Saturday, June 27, 2009

Richard Kelly's "The Box" Trailer

Here it is folks. The official trailer for Richard Kelly's new movie The Box. After the critical derision that swamped Southland Tales (albeit very acclaimed in my eyes to the heralds of Hoberman, Lee, and Taubin – who else do you need?), I was wondering where Kelly would go next. Apparently back to death and the end of the world is the likely answer. I think this trailer is fascinating for a few reasons, despite the music overkill at the end. I love the hazy cinematography on top of all those "beautiful people." Perhaps it will end up being relatively commercial compared to Kelly's previous features, but lets hope it takes a heavier slant to the strange where his previous works have had their greatest successes. I'm in for it. How about you?

And here is the rest of it. Continue reading...

Friday, June 26, 2009

DVD of the Week: A Trio of Picks

DVDs of the Week

Short Film You Must See (Again): Thriller (Michael Jackson, 1985)

Perhaps unexciting picks, but certainly worth revisiting amid what has taken place this week.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Attractions

by James Hansen

Let’s assume, just for fun, that we are supposed to take Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen seriously. That somehow, someway Transformers is actually supposed to be communicating something to a willing and excited audience about governmental protection in times of struggle, the continuing need for heroes in an unstable world where our biggest war, perhaps the last battle humans will ever fight as the terrorist-bots attempt to (jigga-what!) BLOW UP THE SUN, takes place in the Middle East while Americans are still dumb enough to honestly think its Las Vegas. That we should cast off the fact that Transformers is rip roaringly sexist (why the hell is Megan Fox even in this installment other than for shots of her ass?), racist (they’re just robots, stupid), and so abundantly simple minded that explosions are used to string together the half hour chunks between the three shoddy (or, should I say, sharddy) plot points, and instead pay attention to the message of Optimus Prime as he and the Autobots save the human race again. Does that work for anyone? Did the person who screamed “Noooooooo!!!” after the slaying of a certain character display honest emotion? Was the woman sitting next to me who seemed to tear up when Sam says goodbye to Bumblebee really that emotionally invested in this story? If one of these people is you, then perhaps you should not read on because I can’t for the life of me even pretend that those reactions were true. But if they were then good for you, I guess. You see something I don’t and I’ll never ask you to feel differently. At least not right now.

Since we cannot assume that we should take Transformers seriously, and as I hear the shouts of “it was fun and cool” come from the millions of teenagers of America who are seeing the movie this weekend, let us now assume, on a more likely premise, that Transformers is pure action spectacle. That people like to watch fighting robots. That every time one of the parts of those things shove through the middle of one of the other things and send sparks flying up to some part of another one of their things while we ooh and ahh and have fun and that makes it good enough. Want me to be more descript? I do too, but unfortunately its relatively impossible to keep track of who is fighting who, what is hitting what, and when major...umm...arteries(?) are being hit in robot fights. We certainly know when robots are dying, as director Michael Bay makes sure every kill features a metal robot’s head being split in half. Amongst all the groans from my audience during these rather violent acts, I couldn’t work up much of a reaction either way because it just seemed to be metal clanking noises. It was, and is, very violent, I suppose, but it certainly doesn’t look that way compared to the violence of, say, Slumdog Millionaire. This is perhaps what keeps the “fun” level up and the pain threshold down for the PG-13 audience. So far so good with our “its just a spectacle” thesis. Perhaps then critics should stop the criticism of the points I made in the first paragraph. Maybe they all become moot, or at least fun loving audience pretend they are, so that we can enjoy Transformers for “what it wants to be.” Of all the things Transformers may or may not be, it is rather hard to argue that it is not, at the very least, trying to be full of spectacles and become, to borrow the term from an academic context, a large scale attraction.

Now permit me, if you will, to take this a little further keeping in mind we are talking about Transformers, but not forgetting that we are speaking of it merely in terms of being an attraction. Andre Gaudreault in his important essay “From ‘Primitive Cinema’ to ‘Kine-Attractography’” speaks of early cinematic attractions where he sides with Tom Gunning in labeling attractions as “before the viewer, in order to be seen. Strictly speaking, it [the attraction] exists only in order to display its visibility.” Or, as Gunning summarizes, an attraction is “an element which surges up, attracts our attention, and then disappears without developing a narrative trajectory or a coherent diegetic universe.” Now, there are some clear instances of this in Transformers: RotF from the awkward opening sequence in some randomly selected time BC to the 100 times that one of the cars transforms into a, eh, Transformer or from a Transformer back into a car. Whether Bay’s camera is moving or (as if) sitting still, it is intent on capturing those movements from machine to more complex machine or the inverse. Though this likely helps lead to the ridiculous 150 minute running time, Transformers wants us to watch, see, and be impressed by this continued attraction. There is so much going on in that single instant that there is no way for an audience to keep track of all the movements, but there are precisely so many movements so we all sit astonished, or bewildered, by whatever that crazy shit was that just happened.

Is this a good or bad thing? There is undoubtedly no “right” answer, as the question and the situation and largely dependent upon the circumstances. Renowned scholar Vivian Sobchack argues in her article “Cutting to the Quick,” (pardon the long quote) “The plots and stories of most popular feature films today have become pretexts or alibis for a series of autonomous and spectacularly kinetic ‘monstrations’ of various kinds of thrilling sequences and apparatical special effects...the raison d’etre of such films is to thrill, shock, stun, astonish, assault, or ravish an audience, now less interested in ‘developing situations’ than in ‘immediate’ gratification offered by a series of momentous – and sensually experience – ‘instants’ to which the narrative is subordinated...” It should be clear that Sobchack is not attacking such films (she goes on to argue largely in favor of The Matrix, a film she uses as a limit case for her own thesis) but is rather peering into a developing cinematic situation as the technological landscape shifts in the early 21st century. Sobchack’s insistence ont he importance of recognizing the changing of technology fits the mold of the Transformers development and transformation, so we must wonder how Transformers may fit into Sobchack’s attractions thesis.

The problem for Transformers, even in viewing it as this modern day cinema of attractions in an attempt to, as some people may argue, approach on its own terms, is that amid the attractions, the spectacle, or even the story (if you still want to go that route) there just isn’t anything there. Although Sobchack situates the use of slow motion as a technological process which takes the banal action of such movies and turns the banality back into something exciting, i.e. back into an attraction, Transformers, especially considering that it is the second part of a series, uses so many of the same slo-mo tricks, the same whirling sound design, the same incoherent transformation attractions that the audience is quickly worn into a stooper gazing blankly at a screen whirling in front of them while they sit idly by waiting for something, anything to happen, to excite, to thrill, to surprise, to jolt them into reaction.

Much as it tries, Transformers blinds the audience with so many attractions that it can’t work its own way out of them in order for them to actually attract. This full effect is realized when the final battle is to take place. Optimus Prime gears up to fight The Fallen (I think it was The Fallen anyways) but even though they load Optimus up with the souls, spirit, and firepower of the whole history of the Autobots and The Primes, and even though we’ve been listening to The Fallen talk the whole movie about his impending arrival, the battle is hilariously unastonishing. There have been so many rocket blasts, so many robot fights, so many transformation done in the same way that after The Fallen awakes and fights and is quicky defeated that all I could muster, much as I really wanted to be excited after 140 minutes of transforming, was a shrug of the shoulders. Dude got stabbed by something and shot by something and torn in half. What else is new? Horrifically long and stone cold boring as much of Transformers RotF was, in the end, I couldn’t even believe it was over if only because I kept believing at some point something fun, cool, exciting, thrilling, jolting was going to happen. Much to my chagrin, everything had become so redundant, repeated, recycled that the whole ordeal was confusing, insignificant and unexciting. Transformers, even in viewing it as large scale modern day attraction, had defeated itself.

All author quotes come from essays published in The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded (ed. Wanda Strauven, Amsterdam University Press, 2006).
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rooftop Films June 25-27

More Rooftop Films information for this coming weekend, including an early screening of Lynne Shelton's Humpday.

June 25th
William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe:

He might have been the most hated and most beloved lawyer in the world,
but did anyone really know William Kunstler?

Venue: Outdoors across from BAM Cinematek
Address: Parking lot across from BAM @ Fulton and Ashland (Ft. Greene,
Directions: 2/3/4/5/B/Q to Atlantic Ave or D/M/N/R to Pacific St.
Rain: In the event of rain the show will be held Tuesday, June 30. Check or call 718-417-7362 on the day of the event if the
weather seems questionable.
8:00PM: Doors open
8:30PM: Live music presented by Sound Fix Records
9:00PM: Film
11:00PM–12:30AM: After-party: Open Bar on-site, courtesy of Radeberger
Tickets: $11 at the door or online
Presented in partnership with: BAM CinemaFEST. Cinereach, New York
magazine, IndiePix, Shooting People, Council Member David Yassky &
Automotive High School
Ticketing link:;Rooftop_Films_BAMcinemaFEST_Kunstler

June 26th

When Andrew unexpectedly shows up on Ben's doorstep late one night, the
two old college friends immediately fall into their old dynamic of
heterosexual one-upmanship. To save Ben from domestication, Andrew invites
Ben to a party at a sex-positive commune. Everyone there plans on making
erotic art films for the local amateur porn festival and Andrew wants in.
They run out of booze and ideas, save for one: Andrew should have sex with
Ben, on camera. It's not gay; it's beyond gay. It's not porn; it's an art
project. The next day, they find themselves unable to back down from the
dare. And there's nothing standing in their way - except Ben's wife Anna,
heterosexuality, and certain mechanical questions.

Venue: on the roof of the Open Road Rooftop
Address: 350 Grand Street @ Essex (Lower East Side, Manhattan)
8:00PM: Doors open
8:30PM: Sound Fix presents live music The Antlers
9:00PM: Films
11:30PM - 1:00AM: Open Bar at Fontana’s (105 Eldridge St), courtesy of
Radeberger beer
Tickets: $9-$25
Ticketing link:;Rooftop_Films_Humpday

No refunds. In the event of rain, the show will be indoors at the same
locations. Seating is first come, first served. Physical seats are
limited. This means you may not get a chair. You are welcome to bring a
blanket and sit picnic-style, but NO ALCOHOL IS PERMITTED.

June 27th
Voices from El-Sayed:

In this smart and charming documentary, the world’s largest community of
deaf people is suddenly given a gift that threatens to disrupt local

Venue: On the roof of the Old American Can Factory
Address: 232 3RD St. @ 3rd Ave. (Gowanus/ Park Slope, Brooklyn)
Directions: F/G to Carroll St. or M/R to Union Ave.
Rain: In the event of rain the show will be held indoors at the same location
8:00PM: Doors open
8:30PM: Live music presented by Sound Fix Records
9:00PM: Films
11:00PM–12:30AM: Reception in courtyard including free sangria courtesy of
Carlo Rossi
Tickets: $9-$25 at the door or online
Ticketing Link:;Rooftop_Films_Voices_from_El-Sayed

Presented in partnership with: Cinereach, The Israeli Cultural Consulate,
New York magazine & XØ Projects

No refunds. In the event of rain, the show will be indoors at the same
locations. Seating is first come, first served. Physical seats are
limited. This means you may not get a chair. You are welcome to bring a
blanket and picnic.

For more information about this event and the rest of our summer events,
please contact:

Danielle Kourtesis
Music and Outreach Manager, Rooftop Films
232 3rd Street, #D101
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Also, the July schedule is now available online!

Continue reading...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Counting Down The Zeroes: "Russian Ark" (Alexander Sokurov, 2002)

This was written as part of Film For the Soul's Counting Down The Zeroes Project.

by James Hansen




Continue reading...

Friday, June 19, 2009

DVD of the Week: "The Goddess" (Yonggang Wu, 1934)

by Chuck Williamson

Next month, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will kick off their fourteenth annual celebration of domestic and international cinema from the silent era. For those outside the silent cinema loop, the SFSFF is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving a long-neglected but vital part of our cinema history through archival screenings, educational panels, and promotional work—a true gift for silent cinema scholars and obsessives. In anticipation of this year’s festival — and also because I’m still bitter about not being able to go myself — I’ve decided to have a one-man movie marathon in my living room, going through some of the silent releases that would not be available without the SFSFF’s efforts.

The Goddess (Yonggang Wu, 1934) is one of those films. Since its initial SFSFF screening, The Goddess has given western viewers a rare glimpse into the burgeoning 1930s Chinese film industry, while also providing a perfect introduction to the filmography of screen legend Ruan Ling-yu. Throughout the twenties and thirties, Ruan earned international acclaim as China’s leading cinema icon, turning in a succession of natural, nuanced performances that ended with her tragic 1935 suicide. In The Goddess, her most famous role, Ruan plays an unnamed woman living in the decayed, desiccated Shanghai slums who is forced to moonlight as a prostitute in order to support her son. Despite its few flirtations with melodrama, the film remains a potent mix of the personal and the political, visualizing the consequences of the period’s troubled economic conditions through its pained narrative of maternal love and self-sacrifice. But The Goddess is perhaps best appreciated as an intimate and heartbreaking human drama enhanced by Ruan Ling-yu’s haunting presence—a subtle, affecting performance that externalizes the shame and sadness of her character without the use of language. If any film could serve as the perfect gateway into Chinese silent cinema, this would be it.

(Note: The DVD edition of this was produced by the SFSFF as a limited edition fund-raising item and can only be purchased through their website.)

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Short Films You Must See: "Sutro" (Jeanne Liotta, 2009)

Make this the second short film of 2009 (along with Apichatpong Weerasethakul's wonderful Phantoms of Nabua) to premiere online (or, at least, not be released in traditional commercial, art house, or experimental theaters) that totally knocked my socks off. Another case that led to our recent Call For Proposals and the online symposium in August. Cinema, wherever its being seen, is alive and well!

Giving credit where credit is due: thanks to Michael Sicinski for pointing this out. I might do a proper review at some point, but, even if I did, I'm sure I'd advise you to read Michael's review(s) first.

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Rooftop Films June 19-20

In case you're not doing anything this weekend (i.e. coming to my birthday party...all Out 1 readers are me for details), here is the schedule for another great looking weekend for Rooftop Films.

This Friday, June 19th, at 8 PM we will be holding a screening of Winnebago Man in the Lower East Side:

Jack Rebney is the most famous man you've never heard of—after cursing his
way through a Winnebago sales video, Rebney’s outrageously funny outtakes
became an underground sensation and made him an internet superstar.
Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer sets out to find the recluse who unwittingly
became the “Winnebago Man." This hilarious and charming film begins as an
exploration of pseudo-celebrity and viral culture, and becomes a
surprisingly poignant journey for the filmmaker, subject and audience.

Show Link:

Date: Friday, June 19th
Venue: Roof @ Open Road Rooftop
Address: 350 Grand Street @ Essex, New York, NY
** Note: Ticket includes admission to open bar after party
Presented in partnership with:Crunch, Cinereach, New York magazine&
Brooklyn Technical High School

On Saturday, June 20th, at 8 PM we will be screening New Muslim Cool on
the roof of El Museo del Barrio:

Puerto Rican American rapper Hamza Pérez ended his life as a drug dealer
12 years ago, and started down a new path as a young Muslim. Now he’s
moved to Pittsburgh’s tough North Side to start a new religious community,
rebuild his shattered family, and take his message of faith to other young
people through his uncompromising music as part of the hip-hop duo M-Team.
But when the FBI raids his mosque, Hamza must confront the realities of
the post-9/11 world.

Show Link:

Date: Saturday, June 20th
Venue: Roof of El Museo del Barrio
Address: 1230 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029
** Note: Ticket includes admission to open bar after party
Presented in partnership with:Crunch, Cinereach, New York magazine&
Brooklyn Technical High School

Continue reading...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Oh, Brother!

by Chuck Williamson

Resembling a candy-coated fever-dream, The Brothers Bloom is a muddled, lysergic mess punctuated by bursts of bright, day-glo colors and surges of mad, manic energy—of which none, unfortunately, conceal the film’s fatal flaws. But what do you expect from a work of patchwork plagiarism? Riann Johnson’s sophomore effort—a stitched-together mixture of con-man comedy and twee sentimentality—shamelessly pilfers through Wes Anderson’s creative waste-baskets, copy-pasting the director’s deadpan dialogue, children’s book preciousness, picaresque narrative, and familial conflict without developing its own internal rhythms or logic.

But you’ve heard this before, right? Since the film’s release, critics have derisively written The Brothers Bloom off as an Anderson knock-off, a pretender to the throne, a soulless imitator. And, to an extent, such reductive assessments seem fitting for a film that, for all its fussy pyrotechnics, seems perversely comfortable with its status as a second-hand twee-fest. Nonetheless, the film’s failures extend far beyond these inevitable conclusions; in fact, the facile Anderson comparisons do little to adequately explain the film’s more maddening and frustrating flaws. Coasting on borrowed whimsy and manufactured quirk, The Brothers Bloom is both overstuffed and underwritten, failing as both genre pastiche and compelling narrative, forcing us down an endless rabbit hole that goes nowhere.

Introducing its protagonists in an insufferably mannered prologue narrated in rhyming couplets (by Ricky Jay, no less!), the film follows Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody), a pair of vintage-quality con artists who specialize in spinning elaborately designed adventure narratives that double as convoluted con jobs. Together, with mute explosives expert Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), the brothers embark on the mutually beneficial enterprise of granting their marks the sort of two-fisted, globetrotting adventure they crave while also lining their pockets with the money of swindled millionaires. But when Bloom—the “tragic anti-hero” of his brother’s ornate narratives—decides he wants to quit, Stephen baits him into one last con targeting Penelope (Rachel Weisz), an eccentric and lonesome New Jersey heiress. What initially seems like a simple con job transforms into a romantic, transcontinental adventure when the inevitable sparks fly between Bloom and Penelope, who turns out to be far more unpredictable and resourceful than originally imagined.

Overloaded with subplots, centrifuge, con games, and counter-cons, the film ultimately short-circuits from its crowded, crippling narrative. While The Brothers Bloom works best at times as a showcase for cinematographer Steve Yedlin’s stunning photography—a subtle combination of crisp, deep-focus naturalism and pop-art excess—the film often trades narrative coherence for visual inventiveness, occasionally being reduced into a series of visually-ornate tableaus that intrude on the narrative rather than enhance it. In fact, the film’s opaque, sleight-of-hand story often gets lost in the jumble of quirks, gags, and visual tics. Ironically, many of the film’s visual gags and set pieces work brilliantly when isolated from the white noise of narrative: an inspired, spritely montage of Penelope’s acquired hobbies; a bungled “epiphany” that lands Bloom in jail; a slow-motion car crash that defies physics and gravity. But the film never succeeds in bringing any of these elements together, as the imaginative clutter that takes up its two-thirds never coheres in a way that adequately satisfies. At times, Johnson seems less committed to the bricks and mortar of his picture, instead misplacing all of his efforts into its empty, ornamental elements.

All of the performers do their best with the material, but they too are ultimately reduced into one-note archetypes without the poignancy or depth to really sell the third-act emotional payoff. Like every other element in the film, the characters feel synthetic and manufactured, mechanized quirk-bots programmed to be winsome and cute. Brody and Weisz both turn in the film’s best performances, but the film’s predilection for magic tricks over nuts-and-bolts filmmaking turns their romance into a tangled love story between a mopey department store mannequin and a manic pixie dream girl. Of course, the film’s inability to logically develop their romance nullifies its culminative effect; their courtship progresses illogically and inconsistently, going from bed-romping to mope-baiting to con-jobbing and back again. Despite their solid efforts, the actors get lost in the background, sucked away into the histrionics, and turned into broad, lifeless figures.

If helmed more competently, the film’s form could have complimented its content, enriching the film’s investigations of fiction and reality, turning what exists only as shallow lip-service into something more substantive and interesting. But this is not that film; the fussy script and baroque visual design compete for our attention, never fusing together. As it stands, the film can be enjoyed only as clumsily designed collection of cinematic magic tricks.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

DVD of the Week: "The Boston Strangler" (Richard Fleischer, 1968)

by Brandon Colvin

Flipping through the guide listings on my Dish Network cable package, I came across the info blurb for The Boston Strangler, a late 60s genre film about the infamous titular serial killer starring Henry Fonda as investigator John Bottomly and Tony Curtis as confessed murderer Albert DeSalvo (not to mention George Kennedy in a great supporting role as Detective Phil DiNatale). “Looks like it could be good,” I thought. I set it to record on my DVR. Weeks later, keeping in mind of the crapshoot that recording and watching random movies can be, I started the film, warily. I finished it with a blend of amazement and incredulity. “Did that just happen? Because I’ve never seen that before.”

What I’m referring to is the most remarkably original technique of director Richard Fleischer’s proto-slasher/thriller/mystery – the inventive and playful use of aspect ratio, masking, and split-screens, resulting in a general derangement of the accepted concept of the stable frame. The boldness of The Boston Strangler’s experiments is startling considering its classical Hollywood stars and sensationalist pulp material. Zeroing in upon details, carefully excluding information, juxtaposing contrasting elements, and offering simultaneous action from multiple angles, the film’s frame manipulation serves the purpose of transforming the narrative into a series of fragments, clues – sometimes they dead end, sometimes they contradict one another, sometimes they are incomplete; we never get the whole story. Superlatively cohesive in form and content – perhaps the only cinematic detective story that rivals its stylistic unity is David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) – The Boston Strangler is one hell of a find. You might come for the funky framings, but you’ll stay for the lurid violence, sexual deviance, social commentary, and gritty performances.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Out 1 Film Journal CFP: Screening the Cinematic and/on New Screens, August 2009

Out 1 Film Journal
Call For Proposals
“Screening the Cinematic and/on New Screens”
August 2009

Deadline for abstracts: June 30, 2009
Deadline for acceptance information: July 5, 2009
Deadline for final papers: August 1, 2009

Given the constantly changing landscape of visual culture, Out 1 Film Journal seeks proposals for a month long survey of this ever shifting landscape. Whether analysis of work primarily viewed on non-traditional screens (films, videos, home videos, music videos, YouTube sensations etc. seen on the internet, gallery, rooftop, etc.) or larger theoretical explorations of visual dynamics, viewership, public/private space, etc. with specific methodological emphasis on how we watch.

All related topics are welcome. 15-20 proposals will be chosen and published over the month of August in what we hope will become an online symposium of sorts, with discussion and active involvement of each writer and all readers with comments, email exchanges, etc. All writers chosen will be published by the journal and retain copyright for their material. Please include a resume or CV with all submissions. Articles are expected to be at least 2500 words. Serious submissions only please. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Also, please distribute or link to this CFP. The more submissions we receive the stronger this will be. Whether your proposal is accepted or not, or even if you don't submit anything, we hope everyone participates in this unique online symposium.

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Reading Movies Meme

Courtesy of MovieMan at The Dancing Image, this meme has been floating around all week and has been quite great to see. Those tagged were asked to pick the 10 most influential film books to their development as writers, scholars, and cinephiles of all sorts. I was thrilled to be tagged in MovieMan's initial post and since then Brandon was tagged by another friend – Jeremy Richey of the always wonderful Moon in the Gutter. Not wanting to cut ourselves short on things that have led this site to its fruitful existence, Brandon and I have each chosen ten books with, kind of surprisingly, no overlap.

I can't speak for Brandon (perhaps he will comment on this post with more explanation on his choices if anyone is curious) but this was especially difficult for me as I feel like my views are in a constant state of flux. With very little access to Films growing up, film books didn't enter the equation for me until late high school and early college when I really got going. But even since then, having just gone through grad school in film studies, I had to decide what makes these books influential. So, this really ends up being a mixed bag of things that first got me interested in studying movies and more scholarly works that have really influenced my own current writing and thoughts towards cinema as I look towards more schooling and an academic career. Its a tough call on all accounts, so I hope this is representative of some of my influences and may explain, as MovieMan hoped for, where some of my experimental/genre slant comes from. Who knows. Nonetheless, here are the books. I'll leave further explanation and discussion for what I hope is a lively comment section.

Brandon Colvin's Reading Movies Meme Selections

Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson
Film Theory and Criticism edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen
Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema 1959-1971 by Jonas Mekas
Lynch on Lynch by Chris Rodley
Everything by David Bordwell, especially Poetics of Cinema
Terrence Malick by Lloyd Michaels
Godard on Godard by Jean-Luc Godard
The film criticism of Jim Emerson, Roger Ebert, Manohla Dargis, and everyone who has ever written for the Village Voice
Tarkovsky edited by Nathan Dunne
Film Comment

James Hansen's Reading Movies Meme Selections

Cinema 2 by Gilles Deleuze
The Cinema, Or The Imaginary Man by Edgar Morin (translated by Lorraine Mortimer)
Dogme Uncut by Jack Stevenson
Film As Subversive Art by Amos Vogel
Hard Core by Linda Williams (and mostly everything else by Linda Williams too)
The Magic Hour by Jim Hoberman
Manifestoes of Surrealism by Andre Breton
Men, Women, and Chain Saws by Carol Clover
Nathan Lee (duh)
Roger Ebert's 1990 Movie Companion (most notably the discussion of Lynch's Wild At Heart entitled, if I'm recalling correctly, "The Case Against David Lynch")

More recent additions to my repertoire that would be on this list if I had a little more time to absorb them:
Change Mummified by Philip Rosen
Cinema of Attractions Reloaded edited by Wanda Strauven
Collecting Visible Evidence edited by Jane Gaines and Michael Renov
Devotional Cinema by Nathaniel Dorsky
The Most Typical Avant Garde by David James

(Update!) Chuck Williamson's List
THE PARADE'S GONE BY by Kevin Brownlow
WHAT IS CINEMA? by Andre Bazin
EARLY CINEMA: SPACE, FRAME, NARRATIVE ed. by Thomas Eisaesser and Adam Barker

Thanks again to MovieMan and Jeremy for calling upon us to make these lists! Hope they share something about ourselves and maybe give some of you something to check out.
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Friday, June 5, 2009

DVD of the Week: "Death Race 2000" (Paul Bartel, 1975)

This selection is somewhat self-explanatory – the death of an important actor or actress is always an immediate call to go back and see more of their work. In this case, you might as well start with the nasty fun of the 1975 cult film Death Race 2000. Sure its a bit dated now, but anything that ever received a zero star review from Roger Ebert is worth your time in one way or another.

Even though I prefer the more recent incarnation (which featured a voice over cameo by Carradine), Death Race 2000 features David Carradine in a highly memorable performance as the unbeatable Frankenstein. Taking place in the year 2000 (funny how things work out, eh?) the United States has been destroyed by a financial crisis and has become a fascist police state. The Transcontinental Road Race, a violent race across the country where you get points for hitting specific groups (and even more for pedestrians!), is a main source of entertainment for the blood thirsty citizens. Some crazy shit goes down between Frankenstein and his rival Machine Gun Joe (Sylvester Stallone). Cars wreck. Things explode. And the State is taken over by, well, Frankenstein. Long live Le Cinema!

Not all that sleek or smooth, Death Race 2000 serves its 70s grunge well. And although its not his more “refined” performance, Carradine is commanding as ever.

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Exclusive Sneak: Wikio Film Blog Top 100

This month Out 1 was approached by Wikio to display exclusive sneak of the new Wikio film blog ratings. We were honored to be given this opportunity, as Wikio is a great resource to find, track, and follow the big and emerging film sites that are out there. So, without further adieu, here are the new rankings! You won't see these anywhere else until tomorrow when they can be found here. Most notable in the rankings in recent months, I think, has been the emergence of Film For The Soul – a site I was an early reader of that has become quite the place to be thanks to the extraordinary Counting Down The Zeroes project. Major congrats on the continued, very quick rise to the top tier! Keep up the good work over there, and everywhere! Again, a special thanks to Wikio for giving us this opportunity.

2Deadline Hollywood Daily
3MTV Movies Blog
6Trek Movie Report
7Cartoon Brew
9Film School Rejects
10The House Next Door
11GreenCine Daily
12Upcoming Pixar
13Film for the Soul
14Some Came Running
15Shooting Down Pictures
16Observations on Film Art
17Ferdy on Films, etc.
18Coffee Coffee and More Coffee
20The Evening Class
21Edward Copeland on Film
23Cinema Styles
24Movie City Indie
26Nick's Flick Picks
28The Film Doctor
29Moon in the Gutter
30Filmmaker Magazine: Blog
31Fin de Cinema
32Good News Film Reviews
34Mayerson on Animation
35Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
36Hell on Frisco Bay
37Bright Lights After Dark
38Like Anna Karina's Sweater
39Invisible Woman... Black Cinema at Large
41Out 1
422719 Hyperion
43Drifting: A Director's Log
44The Bleeding Tree
47The Blog of Kells
48Elusive Lucidity
49Jim Hill Media
50Big Media Vandalism
52Popcorn and Sticky Floors
53Tomb It May Concern
54This Distracted Globe
55The IFC Blog
56Frames Per Second
57Spectacular Attractions
58Critic After Dark
59Film of the Year
61Animated News
63Hammer and Beyond
64GreenCine Guru
65Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur
66Alliance of Women Film Journalists
67From the Front Row
68Limitless Cinema
70jürgen fauth's muckworld
71Nostalgia Kinky
72The Exploding Kinetoscope
73Lessons of Darkness
74gareth's movie diary
76I'm in a Jess Franco State of Mind
77Film Forno
78DIY Filmmaker Sujewa
79giallo fever
80Expanded Cinema
81Movie Dearest
83Lost in the Frame
84Greatest Movie Deaths of All Time
85All About My Movies
86Chained to the Cinémathèque
88My Life in Movies
89This Savage Art
90Broken Projector
91Shoot the Projectionist
92The Gryffindor Gazette
93Double O Section
94The Cutting Room Floor
95Film Blather Blog
96The Film Fiend
97More Than Meets the Mogwai

Ranking by Wikio.

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David Carradine 1936-2009

From the AP News Wire...

Actor David Carradine, star of the 1970s TV series “Kung Fu” who also had a wide-ranging career in the movies, has been found dead in the Thai capital, Bangkok. A news report said he was found hanged in his hotel room and was believed to have committed suicide.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Michael Turner, confirmed the death of the 72-year-old actor. He said the embassy was informed by Thai authorities that Carradine died either late Wednesday or early Thursday, but he could not provide further details out of consideration for his family.

read the rest of the initial AP report after the break

The Web site of the Thai newspaper The Nation cited unidentified police sources as saying Carradine was found Thursday hanged in his luxury hotel room.
It said Carradine was in Bangkok to shoot a movie and had been staying at the hotel since Tuesday.

The newspaper said Carradine could not be contacted after he failed to appear for a meal with the rest of the film crew on Wednesday, and that his body was found by a hotel maid at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. The name of the movie was not immediately available.

It said a preliminary police investigation found that he had hanged himself with a cord used with the room’s curtains. It cited police as saying he had been dead at least 12 hours and there was no sign that he had been assaulted.

A police officer at Bangkok’s Lumpini precinct station would not confirm the identity of the dead man to The Associated Press, but said the luxury Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel had reported that a male guest killed himself there.

Carradine was a leading member of a venerable Hollywood acting family that included his father, character actor John Carradine, and brother Keith.

In all, he appeared in more than 100 feature films with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby.

But he was best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin priest traveling the 1800s American frontier West in the TV series “Kung Fu,” which aired in 1972-75.

He reprised the role in a mid-1980s TV movie and played Caine’s grandson in the 1990s syndicated series “Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.”

He returned to the top in recent years as the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s two-part saga “Kill Bill.”
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Monday, June 1, 2009

A Lifeless Drag

by James Hansen

Short on surprises, gags, and inspiration, Drag Me To Hell is shockingly half-hearted and surprisingly stale for the majority of its running time. How, oh how, does a movie that takes utter glee in multiple, if overly repetitive, shock gags seem so mundane? Although fault lies in many places (the vapid screenplay by Sam & Ivan Raimi, uninspired, lifeless performances by Alison Lohman and especially Justin Long, painfully lazy direction outside of the horror sequences), the main problem is that in nearly every facet of production Drag Me To Hell just isn’t committed to its own eccentricities and wild nature.

A long, flat opening is used to introduce Christine (Alison Lohman), a loan officer from a small farm town who is fighting her way towards a promotion, and her boyfriend Clay (Justin Long), an upper class university professor whose mother, in an alarmingly hackneyed phone call, which (of course) is taken on speaker phone, disapproves of the farm girl. Things finally get going when Christine returns to work after said phone call where she is met by Mrs. Ganush, an old gypsy who begs for a third extension on her mortgage. Christine, battling for an assistant manager position with an aggressively smarmy new guy named Stu, decides to do what is best for the bank and deny the gypsy. Whoopsie. Christine leaves work and is promptly attacked in her car by Mrs. Ganush who calls upon the curse of the Lamia – a dreaded curse established in the film’s prelude in which invisible creatures torture the victim for three days before (whadda ya know!) dragging them to hell.

Solid as the crazy curse premise may be, there isn’t enough energy to sustain Drag Me To Hell through its own skeletal plot. Slightly reminiscent of the stylistic buzzkill the longest Are You Afraid Of The Dark? episode ever put on film – James Wan’s Dead SilenceDrag Me To Hell’s sensitive sound design gives away the frights before they even happen. Moreover, the should-be fun scenes where spirits drive Christine to madness quickly lose their charm by becoming so re-dundant. This is really a shame because, despite the insistence on fluids spurting from the mouth in every scene (there’s something I never thought I’d complain about), Raimi and Co. have clearly put ten times the thought into the horror sequences than the rest of the film. Whether it’s the battle with Mrs. Ganush in the car, the numerous scenes where Christine is flailed around different rooms, apartments, and houses like a rag doll, a dining room scene with a clear nod to Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, or the finale where the stars have aligned to banish the Lamia (a certain moment with a certain goat is without a doubt the only truly inspired moment in the entire film), Raimi may “return to form” but only sporadically. The quick editing around the gross-out moments, likely done to keep the film at PG-13, keep even the best scenes from being totally successful. Even as an audience member in my screening shouted “This movie is fuckin’ sick!”, all I could think was “Not sick enough.”

What’s most disappointing, especially considering it as Raimi’s return to campy horror, is that the production of Drag Me To Hell seems to have forgotten how the best horror works, campy or not. Although I did think “not sick enough,” that has less to do with specific scenes than with the whole product. Certainly, there is enough vomit, blood, and general craziness for plenty of people to flip their shit, as it were. But, unlike the best horror, Drag Me To Hell, perhaps signified by the egregious phone call from mother, feels totally phoned in. The performances, save Lohman in the last 20 minutes, are on autopilot, as is the majority of Raimi’s direction. What makes the holy trinity of purposefully campy horror (Evil Dead, Dead Alive, and Cabin Fever) so great is that each vaguely nuanced performance and every overblown effect is sold on the film – whether it’s burning a Book of the Dead, running a lawnmower over hundreds of zombies, or a kid doing karate in front of an old country store screaming “Pancakes!” Much as I hoped for (hell, expected) that kind of investment from Drag Me To Hell, all I got was a mostly lifeless, half-hearted venture. Drag Me To Hell isn’t dead exactly…it’s just sort of rotting.
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