Friday, December 2, 2016

Watch This: ARCADE ATTACK, Mind-Ripping 1982 Short that Pits Pinball vs. Video Games

This 1982 British short film created by Mike Wallington has long been a favorite. The other day I tried to explain what it was to someone and could not quite convey all its charms. Here it is, a film that is part doc, part pure fantasy, a hybrid film that manages to fit in actual interviews with gaming enthusiasts, staged scenes of a pinball-obsessed teddy boy's journey, and animated sequences depicting the epochal clash between the "Silverball Heroes" and "Video Invaders." Not for the weak.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Watch This: Martin Scorsese Gets DEEP About Marlon Brando's ONE-EYED JACKS

Brando directs

Last month, at the New York Film Festival, Martin Scorsese introduced a screening of the new restoration, which he supervised, of Marlon Brando's sole directorial credit ONE-EYED JACKS.

This same restoration will be presented by AFS on Monday, December 5 at Stateside at the Paramount. 

Scorsese begins with a somewhat technical explanation of the super-widescreen VistaVision film format, of which ONE-EYED JACKS is the last example. He continues with the provenance of the script, and Stanley Kubrick's aborted participation in the project.

He goes on:
"This is the only film directed by Marlon Brando. The cineastes and the entire theater culture, cinema culture around the world... all waiting for Marlon Brando to direct a film. I remember, even in Film Culture at one point, they suggested that Brando direct The Book Of Job... but he did this, a Western.
"What's remarkable about this picture, it's unlike any other western because of the intensity and the power of the actors and the way they're directed, the way they're framed, against the landscape and within these houses, these sets. The intensity and the energy of the actors just bursts out the edges of the screen."

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

AFS Welcomes Filmstruck as Sponsoring Partner of December Programming Slate

Here at the Austin Film Society, we have the benefit of a large and active member base, and a surrounding community that appreciates and supports film. What we do - and by that I mean what we all do together, from enjoying gems from film's rich and diverse history to helping today's and tomorrow's filmmakers do their important work - has not gone unnoticed by the movers of international film culture.

By now you have probably heard about Filmstruck, a new streaming service that brings together the programming team from Turner Classic Movies with an extensive and growing library of streaming film titles, including the Criterion Collection. They do much more than just present a gigantic library of films though. Much in the AFS manner, they also offer contextual material to help you understand and appreciate their films, including introductions, commentaries, newly commissioned docs, etc.

It probably won't surprise you too much to learn that Filmstruck was eager to partner with AFS and become the name sponsor of all of AFS's December programs, including the new Film Foundation restoration of Marlon Brando's ONE-EYED JACKS, a Science On Screen presentation of FOR ALL MANKIND, with NASA Mission Control personnel in attendance, the new doc A SONG FOR YOU: THE AUSTIN CITY LIMITS STORY, and Julie Dash's epochal DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, also newly restored.

You can show your support of AFS and of great international film culture everywhere, by signing up for a free 14-day trial of Filmstruck here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Listen Here: A Martin Scorsese Radio Interview from 1970

Martin Scorsese, born on this date in 1942, is, of course, one of the most important filmmakers in the world. There's very little we can add to his well deserved esteem as a director and technical innovator of the first order.

In addition to all of this, he has become well known as an advocate for great film, for exhibition, education and restoration. Through his work as Founder and Chair of the non-profit Film Foundation he endeavors to raise the profile of films through preservation and exhibition programs.

This side of Scorsese, the tireless advocate, the champion of great movies and filmmakers, is not new. Below is an interview conducted in 1970 with the then-27 year old Scorsese who, at the time, had only one feature directorial credit under his belt, 1967's WHO'S THAT KNOCKING AT MY DOOR. At the time of this WNYC interview he was curating the Movies In The Park series in Manhattan. He talks a bit about the program, about the way film became a democratic art as soon as the means of production became cheap, easy and quick enough for the average person, and there are interesting detours into the contemporaneous state of film education.

It's only a 22 minute interview, but as is customary with Scorsese, he fits at least an hour worth of words in with his machine-gun delivery. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

History Of Television, 1954: Edward R. Murrow Responds to McCarthy's Red Scare

There has been a lot of reflection recently about the vulnerability of the news media to suppression by government powers. In the hum of it all, there have been numerous references to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who, in the early 1950's, abused the power of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he headed, to conduct a number of de facto trials in which many were accused by McCarthy and his investigative staff of Soviet-backed subversion against the United States government. The shadow of wrongdoing haunted many of McCarthy's targets for years, and careers were ruined in McCarthy's self-described pursuit of justice.

This story is long and fascinating, and too involved to relate here. There are a number of good books and films on the subject. Emile de Antonio's POINT OF ORDER (1964) is an extraordinary work, consisting entirely of kinescopes of the television broadcast of the Army-McCarthy hearings, in which the vindictive Senator finally overextended his good-will with the American people. The showdown with the Army's attorney, the folksy but deadly effective Joseph Welch, provides a white-knuckled climax to the proceedings in response to an attack by McCarthy on a younger member of the lawyer's firm.

The media, too, played its role. Television news was young at the time, but many of the early television correspondents had played a similar role on radio or in print. Edward R. Murrow had been a radio and print war correspondent and, during the McCarthy-led "Red Scare", used his television show to rebut McCarthy in a powerful way, mainly through the Senator's own words. This program, and the subsequent ones that followed, helped weaken McCarthy's public support, which eventually led to his censure by the Senate. He became a pariah among his colleagues and died of alcohol-related liver disease before completing his term.

In 2005, George Clooney directed a good movie about this period, and specifically Murrow's role in it, called GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.

Below is Murrow's historic broadcast of March 9. At the end of it, Murrow intones his famous words about the threat posed by such men as McCarthy. These words deserve to be repeated these many years later.
"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. 
"We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. 
"This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy's methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. 
"The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. 'The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.' 
Good night, and good luck."

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Listen Here: Actor Yaphet Kotto's Bizarre 1968 Spoken Word Single

Actor Yaphet Kotto (born on this day in 1939) is perhaps best known to today's audiences from his role in ALIEN (1979), or perhaps from THE RUNNING MAN (1987), or the long-running '90s show HOMICIDE, LIFE ON THE STREET. He also has unforgettable turns in Paul Schrader's BLUE COLLAR (1978), Johathan Kaplan's TRUCK TURNER (1974), the Bond film LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) and far more than I can, or should name here. He's a great actor, and a great presence.

In 1967, when Kotto was making a living from the stage and stray screen gigs, he recorded this spoken-word single for Hugh Masakela's Chisa  Records,  "Have You Dug His Scene"/"Have You Ever Seen The Blues?" It's a weird, ahead-of-its-time record, bearing some similarities to the work done subsequently by the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron.

By the way, if you decide to hit Discogs looking for this Yaphet Kotto record, be aware that there was also a '90s-00's punk band by that name.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

"Unobtrusive Yet Powerful Simplicity" What Critics are Saying About the Breathtaking New Doc FIRE AT SEA

This Sunday and next Wednesday, AFS presents the new doc, FIRE AT SEA from filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi, who spent a year documenting the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, home of Italian fishermen and their families and, increasingly, of African refugees rescued from rafts and makeshift boats in the Mediterranean.

Kenneth Turan of the LA Times said, “FIRE AT SEA goes about its business in a quiet way, with unobtrusive yet powerful simplicity, using an unconventional structure and cinematic artistry to make its points.”

New York Times’ A.O. Scott, in making the film his the Critics’ Pick, says, "FIRE AT SEA is impressionistic and intensely absorbing. Like one of Frederick Wiseman’s documentaries, it compels you to infer a big picture from a series of extended, intimate scenes.”

Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter says, “Conveying the immensity of the ongoing migrant crisis, which is costing thousands of lives each year as it puts European unity and values sorely to the test, has proven far too great a task for news reporting. Where journalism leaves off, FIRE AT SEA begins.”

Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal says “FIRE AT SEA is a shining example of journalism fueled by outrage and shaped by free-ranging curiosity."

Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice writes, "How do you reconcile trauma like this with the easy rhythms of ordinary life? You don't, Rosi's film tells us, and to do so would be obscene."

Click here to hear director Rosi interviewed by NPR's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED about the film.