Friday, March 31, 2017

Jazz on Film: YOU SEE WHAT I'M TRYING TO SAY? with Marion Brown (1967)

In this short film from 1967, filmmaker Henry English attempts to place a context around saxophonist and composer Marion Brown's flurries of notes and expression. Juxtaposed against performance footage and scenes from Brown's environment are the musician's spoken observations in which he, in a gentle Georgia accent, explains some of who he is and how his chosen form of expression (wild, free lines of spontaneous sound) may not be as alien as it must have seemed in 1967.

Jazz is the ultimate ephemeral medium, and has never fully been fully captured on film, or record, for that matter. Films such as English's don't provide much in the way of comprehensive data about the form (nor do they attempt to) but the film helps us bear witness to the form in a time of change, when the tradition was close at hand, but a few felt safe enough in the strength of that tree trunk to spread their branches far, far out.

This is a record of one of those far out branches.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Listen Here: Actor's Actor Kevin Corrigan Tells Tons of Great Stories and Does Impressions

The actor Kevin Corrigan (born on this day in 1969) has been nearly omnipresent in independent American films for better part of three decades. The list of his credits in both independent and studio films is crazily impressive. To name a few: GOODFELLAS, TRUE ROMANCE, LIVING IN OBLIVION, TREES LOUNGE, HENRY FOOL, BUFFALO '66, SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS, LULU ON THE BRIDGE, THE DEPARTED, THE TOE TACTIC, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, BIG FAN, SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME, RESULTS, and the upcoming INFINITY BABY.

He's also a compelling storyteller, as anyone who attended his AFS Moviemaker Dialogue in 2014 can attest. Here, from April of 2016, is an interview with Corrigan from The Best Show with Tom Scharpling. It's one of the best podcasts I have ever heard, and an illuminating portrait of Corrigan's creative method. It is also hysterically funny and punctuated by Corrigan's spot-on impressions.

Listen to the podcast here.

When asked about his decision to become an actor for life, with all the attendant ups and downs, Corrigan replies:
"I always felt like, you know, MEAN STREETS was my favorite movie for a long time, and it still is. It's still in the hall of fame in my mind of the best movies. And it often comes back to me. Things just bubble up into my consciousness that got there the first time I watched MEAN STREETS, or the first 25 times I watched it as a teenager...  
"There was an English teacher I had in my junior year of high school. She showed us A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and I was just completely... She could have given me a hit of ecstasy and that's the effect it had on me... It has such a narcotic effect... and often the movies we love are about narcotics or involve them at some point."
And then he's off on the subject of drugs and the creative process. This gives you some idea about the perambulations of mind that Corrigan displays during his storytelling. Interviewer Scharpling, who is a tremendously funny storyteller himself, operates in a more reserved key here than usual and gives Corrigan room to fly.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From 100 Years Ago, Charlie Chaplin's THE IMMIGRANT

In the 100 years since Charlie Chaplin made THE IMMIGRANT, the cinema has advanced immeasurably in technical sophistication, but the basic blueprint of what the film artist can do was already set by Chaplin and his contemporaries. Here, broad comedy and delicate artistry coexist, and the tension created, is the spark that gives movie comedy life.

It's important to note that the voyage to America undertaken by the immigrants in this film - a voyage undertaken by Chaplin himself when he came to America from his native England - was thought to be a universal subject at the time. This is because immigration was a fact of recent generational memory for most Americans, and sharing that immigrant experience was, and is, an important part of the American story.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Linklater in Filmmaker Magazine: "This is the Best Year AFS has Ever Had"

There's a great new piece in Filmmaker Magazine in which AFS Founder and Artistic Director Richard Linklater discusses the present and future of AFS.

In the piece, Linklater lays out what might just as well be a blueprint for the new AFS Cinema opening later this spring:
“I say this all the time to the great people who are working at the Film Society, but I mean it: this is the best year we’ve ever had.” Linklater continued. 
“Usually you only realize the peak times when they’re over, i.e. ‘oh, that was a golden age at the time but I didn’t recognize it at the time.’ I’m recognizing it at the time. We’ve got a wonderful organization, we have the best people, and it’s been a thrill. We’re appreciating that and just trying to serve film-lovers and our film culture locally. It’s something Austin can do. We feel there’s a need there and we’re there for that. We’re looking forward to showing a lot of movies, to give that film that wouldn’t have a theatrical run anywhere else in town — we want that film to show for a week or more and to hold it over if it’s doing well. We want the film to build an audience here. When you show it only one night, a lot of people can’t go that night. When you show it for a week, it gets reviewed and becomes a thing. We look forward to offering that opportunity to a lot of films and to be a collaborator with other film organizations. We want to make a film-happening space. It’s going to be fun.”
We'll have more information about the opening of the AFS Cinema soon. Get ready for a great new addition to the Austin moviegoing landscape.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Watch This: Nearly 3 Hours of Interviews with Director and Stunt Legend Hal Needham

The late Hal Needham (born on this date in 1931) was once the highest paid stuntman in the world. With the help of his old friend and frequent collaborator Burt Reynolds, Needham successfully made the jump to film directing in 1977 with SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, a huge international hit. He made a number of other films in the following twenty or so years, from enormous successes like THE CANNONBALL RUN and HOOPER to the megaflop MEGAFORCE. One of his final projects was a TV movie entitled BANDIT: BANDIT BANDIT, which may be the strangest title in history.

As a stuntman and stunt coordinator, Needham was a tough guy who brooked no nonsense. As a director he had the kind of rapport with fast cars and the people who loved them that enabled him to imbue vehicles and car chases with personality and drama, a major key to his success.

From the Archive Of American Television, here is a career spanning interview with the salty and funny Mr. Needham, spanning three long chapters and cross-referenced with links.

We'll just get you started here: