Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy Kuchar Brothers Day!

Filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar were born on this day in 1942. George died in 2011 but Mike is happily still with us. The Kuchar Brothers made a 15 movies together, of variable lengths and the two each made solo films, with George producing an enormous number of them.

The Kuchars' main body of films celebrated a hectic trash/camp aesthetic. They can be terrifically funny and they can also induce a state of temporary insanity in the viewer. The Kuchars have an odd sense of humor and a fully-formed painterly aesthetic. These films are not for everyone, but, chances are, if you like them - you'll really like them. One of their main adherents, John Waters, said that the Kuchar's films "gave me the self confidence to believe in my own tawdry vision.”

The best place for the uninitiated to start with the Kuchars is the 2009 doc IT CAME FROM KUCHAR but if you prefer to be thrown into the deep end, here's George Kuchar's overheated HOLD ME WHILE I'M NAKED (1966). It's not for everyone, but what is, really?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Indie Meme's Alka Bhanot Goes Beyond Bollywood On Lights Camera Austin

We're very lucky to have an organization like Indie Meme in Austin, promoting screenings of South Asian films that go far beyond the usual highly commercial offerings from Bollywood. Indie Meme holds regular screening events in Austin and is also a film distributor, placing quality titles within reach of all sorts of venues throughout the U.S.

Here, Indie Meme honcho Alka Bhanot talks to KOOP's Robert Sims about what Indie Meme is about and what they have coming up. Enjoy.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Watch This: Dick Cavett's Interview with the Ever-Fascinating Richard Burton

Richard Burton was an actor of exceptional gifts, and one of his greatest gifts was that of presence. He uses his magnificent voice and sense of timing to produce something like a hypnotic state. At times, in films, he could even make the viewer forget that the material was beneath him, and it frequently was.

Here is Burton in something close to his element, telling stories and disarming the eager interviewer, Dick Cavett, in a 1980 TV appearance. He is candid, in the manner of his diaries. Burton did not leave us as great a wealth of fine cinematic performances as we might have liked, but we can tell here that must have cut a memorable figure in person.

Here's a sample:
"Years ago I went to a party in Hollywood and there were about 20 people there and there was this lady, sort of 40 years old I thought, perhaps, which seemed to me then to be like 100, because I was only about 25 or -6 or something. But I found her absolutely fascinating. 
"I told her some what I thought were funny stories and she thought were funny too and she told me some. And they were, to my surprise, because she looked very much like a lady, they were faintly, slightly blue. And I remember at one point sort of (grabbing her knee). 
"So anyway, I then went to my wife Sibyl, and I said, "I've just met the most fascinating woman, that lady over there." She said, "That is Greta Garbo."

Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy 83rd Birthday Melvin Van Peebles - Hear His Story In His Own Words

Melvin Van Peebles kicked off the blaxploitation film cycle with 1971's SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG, which he wrote, directed, edited, starred in, and wrote music for. In addition to this, he is a pioneer in independent film production and distribution going way back to his first efforts in the late '50s. Here he talks, in his inimitable way, about how he got his start as a filmmaker.

Why is Yale University Library Collecting Thousands of Low-Brow VHS Tapes?

There's a nice article in The Atlantic this month by David Gary about Yale's VHS preservation initiative, which has been focused on saving horror and exploitation titles on VHS. There's no doubt that the VHS wave has a great deal of historical interest - with some videotapes selling for hundreds of dollars on collectors' markets - and that many of the films that were released on VHS have never made it to any subsequent video platform (the article's author cites an estimated figure of 40 to 45%).

For any who see this as a futile exercise and an example of unfortunate institutional hoarding, bear in mind that many of the films that are now lost - films we would today see as historically and artistically important - were discarded years ago because they were seen as low-cultural trash. Scholars today would kill for a print of the Tod Browning/Lon Chaney silent LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, but it was not considered a worthy enough candidate for preservation when there was still time. Future cultural archaeologists may well find more of value in NAIL GUN MASSACRE than they find in the entire filmography of, say, David O. Russell.

Here, is Yale's own guide to the collection.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Watch This: Laura Dern on the Brilliance and Humanity of Barbara Stanwyck

I've shared this TCM video many times over the past few years. It's still the best video essay I have ever seen. The selection of clips is perfect, the subject matter, Barbara Stanwyck, is fascinating. Laura Dern's appreciation of Stanwyck and her work is so heartfelt and moving. The appreciation has added weight because Dern herself is such a good actress, and so clearly in awe of Stanwyck.

Enjoy it:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

From Film Comment: Penelope Spheeris Talks About the DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Penelope Spheeris and daughter Anna Fox, responsible for bringing the films back into circulation

Director Penelope Spheeris will join AFS on August 28 and 29 for screenings of her classic docs DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION parts I-III and her narrative SUBURBIA.

Here is an interview from Film Comment about the DECLINE films and how they are seeing the light of day again after years in which they were difficult to gain access to.

One of the most underrated aspects of the films is Spheeris' ability to live and work among chaotic surroundings. About that, she says:
I was comfortable with the chaos, I think. That’s kind of my background: I came from a pretty chaotic family background, people were always like beating each other up and everything. I think what I wanted to do was just kind of organize shit, you know what I mean? Like, “Oh, this is total chaos, let me organize it all.” That was just my instinct. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

James Ponsoldt's END OF THE TOUR AFS Q&A and Film Stage Interview

Director James Ponsoldt joined us at AFS on August 6 for an advance screening of THE END OF THE TOUR, the new film based on a series of encounters between author David Foster Wallace and journalist David Lipsky. Wallace is portrayed by Jason Segal and Kipsy is played by Jesse Eisenberg.

Here, AFS Associate Artistic Director Holly Herrick talks to Ponsoldt and University of Texas Professor, and author of "The Legacy Of David Foster Wallace" Heather Houser. There's a lot of discussion about David Foster Wallace here.

Also that night, Bill Graham of The Film Stage caught up with Ponsoldt. Their interview is here.

THE END OF THE TOUR is now playing in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, Violet Crown and the Regal Arbor.

Happy 95th Birthday Maureen O'Hara: Watch Her Stump a Game Show Panel

There are so few links to Hollywood's Golden Era still with us today. Maureen O'Hara is on the younger fringe of the great stars but she enlivened such classics as DANCE, GIRL, DANCE (1940), HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941), MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (1947) and THE QUIET MAN (1952). Her charm, grace, talent and extraordinary beauty made her one of the most cherished stars of her era. Today she turns 95 years old. It's an honor to share oxygen with her.

She appeared on a 1959 episode of the TV game show WHAT'S MY LINE, during the celebrity portion of the show, in which blindfolded panelists attempt to determine a guest's identity by listening to answers to their questions. That accounts for O'Hara's disguised voice in the clip. She's sweet and funny and we can only wish the show were in color.

Watch it here.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's Alfred Hitchcock Day! Enjoy these Polish Hitchcock Posters

Alfred Hitchcock (born on this day in 1899) is, of course one of the best known filmmakers in the world. Polish poster designers seemed to especially relish creating posters for Hitch's films. Here are a few of the best.


VERTIGO (1958)

THE BIRDS (1963)


Happy Hitchcock Day!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Filmmaking Advice from Samuel Fuller, Born on this Day in 1912

Samuel Fuller (1912-1997) was an American iconoclast in best tradition. He started working in newspaper offices at age 12, later becoming a hustling crime reporter, where he got a lot of material for later scripts. He eventually became a novelist and a Hollywood screenwriter. When America entered WWII he enlisted and saw some of the toughest fighting in the European theater. He was present at the liberation of a concentration camp and filmed it. Years later, these experiences formed the basis of one of his greatest films, the anti-war war movie THE BIG RED ONE (1980). By the end of the war he had acquired a Bronze Star, Silver Star and Purple Heart.

After the war he began directing films from his own scripts. His films are special. They have a reporter's eye for the telling detail, a novelist's feel for character and a soldier's appreciation of the value of life and death. Some of Fuller's best films include THE STEEL HELMET (1951), PARK ROW (1952) a period film about the newspaper business in turn-of-the-century New York, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953), referred to extensively in the first clip below, in which a small-time pickpocket unknowingly becomes involved in a matter with international implications, FORTY GUNS (1957) a psychological western that helped to change the visual vocabulary of action movies, SHOCK CORRIDOR (1963) and THE NAKED KISS (1964), inexpensive films that defied censorship and packed a mighty wallop of social relevance, the aforementioned THE BIG RED ONE (1980) and 1982's nearly indescribably WHITE DOG.

Advice from someone who lived as deeply, and made films as good, as Samuel Fuller carries a lot of weight. Keep it in mind.

Here's a sample:
"So for the benefit of all the young (people) who want to make a picture: always be in a position to control what you want. Because you never get another chance. You cannot alibi. You can't say later, when the picture's out, "oh, I wanted to do this. I wanted to do that." Do what you have to do when you do it. And if it stinks you take the blame. If it's successful and they like it, and especially if it makes money, you take all the praise. With drinks of course. You should always have somebody give you a drink, which I don't have here. That's a hint. All these wonderful people around here (motions to documentary crew) and nobody has a drink!"
"I write with the camera! Once I'm on the set I use the camera as a typewriter. I use the camera and, whether it's graceful or poetic or fast, it has to have the tempo of music."
"Whether it's a drive or a hobby or fun, you still hit hard on one word, which only the camera can really do, and that's EMOTION."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Resource Alert: 40 Years Of Raw Press Junket Interview Footage

Sigourney Weaver interviewed during ALIEN press junket

Here's a really fascinating journey through film and television history. Bobbie Wygant was longtime entertainment reporter for Dallas' NBC affiliate KXAS (she started in 1948!), and she went on many press junkets throughout the late '70s and beyond, taping interviews with many Hollywood directors and stars.

Here is a Vimeo page that collects many of these interviews. In many cases it is the raw, unedited footage. It's fascinating, and the footage looks crystal clear. The prerecorded and reassembled nature of some of the interviews results in some awkwardness, like this Molly Ringwald/Judd Nelson "I don't really want to be here fest."

There are interviews with the Star Wars cast, Ingmar Bergman, Sean Connery, Jodie Foster, Rip Torn, Dolly Parton, Mr. T, Pauline Kael, and many, many others. This is nuts.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Watch This: A Wild 1930 Pre-Code Color Musical Set In Hell

Here's a real oddity - a musical short, made at MGM in 1930 using an early color film process - that depicts Satan's difficulties getting new customers in the door and the efforts of Satan's marketing department to spearhead (or forkhead) some new sales initiatives. It's sweet and silly and pre-code and delightful. Enjoy.

Part One:

Part Two:

h/t Laird Jimenez

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Was Robert Mitchum the Coolest Guy Ever? Evidence Points to Yes

Actor Robert Mitchum, known for his tough demeanor and melodious deep voice, was born on this date in 1917. Back in 1971 he joined Dick Cavett for a long form interview on Cavett's legendary talk show. It's one of the best talk show interviews I've ever seen and Mitchum, who was a proto-counterculturalist from way back, comes across as extraordinarily cool, composed, intelligent, and, frankly, a little drunk.

This will get you to part one. Just follow the YouTube links to watch the rest. You'll be so glad you did.

Breaking: Library Of Congress has THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED

There's a cool article in the Los Angeles Times today about the Library Of Congress' "Mostly Lost" film festival, which brings academics, experts and hobbyists together to look at reels of film and hopefully identify, collate and place them in their proper historical context. It sounds like a lot of fun, but the big takeaway (and hall of fame level buried lede) from the article is the news from Rob Stone, moving image coordinator at the LOC, that the archive has acquired a large Jerry Lewis collection, presumably from Lewis himself, that includes the negative of the long suppressed film THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED.

Stone appears to have dropped the news on the crowd in an impromptu fit of enthusiasm. After the assembled archivists recovered their bearings, Stone also added that the film was embargoed for ten years. Since many of us assumed that Lewis would take steps to destroy the film, this is great news, 10-year delay or no.

THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED is something of a white whale for fans of Jerry Lewis films. Lewis made the film, about a clown who leads children into Nazi gas chambers, in 1972 but it was tied up in litigation with the producer and remained unreleased for years. Later, Lewis said "You will never see it. No one will ever see it, because I am embarrassed at the poor work." Comedian Harry Shearer claims to have seen it in 1979. His response: "his movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. "Oh My God!" — that's all you can say."

The script is available online in several different places, and table reads have been staged of the script, but surprisingly, despite the widespread desire to see THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, there have been no leaked versions of the film, only a few tantalizing minutes of behind the scenes footage.

The ten year (or more - we'll see) delay on any kind of release of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, is a bummer, but it puts us that much closer to eventually seeing the film at all. Lewis will in all likelihood be dead by then, and the irony of the timing might be that the film could end up being a major component in his legacy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Watch This: A One Hour Documentary about Werner Herzog from 1982

Nobody pronounces the words "prehistorical dinosaurs" like Werner Herzog. It's something like "prehistoorical dino-sours." If hearing and seeing a young Werner Herzog wandering around with a camera crew and musing pessimistically; playing soccer and talking about his favorite soccer player; riding the prow of a small boat and philosophizing about shipwrecks, etc; sounds like a party to you - strap on the pointy hat and press play here.

Along the way he also speaks with film historian Lotte Eisner, and there are many illustrative clips from his films. It's good stuff.