bone weapon. This is Kubrick’s hope, that through the irrational, the inconceivable, the unknown, humanity will exceed itself and make the next change, dropping the violent bone and the metal satellite. 2001 places the possibilities of change in the metaphysical, that which is beyond the grasp of humanity, like the monolith for the dying Dave. Without science, reason, or violence, humanity leaps forward by, in a sense, reaching back, being reborn. What is important, the film suggests, is the desire for rebirth, for evolution, the lunge toward the unknowable and the mysterious, the spiritual. A thrust forward, in the direction of the extra-human, is essential, like the glowing, radiant fetus, gazing at the Earth – the repetition of the cycle of change. The film ends with this stunning image of the reborn Dave, approaching Earth, full of untainted possibilities, completing its narrative just as the narrative of the next stage of humanity begins, a promising future for a species in desperate need of one.
by Brandon Colvin
Editor's Note: This review was originally published in "Rise Over Run Magazine."
Monday, February 25, 2008
Presented here based on results from our Out 1 polls on the Oscars are Out 1's 2008 Oscar selections. Even though it is post-Oscars now, it is worthy of noting viewer response as to what should have won the evening and what will be the winners "in our hearts" coming out of this year's crazy ceremony. Thanks to everyone for voting. Please keep telling your friends about Out 1 and spreading our site, and our message, around. We really appreciate everyone coming and continuing to make Out 1 a growing and successful site. And now...on with the results!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
11:46 - The first person on his feet for No Country's Best Picture win is Cormac McCarthy. And you're damn right that counts as noteworthy. Goodnight, kids! It's been that singular kind of joy that's clocked in at under four hours. Keep swinging by Out 1. We'll do our best to stay classy.
11:44 - Julian Schnabel did not win! I do not have to eat a stick of butter! The day is mine!
11:31 - Despite some initial craziness, Daniel Day-Lewis gave a classy, lovely acceptance speech. Who could ask for anything more?
11:25 - I'm looking a Diablo Cody holding an Oscar. It's weird.
11:12 - Ho. Ly. Shit. They had a bunch of Baghdad-based soldiers present the short subject documentary Oscar mere minutes before presenting the feature documentary Oscar to Taxi to the Dark Side, a film that spends two hours painting said soldiers as war criminal mercenaries! The utterly sick and shameless gall of Hollywood.
11:01 - And the "In Memoriam" applause-o-meter winner is... Heath Ledger. Bergman was running away with it for a while.
10:57 - Jon Stewart brings out Marketa Irglova to finish her Conti-cut off speech. I don't know about your Oscar parties, but mine cheered.
10:48 - On Once's Best Song win:
JAMES: Juno, the little movie that could? My ass.
10:45 - On the introduction of the "versatile and talented" Patrick Dempsey:
ANDY: "He's versatile?"
JACOB: "Well, he was in Scream 3."
Incidentally, "So Close" is a much, much better set piece than "That's How You Know."
10:39 - I swear, this is the last time I'll mention Cormac McCarthy tonight unless something truely noteworthy goes down, but James just brought to my attention "Cormac McCarthy's" Facebook status, which is, "Cormac McCarthy is chillin' at the Oscars - no joke." Okey dokey.
10:34 - Pause your Tivos - Jennifer Garner is crying at the mere sight of an old, old man. So is Liz. Again.
10:31 - Know what they're not doing tonight? Introducing clips from the Best Picture nominees. Boo.
10:20 - Beautiful angle on Marketa Irglova during "Falling Slowly" with her in the foreground and the packed Kodak audience filling out the background. This little song's come a long way from the music shop, eh? (Little late on this post. Got caught up in a Best Picture montage discussion. Something more current: Bourne is 3-3 tonight. Yes.)
10:14 - James butting in. Is anyone else really bothered that they gave Best Actress before they gave out Documentary Short? Not trying to be a dick to the Doc Short candidates, but the Academy is retarded for handing this major award out so early. Be embarrassed, Academy...shame shame shame. I could totally do a feminist critique here and totally be right.
10:12 - Aaaand Marion Cotillard won. Inner cynic just did an Easter Sunday Jesus Christ.
10:10 - Cate Blanchett just made the most amazingly horrified face at her Best Actress Oscar clip. So did the rest of us, Cate. So did the rest of us.
10:06 - Transformers! Totally shut out! And I had it to win in three technical categories! All around disaster!
10:01 - Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill can present all the awards as far as I'm concerned. Also, I love how the best sound editing Oscar clip for There Will Be Blood waaaaaas... a spike falling into mud. That may actually be the biggest laugh of the night thus far.
9:53: Kristen Chenoweth opens her mouth.
LAURA: Oh no.
JAMES: Oh no.
ANDY: Oh no.
9:47. Wow. Ron Harwood. Look at that guy. He looks like would adapt The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Great one line tribute from Joel Coen: "We've only adapted Homer and Cormac McCarthy."
9:44 - Technical Oscars. Piss break!
9:35 - Supporting actress - the most wide open category of the night! And the winner is... TILDA SWINTON!!! Didn't have this in my pool, but feeling much more satisfied that the academy didn't prove my inner cynic right and pick Cate Blanchett. Amazing speech, too.
9:32 - Whoa. WHOA. We were all afriad that they were going to play a clip from My Girl in the bee montage. Little early in the night to be traumatized, thanks.
9:24 - At long last, the Academy has become self-aware of it's aforementioned pointless montagery. At long... wait a minute... GOSPEL CHOIR!!1!1!!ONE!
9:14 - And we go from Cuba Gooding Jr.'s acceptance speech in the pointless montage to... Javier Bardem's. Tough act to follow, but loved the look on his mom's face. One of those moments where I'm almost glad I didn't understand what he was saying. Sure it'll be translated momentarily, though.
LIZ: "He just kissed his mom on the mouth."
LAURA: "They're Spanish. They're all crazy."
9:13 - Cate Blanchett as pit bull in No Country = biggest laugh of the night thus far.
9:11 - James here. I hacked in here just to yell. I AM SO PISSED JACK FISK DIDN'T WIN!!! AHHHH!!! Also... Golden Compass for visual effects? My pick em is already a disaster. I love you, Jack!
9:07 - DWAYNE JOHNSON - "It's a priviledge to be here to present the award for best visual effects."
JACOB: "PEOPLE'S ELBOW!"
8:59 - Speaking of people I love, Amy Adams is making my heart go pitter-patter with "Happy Working Song." But she's just kind of... standing there. This is a wasted opportunity for an incredible set piece. Guess they're saving up for "That's How You Know."
8:58 - Can you believe how happy Marion Cotillard is for her make up artists? I now love her.
8:55 - It's an odd way of putting this, but I have tremendous affection for Brad Bird. Dude's very much the next Walt Disney.
8:49 - "80 years of Oscar?!" I'm as sentimental as the next guy, but I feel as though I'm being... taken advantage of. Liz is crying.
8:43 - Fuck me. First award of the evening goes to Elizabeth: The Golden Age for costume design. None of us got it except for Liz, who not only knows nothing about the Oscars, but chose this film in this category as her "no guts, no glory" pick (pick a long shot, get an extra two points if it wins). She's now leading the Oscar pool by 3 points. Everybody else has zip.
8:34 - Great line from Stewart: "Before we spend the next four or five hours giving each other little gold statues, let's take a moment to congratulate ourselves." They should put that on next year's poster.
8:31 - That CG opening went down like a breakfast consisting of a single donut. Yikes.
8:19 - James and I are calling it, friend-o: Saoirse Ronan's Supporting Actress Oscar clip will feature some variation of the phrase, "I saw him, I saw him with my own eyes." EDIT, 9:37: HAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
8:08 - Some Oscar parties freak out when George Clooney appears on screen. Or Brad Pitt. This Oscar party just had such a reaction to a glimpse of Cormac McCarthy.
8:00 - Oh hell. Apparently we get to spend half an hour with Regis before the ceremony starts.
JAMES: This is a joke.
ANDY: It isn't.
JAMES: I thought the show started at 8.
ANDY: It doesn't.
JAMES: Don't tell me we have to watch this.
ANDY: We do.
7:51 - Renee Zellweger's haircut: Shemp Howard or Moe Howard? Discuss.
7:41 - Things to remember: Kevin O'Connell, the sound mixer for Transformers, is up for his 20th Oscar. He's yet to win. I've got him on my ballot. That's probably stupid of me, though. 20th time's the charm? What?
7:22 - And here we is, watching E!'s coverage of the red carpet. Security is apparently lax at the Kodak seeing as Gary Busey's wandering around like an unleashed dog at a picnic, having just straight up molested poor Jennifer Garner during her interview with Ryan Seacrest. Ah, live TV. Oh, and there's Julian Schnabel with his Bee Movie glasses. Gonna be a great night. 40 minutes to magic time.
-Andy Hobin Continue reading...
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
HANSEN WILL WIN: No Country For Old Men
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: There Will Be Blood
COLVIN/SHOAF WILL AND SHOULD WIN: No Country For Old Men
HANSEN WILL WIN: Ok...so Andy is supposed to do all the commenting here, but I must retort. Andy... you can take your hipster McSweeney's loving, Juno hating (but secretly loving) ass and go buy a stick of butter. You're gonna be eating it. For a film like Diving Bell, you can't expect a Best Picture nom and it is not an indicator for the support it has, especially from an American director making a "French" film that many critics (for some reason still not within my grasp) have fallen in love with it. And, to steal from Scott Foundas, I think the Academy will give an award for most directing per square inch of film, which makes Diving Bell gold. Call me way out on a limb, but Schnabel will upset the Coens here and be Diving Bell's only win of the night.
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: Anybody else...except for Reitman. Most deserving is PTA.
SHOAF WILL WIN: Coens
SHOAF SHOULD WIN: Paul Thomas Anderson...imagine what he'd do with an Oscar under his belt.
EVERYONE ELSE WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Daniel Day Lewis
HANSEN WILL WIN: Ellen Page...wrong again, Andy! And I once called you an expert...
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: Laura Linney...why not?
COLVIN/SHOAF WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Julie Christie
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
HOBIN SHOULD WIN: Casey Affleck's titular Robert Ford still haunts. As I've said before, Bardem's was the supporting character of the year, Affleck's was the supporting performance.
COLVIN/HANSEN WILL WIN: Javier Bardem
COLVIN/HANSEN SHOULD WIN: Casey Affleck
SHOAF WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Javier Bardem (although Casey Affleck is deserving too)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
HOBIN WILL WIN: I'm not tethering myself to this what with Tilda Swinton taking the BAFTA, Ruby Dee taking the SAG, and Amy Ryan cleaning up with the majority of the critics awards, but I'm giving the edge to Academy fav Cate Blanchett. Find me a higher profile impression this year than a chick playing a dude, and that dude is Bob Dylan. The Academy is a recovering alcoholic on the verge of a major relapse, and Blanchett's performance in I'm Not There is the half full bottle of vodka recently discovered in the back of the cabinet. Just try to resist. Okay so maybe I am tethering myself to this pick, but I'm using licorice rope.
HOBIN SHOULD NOT WIN: Saoirse (pronounced SEER-shuh, by the way) Ronan, but wouldn't that be a riot?
EVERYONE ELSE WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Cate Blanchett...did you see I'm Not There, Andy?...yeah, that's what we thought!
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
HOBIN WILL WIN: Juno...and I ain't happy about it.
HOBIN SHOULD WIN: Michael Clayton struck a chord as a real writer's type of film. After penning potboilers like The Devil's Advocate, Dolores Claiborne, and the Bourne trilogy, Gilroy's script should be the reason that Michael Clayton doesn't go home empty handed.
HANSEN WILL WIN: Juno
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: The Savages
COLVIN WILL WIN: Juno
COLVIN SHOULD WIN: Ratatouille
SHOAF WILL WIN: Juno
SHOAF SHOULD WIN: Michael Clayton
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
HOBIN WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Cormac McCarthy began No Country For Old Men as a screenplay before turning it into a novel, which while not his best was certainly his most film-friendly. (I have limited hopes next year for John Hilcoat's adaptation of The Road and will withhold judgment of Ridley Scott's Blood Meridian until the first trailer.) His collaboration with the Coens is a textbook case of picking up a decent story and dipping it in gold.
HANSEN WILL WIN: No Country For Old Men
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: There Will Be Blood...I'll take its creativity in adaptation over the Coens' event by event literal adaptation.
COLVIN WILL WIN: Atonement
COLVIN SHOULD WIN: No Country For Old Men
SHOAF WILL AND SHOULD WIN: No Country For Old Men
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
HOBIN WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Despite the gravitas of Persepolis (Fundamentalist Iran! Adapted from a graphic novel!) Ratatouille is Pixar's finest effort to date.
HOBIN SHOULD NOT WIN: I am tired of cartoon penguins.
EVERYONE ELSE WILL AND SHOULD WIN: Ratatouille
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
HOBIN WILL WIN: No End In Sight.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH MICHAEL MOORE? Bringing Fidel Castro to the Oscars would be a "ratings grabber?"
HANSEN/SHOAF WILL WIN: No End In Sight
HANSE/SHOAF SHOULD WIN: Sicko... we welcome you, Fidel!
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
UGH. HERE'S ME PULLING A NAME OUT OF A HAT: And it's... Beaufort. All right, Israel!
HANSEN WILL WIN: Beaufort
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: Katyn (ok...so I haven't seen it, but come on! Wajda!)
SHOAF WILL WIN: The Counterfeiters
SHOAF SHOULD WIN: Katyn
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
HOBIN WILL AND SHOULD WIN: "Falling Slowly," a song that would have been lost amongst small box office but for the glory of YouTube.
HANSEN WILL AND SHOULD WIN: "Falling Slowly"...sorry, Enchanted. I love you, but really...
SHOAF WILL WIN: Something from Enchanted..."That's How You Know" perhaps.
SHOAF SHOULD WIN: "Falling Slowly"
My day job precludes me from speculating at length on the rest of the categories. Don't forget to swing by during the telecast for liveblogging!- Andy
James here...some of us had some other categories we want to predict and since we have time (day job? please!) here they are...
HANSEN WILL WIN: The Bourne Ultimatum
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: There Will Be Blood
COLVIN WILL WIN: The Bourne Ultimatum
COLVIN SHOULD WIN: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
SHOAF WILL WIN: The Bourne Ultimatum
SHOAF SHOULD WIN: Bourne or No Country
HANSEN WILL AND SHOULD WIN: There Will Be Blood
COLVIN WILL AND SHOULD WIN: No Country For Old Men
SHOAF WILL WIN: Roger Deakins, No Country For Old Men
SHOAF SHOULD WIN: Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
And just because we actually went to see these...
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
HANSEN WILL WIN: The Tonto Woman or At Night
HANSEN SHOULD WIN: None of them. I'm not trying to be a short film skeptic and there have been lots of good ones over the years in this category, but this year's batch is way weak. At Night is trite and overwrought. Tonto Woman is pretentious, poorly acted, and confused about what it wants to do. The other three are silly, cutesy, and that's about it. I'd take At Night because I like Denmark.
SHOAF WILL AND SHOULD WIN: The Tonto Woman
Happy Oscars everyone! We'll see you for Live Blogging starting at 8 on Sunday!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Cinema, like any religion, is not without its heretical prophets. Proselytizing against the conservative uniformity of a universal (Catholic) cinema, the heretics of the New American Cinema and the underground avant-garde sought the rebellion and common, individualized (Protestant) priesthood of a new poetic counter-cinema. With the zealous devotion of Martin Luther and Jan Hus, these cinematically Protestant filmmakers and theoreticians, including Stan Brakhage and Jonas Mekas, released a collective manifesto of revolutionary art in the 1950s and 60s, finding many converts (and still finding them, myself included), who were (and are) moved by the power of the personal and the deconstruction of the corrupt, old, and dogmatic in their filmic equivalent of Luther’s “95 Theses.” Through this new poetic counter-cinema, the avant-garde reformists fought for the voice of the individual, the value of inner truth, and the dissolution of repressive cinematic norms. Exalting the subjective, Brakhage, Mekas, and their fellow prophets dissected the Temple of Hollywood and Commercial Cinema, building in its place a house of filmic worship where individual interpretation and subjective truth were The Truth and the way to visual salvation. I find myself most fulfilled by this mode of filmic practice, and my knees rest before the altar of visual subjectivity and deconstruction, in pursuit of cinema.
The roots of this cinematic heresy are firmly grounded in the denouncement of objective and absolute reality and the adoption of individual, inner truth. As Stan Brakhage declared, “The ‘absolute realism’ of the motion picture image is a 20th-century, essentially Western, illusion” (204). Brakhage’s assessment is the cornerstone of poetic counter-cinema. The assumption of objectivity in the photographic image rests on an assumption of perception: reality lies outside the eye, beyond the mind, and in an objective state. Brakhage, ever the skeptic, pointed out that this idea of perception is a construct of false regulations and asked the filmic believer to “imagine an eye unruled by man-made laws of perspective, an eye unprejudiced by compositional logic” (199). This is the subjective eye, disregarding the imposition of objectivity or collective reality. The personalized eye was further idolized by Brakhage, who fervently proclaimed, “Let there be no cavernous congregation but only the network of individual channels, that narrowed vision which splits beams beyond rainbows and into unknown dimensions” (200). The Catholic Church of Cinema held the objective truth of the image highly, but Brakhage sought to split this mass by deconstructing its assumptions and suggesting a path of individual visual exploration toward Truth. The journey for visual Truth took a new inward direction, involving, “hallucination,” “dream visions,” and “the abstractions which move so dynamically when close eyelids are pressed” (Brakhage 199) because these experiences were “actually perceived” (Brakhage 199) and were as real as the objective or absolute notions of reality espoused by traditional, repressive, and dogmatic Catholic cinema. This is the rock on which the film poem is built. Jonas Mekas, one of the founders of the New American Cinema movement, clarified the connection between subjectivity and poetic filmmaking, assessing that “Man, as an individual, goes through stages of growth. Today, the stress may be on the physical adventures, emotions, life outside, naturalistic events; tomorrow, the same man makes another step, and turns inward and begins to follow the events of his unconscious and he follows them through their intricate, but quite logically plotted, causal development (story) lines – as in poetry.” (315)
The cinematic application of this inward, subjective pursuit culminates in “a poetry where the filmic syntax achieves a spontaneous fluidity” (Mekas 47). This fully realized poetic cinema creates a new method of individualized filmic expression “where the images are truly like words that appear and disappear and repeat themselves as they create clusters and blotches of visual meanings, impressions” (Mekas 47). A new subjective expression, a cinematic prayer, results from this inward excursion into expanded visual territories, as practiced by the disciples of Mekas and Brakhage, as well as the prophets themselves.
Brakhage’s film Mothlight (1963) exemplifies the poetic principles of the subjective Protestant cinema, while also utilizing necessary counter-cinematic techniques of deconstruction to attack “ the very narrow contemporary visual reality” (Brakhage 203), in which there is faith in objectivity, “needing both explosions and earthquakes for disruption” (Brakhage 203). A four-minute visual representation of the life of a moth, Brakhage’s film exudes the reality of the imagination, the dream, and the visual experience of the closed eye. Brakhage is forced to create, from a completely subjective base, a divulgence of his own internal ideas of what a moth’s life is like, since there is certainly no way to gain a moth’s eye view except through complete fictionalization. Mothlight finds its poetic syntax in visual patterns and rhythms of light. Blades of grass and periods of empty rest become visual punctuation to the juxtaposed images of moth wings, insects, and foliage. The arc of the film is visually traceable and its plot is viscerally impressionistic, as in a vivid memory, a product of internal, subjective reality. Equally as important as the subjective, poetic quality of Mothlight is the rebellious nature of its plastic construction and the counter-cinematic implications of the film’s manipulation of cinematic materials, deconstructing the Catholic objectivity of cinema in the name of subjective presentation.
Jonas Mekas described the need for counter-cinematic techniques in his theoretical musings, stating, “There is no other way to break the frozen cinematic conventions than through a complete derangement of the official cinematic senses” (1). Mothlight certainly wrecks the dogmatically accepted notion of film through its manipulation of cinematic plastics and heretically unorthodox visual style. Most basically, Mothlight is a film made without a camera. The film is a visual experience consisting of collaged organic materials (insect pieces, dirt, foliage) carefully organized on perforated tape, then made into prints that are visible when ran through a projector. This method of display so confuses the cinematic expectations that the viewer begins to call into question the necessity and function of the camera, the film, the photographic image, and the projector in creating a cinematic experience. The reality of Mothlight is completely deconstructed to the point that the very plastic elements of cinema are observed and stripped of their universally sacrosanct qualities. The repressive conformity of traditional cinema is abolished, making way for the reconstitution of filmic sensibilities within the realm of subjective, poetic expression. Brakhage, a master of such deconstruction, advocates numerous methods of plastic manipulation and experimentation, en route to finding a clean visual slate upon which cinematic poetry can be written without obtrusion. Brakhage’s suggested methods of subjective rebellion include “spitting on the lens or wrecking the focal intention,” “speeding up the motor,” “slowing the motion while recording the image,” “hand hold[ing] the camera,” “over or underexpos[ing] the film,” and “us[ing] filters of the world, fog, downpours, unbalanced lights, neons with neurotic color temperatures, glass which was never designed for a camera” (Brakhage 201). Through these defacements of immobile cinematic statues, the individual is set free to interpret and express the holiness of visual reality, unrestricted, according to his or her own subjectivity, the only reality one can truly vouch for. The language of cinema is translated into one that each individual knows and can speak in, leaving behind scraps of monolingual, archaic (Latin) norms and advancing the visually faithful to a revolutionary inner, subjective filmic Truth. The priest class of filmmakers is liquidated and a new universal priesthood of filmmakers arises.
In the poetic counter-cinema prophesied and practiced by Brakhage and Mekas, I find the immeasurable joy of subjective cinematic discovery. The deconstructive film poem allows for an internal visual search of great depth, unfettered by restrictive norms or methods ignorant of the true breadth of visual experience. Discovering my filmic Truth, the most valid of all for myself, is analogous to the pleasure of personal spiritual or philosophical awakening. The visual mediator of imposed objectivity and reality is erased and I become directly coalesced with filmic experience. Constantly in propulsion toward my own sense of film and pure visual expression, I heed the warning of my heretical prophet Stan Brakhage, and I attempt to “negate technique, for film, like America, has not been discovered yet” (201). Perhaps the discovery of film will coincide with the discovery of self; then again, they may be one in the same.
by Brandon Colvin
Mekas, Jonas. "Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema, 1959-1971." New
York: Macmillan Company, 1972. Continue reading...
Friday, February 15, 2008
If anyone wants to make an argument for a national cinema, the first place to look is China and the films of Jia Zhang Ke. Although Jia's films certainly have universal appeal (and are criminally underviewed), they always seem unique and specific to the human condition of people native to China. Whether in his fiction films such as Platform (2000) and The World (2005), or in his astonishing yet-to-be-released documentary Useless that was one of the highlights of NYFF 2007, Jia is obsessed with the changing face of China and how the "advancements" are shaping Chinese citizens. His latest fiction film Still Life continues this trajectory, yet seems somewhat unsure of itself in its meshing of fact and fiction.
This is not to say that Still Life is a misstep for Jia. It is far from it. The main story follows Han, a coal miner, who is on a search for his ex-wife using an address from 16 years ago. The areas have changed since then and are in a constant state of flux with the creation of the Three Gorges Dam. The Three Gorges Dam is a real life project in China which will eventually become the largest hydro-electric power station in the world. In the meantime, however, Three Gorges has displaced 1.5 million people, including Han's family. As the dam is created, more towns are flooded and people are forced out of their homes. Working as part of destruction crews, many characters draw new water levels in the middle of buildings and prepare old homes and buildings for implosion. Many of these people have no place to go and no money to survive on. Three Gorges is pushing their lives to stagnation. Jia's camera ties all of the people together in some incredible panning sequences from the first shot in the film until the downtrodden, enigmatic conclusion. Han searches for his family and tries, just like everybody else, to redefine in his life in the midst of the urbanized growth that only leads to tragedy for the lower classes.
The narrative of Still Life wanders with its characters and the drifting flow is often times rapturous and blends nicely with the spirit of the characters, but Still Life frequently seems uninterested in its own narrative. Jia was shooting a documentary on Three Gorges at the same time he was making Still Life. While this might work to make the real elements within Still Life more profound, Jia's emphasis on the real takes away from the mystique of his narrative and make the film seem slightly unbalanced. The situation of the Chinese people is what most interests Jia and it is noticeable in the film's spare narrative. While Jia's own sense of movement, motivation, and devastation is so assured that Still Life is able to succeed, it could have been more sure of itself and worked as a stronger combination of fact and fiction. The lopsidedness made me want to see Jia's documentary on Three Gorges more than it made me want to follow its own narrative.
All the same, Still Life is a shockingly effective portrait of a world and a people with their past and futures dwindling away in front of their own eyes. Jia still manages to find hope in the unity and brotherhood between citizens. It may only be in finding this unity and working together for a stronger future that China can come to peace with the Three Gorges and prevent it from sucking life out of the people like the ash out of a burning cigarette.
by James Hansen Continue reading...
Friday, February 8, 2008
In order to juice things up for the Oscars, and with the WGA Strike reportedly settled, there are 4 new polls up (one for each of the 4 most major categories) that everyone should vote in so that we can create Out 1's 2008 Reader's Choice Oscars. Each of the polls expires when the Oscars begin on February 24th. Immediately following the announcements of the "real" Oscars (and our sure-to-be-amazing live blogging of it), we will post the Out 1 Reader's Choices for what should have won the Oscars and see if they fall in line with what was actually selected.
Thanks in advance for your votes! Remember, you can change your vote up until the 24th based on new revelations or catching up on all of the films. Happy voting! Continue reading...
Thursday, February 7, 2008
We've hit a bit of a stand still here at Out 1, waiting for official word on the Oscars (be sure to come here for live blogging assuming the event happens!) and with a slow winter movie season, reviews will trickle in a little slower so we hope to come up with some new features to keep everyone happy! That said, our most recent poll has ended in voting for the best English language director to never win an Oscar. It was a really close vote between the top two vote getters. Thanks to all for voting and please keep checking back with us! We promise to get on a roll with posts as soon as we can!
Gus Van Sant
Paul Thomas Anderson
I hate the Oscars and I hate you
Friday, February 1, 2008
“The road movie” these days, at least in my thoughts, seems to be a uniquely American thing. Although there have been some examples of films from around the globe that take place on the road, the plethora of “road movies” are American. From Easy Rider (1969) to, most recently, Into The Wild (2007), the American road movies always take a turn for the worst in portraying some sort of idealism and moralistic values. That said, I was delighted to recently find Nanni Moretti’s Caro Diario (1993), a magnificentally playful “road movie” that transcends a traditional Italian point of view by creating what I see as maybe the only all encompassing road movie. Although Caro Diario, following the trek of Moretti who plays himself as a character in the film, spends much of its time traveling around Italy by Vespa or boat, the film works its way to more elegiac moments of austere beauty than all the American road movies I have seen.
Although Moretti as a character/actor could be compared to the sometimes abrasive personalities of Woody Allen, Roberto Benigni, or Caveh Zahedi (when they act), I found Moretti mostly endearing and more comparable to the tenderness of Zahedi in his magnificent documentaries, most notably In The Bathtub of the World (2001), than to any sort of irritating personality. Told in three distinct chapters, Moretti travels around Italy exploring the things he finds most beautiful, usually simple homes and bridges. Spiced up by an equally fun and touching soundtrack, Moretti’s ventures reminded me of the beauty we find everyday that much of the early work Bertolucci sought out. From the trip to the place of Pasolini’s execution to a conversation about “The Bold and the Beautiful” with American tourists, Caro Diario is full of great sights and power that could only be found by this drifting road movie. While it loses some steam in its painfully funny, in many ways satirical, final chapter, Caro Diario sustains itself as a vision of Italy, and the world, that I won’t soon forget.
Caro Diario is OOP on Region 2 DVD and VHS, but I was able to track down the VHS at my school library (I have to admit...I was assigned to watch Caro Diario in a Drift Cinema Theory class I am currently taking in my MA program at Columbia. My professor left a bootleg of Chapter One of the film for us to watch, telling us how hard the film was to find. I always take that as a challenge.) Even more exciting (which may make this less legitimate as a Forgotten VHS entry, but we don't have any more avenues/features for this to be written about yet...other than a straight up review), Caro Diario is actually available through the 'Watch Now' feature on Netflix. The film is not available to rent, but apparently if you have Windows and a Netflix account, you can watch it now. I strongly advise doing that.
by James Hansen Continue reading...