Friday, October 27, 2017

A Complete Run of the Best Cult Film Magazine Ever - Free

It probably won't surprise you that the concept of the "cult" film is not a simple or clear one to outsiders. There are many different cults, with different values and different idols, in the universe of "cult" films. For instance, there has always been a "so-bad-it's-good" faction, whose members like to ridicule cheapness, and "low" social vulgarities. The early prophets of this faction are people like conservative social commentator Harry Medved, who cowrote the "Golden Turkey Awards" and "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time" books, which helped set the ideological tone for years of sneering, sarcastic ridicule of "bad" films.

There is what we might consider the Danny Peary faction. An excellent writer, Peary lionized a particular kind of "cult"criticism in his multiple volumes of the "Cult Movies" books. Never dismissive, Peary celebrates these films for their unique qualities and their advocacy of outsider voices. Peary is a fan of the subversive and the humanistic and the books are essential reading for anyone interested in what lies just outside the bounds of the canon.

And then there is Michael Weldon. Springing from the same post-war junk pile that birthed the band The Cramps, Weldon's aesthetic is that of the unapologetic connoisseur of the sublime aspects of trash culture. A fan of "Mad" Magazine, late night televised horror movies and the snotty proto-punk of the '60s, Weldon soaked up the frantic zeitgeist of his age, formed a Cleveland punk band called Mirrors in the early '70s. A few years later, in New York, he was a pioneer of the mimeographed zine revolution with his weekly publication "Psychotronic TV," a sort of alternative TV Guide presenting his recommendations of which films and television episodes to watch, along with other cultural commentary.

The Psychotronic track of "cult" movie appreciation is responsible for many of today's predominant attitudes about these films. Never snobbish or dismissive, Weldon sees Bela Lugosi and Vampira (to name a couple of obvious examples) as prophets of the trash punk aesthetic. If their films are "bad" they are bad in the sense that the Ramones are "bad." Bad is better, because the world is bad. This aesthetic coloration appears today in the programming of Weird Wednesday and Terror Tuesday at the Alamo Drafthouse, in the Fantastic Fest idea of programming, and in the selection of cultish titles selected for the Lates series here at AFS.

I spent years trying to complete my own collection of "Psychotronic Video" magazine (the somewhat more sturdily put-together followup to the early mimeographed fanzine, and now it seems that the internet has done it for me, as the online site now hosts a full archive of "Psychotronic Video" magazine plus some of the early "Psychotronic TV" issues as well. This is a big deal, and in one fell swoop has justified the invention of the iPad. Enjoy these issues with their years of interviews, reviews and features. This is truly a cultural treasure.

Special thanks to Rodney Perkins for bringing this archive to our attention. And of course special thanks to Michael Weldon, whose current venture, the Psychotronic Store has in one fell swoop justified the invention of Augusta, Georgia.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Frederick Wiseman's Paean to the New York Public Library, EX LIBRIS, Opens this Weekend

EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY screens at the AFS Cinema starting on Friday, October 27. Buy tickets and get more info here.

A new documentary by Frederick Wiseman is always a major cinematic event. The maker of TITICUT FOLLIES, HIGH SCHOOL, LAW AND ORDER and many other timeless classics of the form deserves our respect and adulation, of course, but here's the funny thing: he's lost nothing of his touch, his eye, his ear, and as he examines the institutions of modern life his carefully (sneakily, even) observations are even more valuable.

Recently he has been on quite a roll, documenting institutions of great cultural value (NATIONAL GALLERY, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS, AT BERKELEY), and his newest film EX LIBRIS: THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY is a top-to-bottom, thorough portrait of that venerable repository, the people who staff it, and the people who use it every day.

The documentary highlights the variety of community programs, from tutoring to dance classes, offered by the N.Y.P.L., and gives a voice to everyday patrons, who extol the library’s virtues as a hub of the community. Underscoring it all, the film documents the multitude of changes and challenges the library is facing in our digital age.

It's fascinating, and, as always with Wiseman, revelatory.

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe:  “Ex Libris” is a profoundly hopeful movie.


Watch Wiseman discuss his new film here:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

What They're Saying About Ai Weiwei's HUMAN FLOW, Opening Friday October 20 at the AFS Cinema

Ai Weiwei on location, filming HUMAN FLOW

Internationally acclaimed artist, activist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei’s newest film HUMAN FLOW, opening this Friday, October 20 for daily screenings at the AFS Cinema.

Ai captures the magnitude of the global refugee crisis with stunning cinematography. By turns heartbreaking and breathtaking, this documentary, shot in 23 countries worldwide, is a visually beautiful and empathetic look at the state of the world today.

Join us after the 3:00 PM screening on Sunday, October 22 for a panel discussion with Andrea Mellard from The Contemporary Austin, Kay Mailander from the Community Wellness Program of Refugee Services of Texas and Simone Talma Flowers of Interfaith Action of Central Texas.

Read what critics are saying about Weiwei’s HUMAN FLOW:

Joe Morgenstern writes in the Wall Street Journal that "This movie, a testament to the power of seeing, provides a long and uncommonly vivid look at a human crisis that's changing the face of our planet."

Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail observes that "Ai simply bears witness in a film that, like many of his sculptural pieces, establishes a creative tension between its giant scale and its individual pieces."

In other words, it's good. It's powerful. It resonates under the touch of a great artist. You'll want to see this one on the big screen. Tickets are available now.

Also, you can visit two sculptures by Ai Weiwei in Austin through 2018.

Iron Tree Trunk is on view at The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria (3809 W. 35th St.). Forever Bicycles is on view at the Waller Delta (74 Trinity St.) as part of The Contemporary Austin’s Museum Without Walls program and partnership with Waller Creek Conservancy.

Watch the trailer for HUMAN FLOW here:

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

"Exhilarating!" What Critics are Saying about DOLORES, Opening 10/6 at the AFS Cinema

It's so rare to find a documentary that enfolds you in the sweep of monumental historic events, presents a hero whose accomplishments shine a light for future generations, and does it with such good humor and rousing execution.

DOLORES, the extraordinary new doc about the legendary activist Dolores Huerta, does all these things. You will be on the edge of your seat as you hear about the sometimes bitter struggles of farm-workers to secure their basic human rights. Your heart will swell with admiration as the diminutive Huerta stands tall and delivers the truth to power even in the face of beatings and recrimination. And, if you're smart, you'll listen closely to the important lessons this extraordinary woman, now 87 years of age and still going strong, has to share.

The film, directed by Peter Bratt, features interviews with Dolores Huerta and the people who know her best and the archival footage restored and uncovered for the film is utterly fascinating.

Tickets for the AFS Cinema's run of DOLORES at the AFS Cinema, starting October 6, are on sale now.

Check out what the critics have to say about DOLORES, currently boasting a 100% score at Rotten Tomatoes:

David Talbot of the San Francisco Chronicle says: “DOLORES delivers the inspirational jolt we need”

Dennis Harvey of Variety says: “DOLORES crams a great deal of information, themes, and diverse archival materials into a sharp, cogent whole, tied together by latter-day interviews with Huerta, family members, and esteemed colleagues/supporters"

Duane Byrge from the Hollywood Reporter writes: “Mixing historical footage and interviews with her family and pertinent social activists of ‘the day,’ director Peter Bratt distills the complexity of an unstoppable woman and the impact she brought not only to workers' rights but to the expanding role of women at that time.”

And in the Washington Post, Lora Grady says: "DOLORES is a fascinating corrective to 50-plus years of American history. It's educational, to be sure, but also exhilarating, inspiring and deeply emotional.

Watch the trailer here: