Thursday, January 29, 2015

Filmmaker Allison Anders Bought Greta Garbo's Record Collection & is Reviewing It Online

We missed this story a few years ago - in 2013 filmmaker Allison Anders (BORDER RADIO, GAS FOOD LODGING), who is also the impresario behind the long-running Don't Knock The Rock film festival bought a parcel at auction of 50 records formerly owned by Greta Garbo. Of course Garbo is a mysterious figure whose personal life was shrouded in self-generated obscurity, so such a collection is worthy of contemplation. Anders contemplates more than just the life and mystery of Garbo in her Tumblr Greta's Records. She uses the collection as a starting point to discuss the popular history of the times, her own observations and to speculate on what may have been going on in Garbo's inner life and what she may have thought about these records and the music on them.

It's interesting stuff, and the Garbo angle provides a tremendous handle for Anders to range widely over the fields of popular culture, memory and the transcendent appeal that stars- and particularly Garbo - exert over us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Watch This: Shirley Clarke's Color-filled, Experimental, Anti-war Film BUTTERFLY

Experimental filmmaker Shirley Clarke (1919-1997) began her career as a dancer and her films reflect her interest in kinetic motion. They really move, even when the camera stands still. Here is a film she made in protest of the Vietnam war in 1967. Clarke herself is featured along with her daughter Wendy. It is an object lesson in how to say a lot with the materials at hand, and how to make visual music with colors and textures. The film itself was scratched, gouged and burned with corrosive chemicals.


Monday, January 26, 2015

FORCE MAJEURE Director Ruben Östlund's YouTube Playlist

In preparation for the Austin Film Society's Ruben Östlund series, we went through a lot of Östlund's interviews and found, not surprisingly, that the man is a YouTube nut in a big way. Once you pinpoint the YouTube influence in his films it is easy to see how his shot composition, use of long takes and emphasis on awkward and embarrassing moments is aesthetically indebted to YouTube videos.

Here are a few YouTube videos that Östlund has identified in interviews as being influential on his work.

You'll recognize this hyper-dramatic, hyper-proficient accordion (bayan, actually) performance from FORCE MAJEURE. It is a piece by Vivaldi played by the Ukrainian bayanist Alexander Hrustevich. Just hearing this piece will take you back to the slopes and into the world of FORCE MAJEURE.

The final sequence of FORCE MAJEURE is based on this video of a Spanish tour bus driver lurching down a curvy switchbacked incline.

The avalanche sequence in the film is based on this pulse-pounding sequence in which a real, controlled avalanche appears to consume a ski resort.

The scene where Tomas cries in the hallway was inspired by this harrowing man-weep from a reality TV episode. 

Östlund's earlier films are also informed by YouTube videos. He cited this nature video as a favorite and we can see how it may have influenced his films PLAY and INVOLUNTARY. (Warning: cycle of life, etc...)

Here's another one that he has cited as an influence on his work. A cab-driver who went to the BBC to interview for a job is mistaken for an IT expert and hustled before a camera. He plays along as best he can. It's awkward but it also makes us reflect to what extent we are all doing this to some degree or another in our lives.

To put it all into perspective, here is Östlund on the last video here: "I once saw this YouTube clip about how much we know about the universe. The camera zooms out from Earth to about eighty billion light years away or something, and I realized the triviality of family conflict is meaningless, ultimately. But when you’re close to the situation, the feelings of shame are very powerful. I like to be able to step out of the situation and put it in context—to show that there are other conflicts that are much more important than the relationships we put so much time into.")

Thanks to Michael A. Gonzalez for research.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Jeanne Moreau

Actress, director and singer Jeanne Moreau turns 87 years old today. Her career began in the 1940s and she is still very active today.

Her unforgettable performance in JULES & JIM cemented her art-house immortality but it is her many other roles as well which have made her one of the best known, most loved and respected performers in the world. She has reached the deserved stage now of representing a whole era of cinema and cinema love.

As others of her generation pass, there are fewer and fewer eligible recipients of our collective gratitude to all of them. And so to Jean Moreau we offer our sincere and overflowing thanks and love not only for her own astounding work and humanity, but to the attitude and devotion to honesty and beauty that she so effectively helped to catalyze as the Queen of her generation.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Celebrating D.W. Griffith on the 140th Anniversary of His Birth with AN UNSEEN ENEMY

To mention D.W. Griffith today is to invite either a blank look, or a look of scorn. Griffith's first great film was BIRTH OF A NATION, an adaptation of a deeply racist novel, Thomas Dixon, Jr's "The Clansman". It's a magnificent film in its artistry and scale and at the same time it's subject matter is very troubling now, and was troubling to much of his audience at the time. Griffith was stung by the critical response to the film - though it did extraordinarily well at the box office.

He followed up BIRTH OF A NATION with the very personal, vast, sprawling, visionary epic INTOLERANCE, which many consider to be one of the greatest films ever made. It's an enormous film and one in which Griffith makes his case against intolerance and for equality among people. It was not a hit and Griffith was for the most part subsequently reduced to more intimate dramas, which he made brilliantly, as the screens undisputed master director and scenarist.

Griffith's genius in evident even in the short "one reelers" he made early in his career. Many of the elements in film we take for granted: close-ups, cross-cutting for tension, characterization through framing, etc. were either originated or perfected by Griffith. But his films are not to be watched as cold, dry history exhibits. They swell with life. In this film, 1912's AN UNSEEN ENEMY, the pair of sisters (Lillian and Dorothy Gish) have a mythological innocence and beauty as they contend with the most melodramatic peril imaginable. There are scenes of intense and unforgettable beauty, such as when Dorothy meets her young admirer in the field of swaying leaves as her sister Lillian looks on. All the magic that is so difficult to express in words is there. Like most workings of genius it seems simple, obvious, right - but it takes the genius to bring it into being.

D.W. Griffith was the genius who brought the whole thing - movies as an art form - into being. He was the director who told the story subtly, without stage affectations. He seemed to tap into the very nervous systems of his performers and drive their performances - in fact he stood just out of camera range and directed their every move. If AN UNSEEN ENEMY were a story in a book, it would not be a very good one. If it were a play, it would be impossible. As a film, it stands as a small masterwork, full of the complex interplay between light and subject, watcher and watched, that makes the cinema something we love not merely with our minds, but with our hearts.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mindblowing Raw Camera Roll Footage from Sergei Eisenstein's Doomed Mexican Adventure

Back in 1930, Sergei Eisenstein, the Soviet film pioneer responsible for BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN, was offered a chance to make films in America. Paramount Pictures honcho Jesse L. Lasky brought him to Hollywood and he got to work on a number of projects which never materialized for various reasons. Eventually an anti-communist wave of sentiment drove him off the lot and he ended up forming a new company with leftist author Upton Sinclair (THE JUNGLE, OIL!) and his wife to produce an apolitical film about Mexico.

The consent of the Mexican government was acquired and Eisenstein, along with his Soviet crew, travelled to Mexico and began work. They met with Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, shot hundreds of reels of film and mustered their resources for large scale recreations of battles. But elsewhere pressure was mounting. In Hollywood, Sinclair and his wife worried about the drain on the budget with seemingly little progress. In Moscow, Stalin was calling for Eisenstein to return or risk being branded a deserter. The Sinclairs canceled production and recalled Eisenstein and crew to the states.

At the border, customs officials found drawings they deemed sacrilegious and pornographic so the whole retinue was detained near Laredo and denied re-entry. Finally a visa was produced which allowed them to travel to New York and from there to return to the USSR, so they went east for good and the film returned to Hollywood where it was chopped into several travelogue style films.

Eventually, in 1979, a film was constructed that was believed to be close to Eisenstein's vision of his original film. It is called QUE VIVA MEXICO and it won several awards and reminded the world of the potency and purity of Eisenstein's vision.

Here are some of the raw, unedited shots direct from Eisenstein's camera. It's powerful stuff, both as a documentation of Mexican ritual at the time and of the eye for composition of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Watch DAY OF THE FIGHT, a Short Doc by 22 Year Old Stanley Kubrick

You hear it again and again, mainly from people who know what they're talking about, if you want to make films, get out there and make films. Here's a self-financed 16mm short film from a young aspirant named Stanley Kubrick. You can see him gaining the confidence in his storytelling ability, finding his trademark compositions, and even branching out and trying some tricky camera moves (such as the tracking shot at 1:31). It's not as good as his mature work of course, but as a glimpse into his early working methods it's fascinating.

It is shot in the style of some of the better newsreels. These were generally done quick and dirty, with one camera, with the occasional symbolic or artful shot, if there's time to grab it. The music is by Kubrick's young contemporary Gerald Fried who went on to score FEAR AND DESIRE, KILLER'S KISS, THE KILLING and PATHS OF GLORY and many, many television episodes.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Oliver Reed vs. Shelley Winters: A Battle to Remember

Actors Oliver Reed and Shelley Winters are both screen legends, and both were known for being difficult on set. Here they are together on the Tonight Show in 1975. Whether it was a dreadful booking mistake or a stroke of genius we will likely never know, but the results speak for themselves.

Reed, always a memorable screen presence, does little to endear himself to the audience - his opinions on gender equality seem downright prehistoric - and Winters steps forward with the perfect gesture for the win.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Guerilla TV Coverage of the 1976 Academy Awards

The San Francisco-based video collective TVTV was founded in 1972 by a group of technicians and other enthusiasts who were eager to seize the means of image-making. They were greatly aided by the development of portable video systems like the Sony Portapak. Shoulder-held video cameras were so uncommon at the time that the operators could fade into the surroundings with much more ease than 16mm film shooters who needed to reload often and be more conscious of their light.

TVTV made astonishing fly-on-the wall documentaries about national political conventions, the Super Bowl, the nature and values of advertising, and more. They were aided by such later-well-known collaborators as Bill & Brian Doyle Murray, Harold Ramis, and others. Their programs provide some invaluable new angles of American culture and entertainment.

Here is the TVTV coverage of the preparations surrounding the 1976 Academy Awards. The access is amazing. It's an unmissable hour, featuring Lilly Tomlin, Lee Grant, Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg, Ronee Blakley, Bill Murray and so many others.

As a quick teaser, check out Steven Spielberg and friends watching the 1976 TV announcement of nominations, in which Spielberg was not nominated for Best Director for JAWS. Spielberg's friends, loquacious character actors Joe Spinell and Frank Pesce, help communicate the hilarious outrage felt that day at the Spielberg compound.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

AFS Flashback: Richard Linklater Tells His Best Dennis Hopper Stories

Austin Film Society Founder & Artistic Director Richard Linklater hosted a screening and discussion series in 2014 called Jewels In The Wasteland. It featured 35mm film screenings of films that were released between 1980 and 1983, mainly films that Rick had seen as a nascent film lover and had not revisited since. All kinds of films were featured, from KING OF COMEDY to FANNY & ALEXANDER, and there were lengthy introductions and audience discussions each night.

Here's a listing of all the films shown in the series. And here is Linklater's "Further Viewing List" of films from the same period, some of which no longer had available 35mm and some of which we could not show due to scheduling restrictions.

One of the high points of the series was the screening of Dennis Hopper's fantastic OUT OF THE BLUE. Linklater had attended Hopper's 1983 presentation of the film in Houston, which ended up being a really memorable night.

Here's Linklater to tell the story:

And here's video from that (as it turned out) fateful night in Hopper's life:

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

That's Entertainment! Watch the Nicholas Brothers Defy Physics and Gravity in this 1943 Musical Number

This clips starts out well enough with Cab Calloway and his orchestra in their inimitable groove. This is Hall-Of-Fame entertaining here - masters who have honed their craft in front of exacting and demanding nightclub audiences. If all we got in this clip of the 1943 musical STORMY WEATHER was Cab and company, we would be in a state of near-total entertainment. But there's more. And so much more. This is what happens when performance traditions going back for generations meet the audacity and flash of eager youth. It's dizzying to watch. It's heroic.

The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard and Harold, had grown up on the stage and had, by default, the greatest dancing education imaginable for African Americans during the early part of the 20th century. The eldest, Fayard, watched such luminaries as Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson from the wings of the stage and sought to pick up as many steps as he could. The two brothers soaked up styles and influences from every available quarter and added their own dynamic showmanship. 

They appeared in dozens of movies together. Some, like STORMY WEATHER were films directed at African American audiences. In films that were intended for general, mixed audiences, the Nicholas Brothers' scenes, as well as those of other non-white entertainers were frequently excised for showings south of the Mason Dixon line.

Watch the brothers in action below. Warning, don't try this at home.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Who Killed the Chauffeur? INHERENT VICE and the Tradition of the Impossibly Convoluted Detective Plot

Paul Thomas Anderson's INHERENT VICE is in theaters now and it is weaving its spell of confusion on audiences everywhere. The labyrinthine convolutions in plot may rightly be seen as the trademark of the author of the original novel, Thomas Pynchon. But there are honorable cinematic antecedents as well.

The straight detective movie makes the viewer a detective, he or she is watching for signs, reading the witnesses, collecting clues and putting it all together as the film goes on. The perverse detective movie enjoys cramping the viewers' powers of observation. It gets into the mechanism of logical collation and jams the gears. INHERENT VICE is just the latest in a tradition of perverse detective movies.

Howard Hawks' THE BIG SLEEP (1946) was also derived from a literary source, Raymond Chandler's great, prowling LA detective novel. Chandler provided the original story which was adapted by what is possibly the greatest team of writers ever assembled for one film - William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, Jules Furthman and (uncredited) Hawks himself, a prolific though generally uncredited writing collaborator.

To view THE BIG SLEEP is to become so enveloped in the joy of the dialogue and the personalities of Bogart and Bacall and the humor of the situations that the plot becomes meaningless. We may find ourselves losing the thread of the murder story but with so many other delightful distractions at hand, we probably don't much care. The grace notes overwhelm the piece itself and we accept it, because it works as part of a higher order.

Interestingly, during a story conference the scriptwriters ran into a loose end that they could not nail down. Who killed the Sternwood's chauffeur? The novel itself gave few hints. The logic of the plot did not point to any particular beneficiary of the murder. Hawks rang up the novel's author, Raymond Chandler and asked him. Chandler's response was "damned if I know."

Brackett adapted Chandler's later novel THE LONG GOODBYE years later, in 1973, to be exact. Robert Altman directed and Elliott Gould starred as detective Philip Marlowe. This time the convolutions were added during the filming process, as Altman and Gould let the wandering muse guide them down back-alleys and expensive private drives that neither Chandler or Brackett had intended. But the spirit is there - a particular variety of golden sun and neon moonglow lights Marlowe's tortuous and picaresque way.

The Coen Brothers' THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) is practically a cinematic essay on the "man with a code in an absurd and unknowable moral labyrinth" story that the two Chandler adaptations had lit the way for. The plot is regarded with such contempt that it is never resolved. There is not even a bowling tournament. It is a clear riff on THE BIG SLEEP's oddball melange of characters, and a love letter to the cinema of unfollowability.

I was discussing INHERENT VICE with someone the other day and he said "I need to see it sober. I watched it stoned and I couldn't follow the plot." Well, I watched it sober and I couldn't either. I didn't try very hard. It's fun to let a movie like this bob you up and down like an overloaded waterbed.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Richard Linklater Talks Film, AFS & Thin Lizzy on Marc Maron's Podcast

This week Marc Maron's WTF podcast presents an hour and a half interview with Richard Linklater. It's interesting stuff. Of course they talk about BOYHOOD a bunch, but there's at least a detour through the other Linklater career chapters and a whole segment about Phil Lynott, Thin Lizzy, Captain Beefheart and other musical influences.

There's also a whole long part about the Austin Film Society. Heres an excerpt:

Maron: Didn't you create the Austin Film Society

Linklater: Yeah, yeah. Almost 30 years ago.

Maron: 30 years!

Linklater: We started in '85. Started showing movies.

Maron: Is that what the original intent was?

Linklater: Yeah, we just showed a lot of movies you couldn't see on campus or anywhere else in town.

Linklater: I was so passionate about film. I was making my own films then but I kind of wanted to do something. I had a bigger calling about cinema. And I still do, you know. We give out grants. We show a ton of movies. I still host film series. You know I'm not doing the grunt work like I did for all those years... In my non-productive 20s I did start a non-profit organization that's still around and is a major non-profit...

Maron: Does it have its own venue now?

Linklater: Yeah. The Marchesa. We've got our own 200-plus seat theater. We show movies there on film. We're fighting the good fight.

Maron: Every day?

Linklater: Yeah, we show 20 something a month. We've given out 1.4, 1.5 million in grants to filmmakers around the state. I'm as proud of the Film Society and what it's become - what we've accomplished - as my own films. It's been a wonderful parallel life that I can put time into when I can.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Happy Birthday Nicolas Cage - Watch this Extended 2014 Career-Spanning Interview

Happy 51st birthday to an actor who is never less than hardworking and conscientious, and is often brilliant - one of the most inspired actors around, in fact. I was not at this Nicolas Cage SXSW panel last year and I have been dogged by regret ever since. Thankfully an audience member shot it and it's pure uncut Cage all the way. It's amazing to hear him open up about his performances and his acting style. As he says here: "I think there's a little bit of VAMPIRE'S KISS in every man and every woman."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Essential Cinema Guest Programmer Zachary Brailsford on the Films of Jacques Rivette

Here's a special contribution from guest programmer Zachary Brailsford. The Essential Cinema series UPSIDE-DOWN AND INSIDE-OUT: FIVE ENCOUNTERS WITH JACQUES RIVETTE begins Thursday January 8.

When considering the length of a film, one most often will find films ranging from roughly eighty minutes to one-hundred and twenty, something it seems most people agree on as a running time for which to take little offense. Some filmmakers, though (Lav Diaz, Bela Tarr, etc.), have pushed the boundaries of what an audience will be willing to sit through in order to more carefully craft and tell their stories. Jacques Rivette, a filmmaker whose works range from eighty-four minutes to around thirteen hours, is one of these filmmakers; his stories build and take the time they need, worrying little for the aggressiveness of an audience so long as the story can be told well and correctly.

In this series, there are several films of length, most notably CELINE & JULIE GO BOATING (1974) and VA SAVOIR (2001), and the use of duration allows for the films to flow freely between subjects, finding different paths and points of narrative that might otherwise be missed. The films are also very fun. What joy it is to see the opening moments of CELINE & JULIE as Julie (Dominique Labourier) follows behind Celine (Juliet Berto), picking up the items that keep falling out of the other’s bag, all across Montmarte, and then to watch the plot evolve into something more sinister, all the while keeping the light-hearted women at the dead center. Their personalities overcome the toxic nature of the plot that is, in many ways, consuming them. The free-wheeling camera-work only supports the light-hearted nature of the film as a whole, allowing stories to be told by the ever-present protagonists. In a male-dominated medium, it is wonderful and impressive to see a film in which women can grab hold of the narrative and twist it to their own liking without succumbing to the typical gender representations often present in cinema.

Another film in the series, LE PONT DU NORD (1981), is similar, although a little more frightening, as Paris itself becomes a web of dark deeds and conspiracies, and two women strangers, Marie and Baptiste, (mother and daughter Bulle and Pascale Ogier, respectively) must band together in an attempt to break the conspiring nature of the world around them and get out safe and free. It is a film that seems more angry - maybe Rivette was still bothered by the events of ‘68 and how nothing had come of them (OUT 1 [1970] and CELINE & JULIE both are also comments on it), and so he took to looking for hope in seedier people. Both Celine and Julie had been fun-loving women (one a librarian and the other a magician), but Marie, at the start of the film, has just been let out of prison, and Baptiste, a motorcycle-riding punk, flies through the streets and destroys advertisements that represent the fear in modern society plastered on the sides of walls. It is another film that takes its time (it is roughly two hours), and watching the interplay between the two women over the course of the film - how they meet and become partners, and then friends - brings to light the idea that women can and should rely on each other to find favor in the world. Every step they turn there is another man in their way, but they’re stronger than them: they persevere.

Both of these films create images of cultures often not explored in most cinema, and are thus more intriguing for it. Rivette crafted films that would allow a sort of power-struggle in which women never had a “place” they needed to be (and when it seems they do, they usually break out and do their own thing). One of the more radical of the nouvelle vague, he seems to be one of the few of them ready and willing to approach this topic; Rohmer’s films (at least most of his early films) typically revolved around the male perspective coming to terms with the female perspective, but always from the side of men. Truffaut focused on himself through his Antoine Doinel series, DAY FOR NIGHT (1973), etc., and the problems he was causing. Godard did put a focus on women - and in some very great films - but his women were either extensions of himself or, more often than not, Anna Karina, who he seemed to attempt to dominate through the celluloid. Chabrol, who made so many films, definitely was at least able to craft a few about women and their strength, most notably La Cérémonie (1995), although the image he portrays in this film is one of bourgeoisie darkness destroyed beyond repair, making the “hero” women not so much better than the “villain” victims.

Rivette, though, pushed further from narrative and genre conventions, and only Godard was as radical as he. Patterns of editing, story construction, length of scenes and shots: all were handled deliberately with a method for telling stories differently than almost anyone else, and with an ideology that it seemed few other filmmakers (especially men) were willing to get behind. Not to mention that the films themselves are a blast - they move and twist and shed their skin, they include dance and magic and performances, they highlight truths few others choose to highlight, and they do it with a joy and exuberance unmatched. Even in Rivette’s old age was he still able to accomplish these things, as can be seen in VA SAVOIR, THE STORY OF MARIE AND JULIEN (2003), and two more from this series, THE DUCHESS OF LANGEAIS (2007), and AROUND A SMALL MOUNTAIN (2009), although in these four films Rivette chooses to expand the scope of each film’s perspective and give different views on similar topics as he’d always tackled. Rivette tells his stories well, at the length in which he needs to tell them, and he does it better than almost anyone else.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Chale Nafus Presents an Avant Cinema Primer: Walter Ruttmann's Not-So-Silly Symphonies

AFS Director Of Programming Chale Nafus contributes this piece, a corollary to his ongoing Avant Cinema screening series:

German avant-garde director Walter Ruttmann is today best known for BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY (1927). This was his entry into the “city symphony” genre, experimental documentaries depicting a day-in-the-life of major cities through hundreds of moving images of streets, buildings, forms of transportation, workers, school children, shoppers, diners, and people at leisure.

Such films as Alberto Cavalcanti’s urban portrait PARIS RIEN QUE LES HEURES (1926), Adalberto Kemeny’s SÃO PAULO (1929), and even Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler’s early American example, MANHATTA (1921) joined BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY in establishing the one-day structure and the brisk editing style which made this genre so enjoyable. Even today, while being swept along by one of these films, we feel that we are not only in a very creative travelogue but also a time machine.

Before creating BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A GREAT CITY, Walter Ruttmann was busy painting, doing graphic design, and making very interesting short experimental films focused primarily on abstract shapes in conflict or collusion or simply existing – the Lichtspiel series [“light play” or another word for movies]. These shorts liberated future animators’ minds to explore painted images in motion – some figurative, some abstract. Walt Disney’s FANTASIA might not look the same if Ruttmann had not made his early contributions to film art.

Lichtspiel Opus I (1921)

Opus 2 (1921)

Opus 3 (1924)

Opus 4 (1925)

These films should have been enough for Hitler’s culture police to deem Ruttmann a “degenerate artist” – relegated to exile or worse – but perhaps because of BERLIN: SYMPHONY OF A CITY, which even Nazis could understand, Ruttmann stayed on in Germany. He worked within the fascist-controlled film industry after 1933 – running a camera for Leni Riefenstahl’s TRIUMPH OF THE WILL (1935) and helping edit her OLYMPIA (1938). When war broke out, his documentary background was put to use in making propaganda films. Ruttmann was shot on one of the German battle fronts in 1941, camera in hand. He soon died of his wounds in a Berlin hospital.

Further reading here.

Enjoy these Fire-breathing Jim Henson Commercials

Jim Henson was one of the great, visionary creators in the moving-image field. But before all the big projects and multimedia success, Henson and his crew paid the bills by making TV commercials.

These commercials are witty, smart, funny and cool. You really get a sense of Henson's varied and diverse skills here, and his great influence on culture.

An enormous, fire-breathing dragon helps out in the kitchen

A can of spray-on fabric conditioner brings clothes to life, literally

A blue monster tricks a circus weightlifter, and enjoys a weird soda

Return of the La Choy dragon

Friday, January 2, 2015

AFS Viewfinders Podcast Episode 2: Louis Black - Growing Up in Cinema-Mad New York in the '60s

The new AFS Viewfinders podcast episode is up. You can listen to it here or search AFS Viewfinders in iTunes to listen to it there. In this installment we talk to Austin Chronicle editor, SXSW co-founder, AFS founding board member and Texas Film Awards Lifetime Achievement Award winner Louis Black.
Louis Black, an unidentified Disney staffer and Leonard Maltin

Black grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, just a short hop from Manhattan, which during the '60s had the most thriving film exhibition scene imaginable. In the podcast he talks about how he and his best friend Len (known to the rest of us as Leonard Maltin) used to spend all weekend going into the city, browsing through film stills and memorabilia at the many bookstores and bookstalls near Union Square, then visiting museum screenings where they had to ask adults to get tickets for them, and then attending 16mm screenings at some of New York's film societies, which met in leaky office buildings and basements.

Black recalls encounters with the man who inspired Robert Bloch to create Norman Bates, and a memorable meeting with Buster Keaton, while Samuel Beckett stood nearby and tapped his foot. Our conversation digresses at times into television of comic books but I hope you'll forgive us, it all helps to paint a picture of this marvelous, irretrievable culture.

MR. TURNER & NATIONAL GALLERY as seen by an art critic

This morning's Times brought much delight with long-time art critic Roberta Smith's take on her favorite new films about art, focusing specifically on MR. TURNER and NATIONAL GALLERY. She found that each of these films "says so much about the activity central to both making and experiencing art, which is simply the act of looking, whether as work, pleasure or exploration of both the world and the self." Her insights on MR. TURNER are a particularly rewarding read, but she also points out the reasons why any art lover needs to see Frederick Wiseman's newest masterwork. 

(If you are in Austin, you can catch NATIONAL GALLERY this Sunday at the Marchesa followed by a virtual Q&A with Frederick Wiseman. For readers in other cities, there will also be video Q&As Sunday at Nashville's Belcourt Theatre and Dallas' Texas Theatre).