Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Year In Movie Longreads Part 3: The Final Chapter

Here is a third and final round-up of some of 2016's best long-form writing on the subject of film.

  • In Hazlitt.net, Soraya Roberts writes about Winona Ryder as a performer, and a phenomenon, in "Winona, Forever."
  • The BFI has reprinted a diary by the late Raoul Coutard, not a household name, but one of the most important image-makers in the medium's history, in which he reveals what he learned from working on Godard's early films.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Longreads II: Eclectic Overview

For your holiday season delectation, here are a few more of the best movie related long-form pieces from 2016. My title is meant to be a play on BREAKIN' II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. If that was not immediately obvious, I hope you will now re-read it, understand the joke, and laugh appreciatively.

Here are the articles:

  • Davis Bertrand takes us inside the Ugandan commercial film industry, colloquially known as Wakaliwood, in his expansive Hazlitt.net piece, "Small But Supa Tough."
  • The New Yorker has a fascinating piece, written by Tad Friend, profiling mid-budget movie exec Adam Fogelson, "The Mogul Of The Middle." Lots of insight about the financial realities of movies today.
  • The BFI takes a fresh look at Film Noir's French bona fides. Ginette Vincendeau shows us that France provided more than just a name to this legendarily American form in the article "How the French Birthed Film Noir."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Year in Movie Longreads, Episode I: The Phantom Thinkpiece

Every year there are a number of long, substantive articles; thinkpieces, profiles, interviews, scholarly overviews; that are published, noted, bookmarked, and, in some cases, never gotten around to. The holidays provide many opportunities for catching up.

Over the next couple of posts, I will attempt to collect some of those longreads that you may have missed, or not had a chance to devote much attention to. Here are some of the best thinkpieces of the year.

  • In Film Comment, Shonni Enelow examines the phenomenon of emotional contact (and the withholding of emotional contact) with our movie stars in the piece The Great Recession.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Watch This: Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin's 1971 TV Masterpiece MELODY

Today is the 70th birthday of actress, singer, songwriter and style icon Jane Birkin. She has appeared in films by Antonioni, Rivette, Varda, Godard, Resnais, Tavernier, Hong Sang Soo and many others. To many, she may be best known for her collaborations with musician Serge Gainsbourg: singles, albums, scandals, and a daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, whose own resume is fairly packed with accolades.

Her collaborations with Serge Gainsbourg are pure magic. The video linked below is perhaps the most comprehensive example of the kind of sparks they made together. Directed by music video pioneer Jean-Cristophe Averty, it is a video designed to accompany the concept album "Histoire de Melody Nelson" and it includes those songs in their entirety. This is one of the great pieces of music-video ever created, a masterpiece in both visual and aural form. The delirious choral and string arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier, kick in to high gear in the last chapter and the piece achieves something like the nirvana intended. Enjoy.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Listen Here: Julie Dash Tells the Story of DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST

The Austin Film Society presents a screening of the new restoration of DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST with special guest Lisa B. Thompson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, on Tuesday, December 13 at the Spirit of Texas Theater. Tickets and more information here.

25 years ago, Julie Dash made the film for which she is still best known for today, a remarkable portrait of a place and time long past. DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST (1991), which was the first theatrically distributed film directed by an African-American woman, has only grown in critical esteem in the intervening quarter-century.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Happy 100th Birthday to Kirk Douglas: Enjoy this Hour-long 1971 Interview

There is no living actor with a career as as long and as full of great movies as Kirk Douglas. From his his first film (made when he was already 30!), THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946) through most of the next six decades, he stayed busy. Douglas starred in, and occasionally also produced some of the finest films of his, or any, era.

Consider this list of highlights:
  • OUT OF THE PAST (1947 d. Jacques Tourneur) Playing second-dimple to Robert Mitchum
  • CHAMPION (1949 d. Mark Robson) Douglas' breakthrough role as a boxer rising in the ranks, Oscar nomination for Best Actor
  • YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN (1950, d. Michael Curtiz)
  • ACE IN THE HOLE (1951, d. Billy Wilder)
  • DETECTIVE STORY (1951, d. William Wyler) Golden Globe for Best Actor
  • THE BIG SKY (1952, d. Howard Hawks)
  • THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952, d. Vincente Minnelli), Oscar nomination for Best Actor
  • 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954, d. Fleischer) An enormous commercial hit
  • THE INDIAN FIGHTER (1955, d. Andre de Toth)
  • LUST FOR LIFE (1956, d. Minnelli) Oscar nomination, Golden Globe & New York Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
  • PATHS OF GLORY (1957, d. Stanley Kubrick)
  • THE VIKINGS (1958, d. Richard Fleischer)
  • SPARTACUS (1960, d. Kubrick)
  • LONELY ARE THE BRAVE (1962, d. David Miller)
  • TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (1962, d. Minnelli)
  • THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSANGER (1963, d. John Huston) Douglas plays 4 roles
  • SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964, d. John Frankenheimer) Bold and brave political thriller about a military coup attempt in the U.S.
  • IN HARM'S WAY (1965, d. Otto Preminger)
  • THE HEROES OF TELEMARK (1965, d. Anthony Mann)
  • THE ARRANGEMENT (1969, d. Elia Kazan)
  • THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN (1970, d. Joseph Mankiewicz)
  • THE FURY (1978, d. Brian De Palma)
  • THE VILLAIN (1979, d. Hal Needham)
  • HOME MOVIES (1979, d. De Palma)
  • THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982, d. George Miller)
  • TOUGH GUYS (1986, d. Jeff Kanew)
  • OSCAR (1991, d. John Landis)

Here is an interview with the bearded (for a role, probably my personal favorite THE LIGHT AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD) Kirk Douglas on the always-excellent Dick Cavett Show. Of special note is his own commentary over a range of film clips.

Sincere happy birthday wishes on Douglas' 100th birthday. There will never be another like him.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Listen Here: The New Doug Loves Movies Podcast Features Austin's Own SLASH - Opens This Week!

Doug Benson, Clay Liford, Missi Pyle and Michael Ian Black at Doug Loves Movies taping

The AFS Grant supported film SLASH has really been getting around recently. It seems like everyone is talking about the film, whose writer/director Clay Liford is one of Austin's busiest and talented filmmakers.

The film is about a pair of teenagers (Hannah Marks of DIRK GENTLY'S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY and Michael Johnston of the TEEN WOLF series) whose love of erotic fan fiction brings them together. In a scenario that could be the launching point for cheap jokes, Liford creates something searchingly human and full of truth. The film also showcases Michael Ian Black, Robert Longstreet, Missi Pyle and many others in its dead-on cast.

The new Doug Loves Movies podcast, released today, is all about Slash, as host Doug Benson welcomes Liford, Black and Pyle to the studio to talk about the film.

SLASH opens at the Alamo South Lamar on Thursday, December 8.

On Monday, December 12, AFS will proudly co-present the film, with AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen hosting the film alongside director Clay Liford. As always at the Drafthouse, AFS members can show their cards at the ticketing counter to receive a discount. We encourage you to enjoy SLASH and support local film. See you there!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Just Announced: AFS January and February Programming


As everyone who reads this must surely know by now, the AFS Cinema is closed for expansion and renovations through the end of 2016 and into the first few months of 2017. During this time there will be a number of off-site events, open to both AFS members and non-members. You can sign up for these events and find out more at austinfilm.org.

Sunday, January 8: AFS and AGLIFF present DON'T CALL ME SON at the Texas Spirit Theater (located in the Bullock Texas State History Museum. This is the new one from Brazilian writer/director Anna Muylaert, whose film THE SECOND MOTHER thrilled Austin Audiences last year. It's a family drama about a gender-adventurous young man, still in his teens, who finds out that his family is not what it seems, and must adjust to a radical change in fortunes.

Monday, January 9: SAVAGE GOLD will return to the screening room at Austin Studios. This celebration of hysterical video oddities, introduced and selected by AFS Lead Programmer Lars Nilsen and his fellow collector Maximillian Meehan, is always a wild, fun festival of discovery, complete with a junk-food potluck.

Thursday, January 12: AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater will be joined by author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation, Food, Inc.) for COMMAND & CONTROL, the new documentary based on Schlosser's book of the same name. The film takes viewers into the harrowing nightmare of a 1980 nuclear disaster in an Arkansas that nearly bloomed into an out-and-out extinction incident. This screening takes place at the Texas Spirit Theater.

Sunday, January 15: Robert Greene, one of the most interesting voices in film today, joins us for a screening of his new "non-fiction thriller" KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE, in which actress Kate Lyn Sheil prepares to play the role of newscaster Christine Chubbock, who committed suicide on-air in 1974. The previous day, the International Documentary Association and AFS welcome Greene to the Screening Room at Austin Studios for a Master Class.

Thursday, January 19: AFS Presents a 50th Anniversary Screening of DON'T LOOK BACK at the Paramount Theater guest hosted by Austin Chronicle Music Editor Raoul Hernandez. D.A. Pennebaker's doc follows the volcanically creative and playful young Bob Dylan on his first tour of England. Dylan, who represents the razor edge of an all-new kind of consciousness, seems to be a time-traveller, a modern explorer in a long-ago world of booking agents, reporters and other assorted Mr. Joneses.

Monday, January 30: AQUARIUS, the astonishing new film from NEIGHBORING SOUNDS writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho, plays at the Texas Spirit Theater. Boasting a phenomenal performance by Sonia Braga as the last tenant of an apartment building that is scheduled to be razed, this is a film that will be remembered for many years.

Thursday, February 2: AFS Artistic Director Richard Linklater presents Bernardo Bertolucci's THE LAST EMPEROR at the Paramount Theater. Winner of an astonishing nine Academy Awards, as well as a clean sweep of the Golden Globes, this is an Epic in the truest sense of the word. Linklater, a big fan of the film, will give one of his highly-informative and perceptive introductions before the film.

Sunday, February 5: Science On Screen returns to the Spirit Of Texas Theater with the documentary film DINOSAUR 13, about a Tyrannosaurus fossil discovery in South Dakota that must surely qualify as one of the most fraught and complicated such maneuver in paleontological history. We will be joined for a discussion period about the finer points of paleontology and excavation by one of UT's key dinosaur researchers, Julia Clarke, Ph.D.

Monday, February 6: Writer/director David Zellner, who, with his brother and collaborator Nathan Zellner, makes such extraordinary films as KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER and KID-THING, harbors a dark secret. He loves the '80s Canadian show THE LITTLEST HOBO, in which a German Shepherd dog wanders from town to town like Michael Landon in HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN, solving problems and showing people the true way. He will join us to introduce a pair of episodes of the show and talk about their narrative construction. This show takes place at Austin Public and is free to the public.

Wednesday, February 8: The new doc from Raoul Peck, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, screens at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. Using the words of James Baldwin, from his unfinished manuscript No Name On The Street, Peck constructs a history of the Civil Rights era, through the eyes of one of its most active soldiers and intellectuals. Magnificently detailed and meticulously structured, this is a testament to Baldwin and his generation.

Monday, February 13: AFS presents the new restoration of Gillo Pontecorvo's astonishing and impactful 1966 film THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS at the Alamo Ritz. The film depicts, in cinema-verite style, the uprising of the Algerian people against their French colonial occupiers. Not only a great work of cinema, but a document of real historical importance, used by both the Black Panther Party and military academies as a training tool.

Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26: AFS presents a pair of programs of so-called "race films" at the Spirit Of Texas Theater. For several decades, between the twenties and the fifties, a "shadow" film industry existed to provide all-black cast films for segregated theaters in America. The films, which were made with the lowest of budgets, are fascinating to see today, and give us an idea, when we read between the lines, of what popular black culture was like at the time. On February 19, the program includes the western THE BRONZE BUCKAROO and on February 26, the film BLOOD OF JESUS, wildly surreal in its unconventional effects, screens with selected shorts.

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."