Tuesday, December 28, 2010

KARL STARKWEATHER BEST OF 2010

Shooting Wall's collective list will drop soon! This is just my list! A lone contributor to the glorious cinematic revolution that is Shooting Wall!

This year was shit. Everything that was good had to be fought for because those who swim in the mainstream wouldn't release them. White Material was my only non-back alley endeavor. It played at  Ritz Bourse, the small and artier wing of the Ritz theaters, which only those strong enough to engage in Cinematic Soldiery would even venture to.

If they wont expose the cinema, steal it or just make your own.

BEST OF 2010

1. Film Socialism: Histories Du Cinema, In Praise Of Love, and Notre Musique are all encompassed in this film. Literally exact and similar shots and clips are in this one. Godard gave US audiences a difficult time through his subtitles technique. Discussion of oppression, with emphasis on the horrors of the 20th and 21st century

2. Trash Humpers: Very amusing and creative film. On the verge of surrealist absurdism, but stays in an Dogme-esque aesthetic. Hilarious and haunting. Realist, but aware of it and it's levels of intracry yield an interesting product.

3. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives: Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul's surreal film about the psychological remnants left from the political situation in Burmese-Thai conflict. Also, a spiritual discussion about the materiality of time and existence. Had buddhist elements I could not understand.

4. Blue Beard: Not as good as Anatomy of Hell, The Last Mistress, etc., this film does beg some difficult questions about the development of myth in the patriarchal trajectory. Yet, Catherine Breillat is one of my favorite directors out and this film shows her strengths as a director.

5. Lourdes: Amazing character portrait from an assistance of Michael Haneke, Jessica Hausner. The film embodies a spirit and an intensity through it's images. The quest the main character goes on his a very human story. The film is beautifully shot, with images that bring the story forth.

6. Face: Tsai Miang-Liang's best to date. An homage to French cinema, Truffuat is his hero and his usage of Jean Pierre Leud shows it. An amazing film about filmmaking, but also the struggle to make art. And the counter tendencies of the personal, life, love and emotion.

7. White Material: A stain of political consciousness wrapped in a film with a unique formal-realist aesthetic.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
The American (Limits of Control with more action and a non-charming Clooney)

Mother (With moments of Host and Memories of a Murder, this film created something more interesting than the both. With Bong's crime films, they can take on cliché crime film elements, but this one stuck the protagonists weakness and strengths. Yielded an interesting portrait of that character, but also ending in a very non-cliche way because the director pulls off the character development)

Wild Grass (Much like Resnais's other FNW-esque, but it did have excellent cinematography and art direction)

Dogtooth (Hilarious 'art film' in the vain of Wes Anderson, but more extreme)

Valhalla Rising (Not as good as Bronson, but something of an admixture of Bronson and the Pusher Trilogy. Refn's interest in Masculinity and patriarchal relations shines through in this one)

Carlos (Solid action film, only worth watching if you are annoyingly into politics because it has that definitely going for it)

HORROR HONORABLE MENTIONS:
(I like horror movies, I'm sorry cinema God):
Splice
The Last Circus
A Serbian Film

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Discoveries of 2010

Although 2010 turned out to be an extremely disappointing year for contemporary cinema, there were still (and always are) many discoveries to be made. I wanted to use this post to mention some of my significant film discoveries of 2010 to try and end the year on a slightly less pessimistic note than if I were to try and write about the year in film. And despite a slow year, there are always great and interesting films for the cinephile to discover.

The Films of Alexander Kluge - Kluge was my major discovery of the year. He is a filmmaker I had heard and read about for many years, but whose films remained elusive and notoriously difficult to see in the United States until just recently with both a foreign and domestic release of his film on DVD (I want to thank Ben Webster for letting me borrower most of these films). Kluge is one the least known in American, but most important of the New German Cinema filmmakers. His films and ideas predate Schlondorff, Fassbinder, Herzog, and Wenders by at least five years. Kluge's films mix fiction, documentary, essay, politics, genre, pop art, and cinephilia to create completely original and intelligent films that are both difficult and rewarding.
Highlights:
Artists under the Big Top: Perplexed (1968)
The Undomitable Leni Peikert (1970)
Strongman Ferdinad (1976)


Pedro Costa's Fontainhas Trilogy: Pedro Costa's films blur the lines between fiction and reality. He uses real people and places to stage sequences drawn from reality, but largely created by the filmmaker. Costa is one of the most independent filmmakers working today. In these films, he uses a small crew (mostly just himself) and, in the second and third films he shoots on digital, to create minimal, expressive, and beautiful films about poverty.
Ossos (1997)
In Vanda's Room (2000)
Colossal Youth (2006)


Numero Zero (1970) by Jean Eustache: Eustache's films are nearly impossible to see in the United States and always have been. Unless you are lucky enough to stumble across a screening or a retrospective, American audiences won't be able to see anything, but his 1972 masterpiece The Mother and the Whore (available on VHS). I was lucky enough to come across one such screening at Antholohy Film Archives of Eustache's very rare first feature film. The film is a real time "documentary" consisting of an interview with Eustache's grandmother. The film was shot with two cameras and is just Eustache and his grandmother sitting at a table drinking, smoking, and her talking about her life.The film is difficult, but incredibly fascinating. A sort of sociological history of France from the first half of the 20th century.


Les Hautes Solitudes (1974) by Philippe Garrel: Garrel remains elusive in the U.S., but slowly his films have begun to trickle in. This 1974 film is one of his most difficult films. It is ostensibly a film about the actress Jean Seberg, but is mostly various shots of actresses (including Seberg) posing for the camera. The film is completely shot in closeups and medium shots and has absolutely no sound at all (that includes music). It is a strange, mysterious, obscure, yet fasninating and beautiful film from one of the most enigmatic and interesting filmmakers still working today.


Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl (2009) by Manoel de Oliveira: Oliveira was over a 100 years old when he made this film, which is a sparse, dreamy, minimal film about class and obsession. This is a perfect film in terms of pacing, mise en scene, and construction. A very beautiful and beguiling film.


L'enfance Nue (1968) by Maurica Pialat: Pialat's first film is an elliptic, stark, and perfectly realized film. Pialat was never afraid to cut scenes which were not totally necessary to the thematic development of this film, even at the expense of the narrative "making sense," and that is what makes his films and, particularly this one, such a discovery. In anyone else's hands, this could have a been a conventional film about a troubled youth being moved from foster home to foster home, but in Pialat's hands it is a deeply personal, interesting, and cinematic film.


Other Notable Films:
Damned If You Don't (1987) by Su Friedrich
The Cool World (1963) by Shirley Clarke
The Girls (1968) by Mai Zetterling
Calamari Union (1985) by Aki Kaurismaki)
Sex is Comedy (2002) by Catherine Breillat
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2009) by Werner Herzog

Monday, December 20, 2010

HORROR CINEMA

The following is a speech I thought to be lost that I gave prior to a showing of George A. Romero's Night of The Living Dead at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. It is part of a larger discussion I believe needs to be had on political cinema.
Radical leftist and anarchist Emma Goldman called, the Hollywood cinema, an “opiate of the masses.” Contrastively, filmmaker David Cronenberg felt that the horror film, post-1960's, was “non-bourgeois.” Cronenberg meant by this that horror's raison d'être is going to dark places psychologically or sociologically. In this process, it breaks dominate “bourgeois” social mores. Cult horror also has been somewhat shielded by Hollywood's morality due to it's low-budget “D.I.Y” nature. Does this mean though that horror is an “enlightened” and politically left genre as many a horror fan continues to claim it to be? Some of horror's common themes say otherwise. It is assumed to be so though since George A. Romero started the horror-film-as-socio-political-critique (and did it right) with Night Of The Living Dead. My criticism is that the popular themes of female liberation and a negative view of humanity, neither of which Romero has employed, keep the genre “bourgeois”.
The “female liberation,” the glorious achievement horror lays claim to is a bunch of garbage.  The horror genre has had a tendency to have women as main characters, something not common in “Hollywood.” Horror is patted on the back for this, but utilization of leading ladies always breaks down into “Halloween” feminism and “Aliens” feminism. “Halloween” feminist influence is seen in films that promote a sex-negative ideology that anything but virginal purity means death or with the case of John Carpenter's film, even worse, patriarchal culture will murder you for not having sex. Such is nothing more than “patriarcho-fascism.”
Then “Aliens” feminism allows women to liberate themselves, but men, the majority of directors, choose what way they can. First, you must fit what dominant patriarchal society deems as beautiful. Then, you must use vaguely pornographic Rambo-type violence. While in reality, if a male ruined a woman’s life due to an unconscious patriarchal act, men actually wouldn’t support violent or non-violent “liberation.”
When put up against actual feminist thought Halloween feminism kind of fits into “second-wave” feminism, as it was a white middle-class movement and somewhat of a Christian morality complex. Neither fit into the “sex positive,” egalitarian, and more enlightened modern Third Wave feminist thought. So it would be nice to see an end put to the “female liberation” theme since it in no way promotes actual “liberation.”
Into a darker realm, horror loves the Hobbesian view of human nature. Thomas Hobbes' political philosophy can best be summed up by his statement that: “During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.” So without centralized government, humans will be in a “war of all against all” due to their natural inclination to be violent and selfish. His thought has very much influenced Western “bourgeois” thought. Two classic and influential examples of “Hobbesian” films are David Cronenberg's Shivers and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.
With Shivers Cronenberg took heavy influence from the very Hobbesian totalitarian civilization preferring psychology of Sigmund Freud. In the film there is literally a character named “Thomas Hobbes.” Cronenberg states with the film that one-day institutions, such as the state, will collapse due to their limited ability to stop our innate violent and aggressive sexual tendencies. Kubrick stated in a rare interview that The Shining’s purpose was to get out a sociobiology of the “ignoble savage” or more simply, brutal violence is innate. Recently, such pessimism towards humanity can be found in the “Neo-Liberal” philosophy of the Saw torture porn film series.
            On the left politically of this, we have Romero’s films. He accomplishes cinema’s purpose, as filmmaker Robert Bresson eloquently points out, that it is to “make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.” Romero does this by making zombies literally us. This morbid poetic device brings us into an unknown reality far more than a Michael Moore documentary ever could. So, in his recent Land Of The Dead Romero literally had the proletariat of course, eating the rich. In a beautiful execution, he blatantly made the upper class’s leader a George W. Bush-esque character. Who is murdered by a proletarian who tried to move up the Neo-Liberal ladder, but was denied entry to the upper echelon. This 2005 film, made years before the current economic crisis, proposed a violent revolution against the mass inequality of advanced capitalism. Still, it was a paltry example of cinema and only has strengths conceptually. Then in Dawn Of The Dead he made us into consumerist zombies inhabiting a mall. Saying that capitalism infects everyone, anyone from Nuns, to children to a Hare Krishna devotee becomes a zombie. Romero, once again a visionary making Dawn years before the popularity of indoor shopping malls, ultimately proposes with Dawn that capitalism is cannibalism. Then with his first effort, N.O.T.L.D. Romero made a political statement far more polemical than most when the film was made in 1968. The zombies in this one violently destroy the nuclear family, become victims of KKK style racist terrorism and mimic the carnage going on in Vietnam. All while the corporate and state media consistently fail the survivors. Film historian Robin Wood also noticed that the zombie’s “cannibalism represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” His overall point was that the zombie’s victims represented the repressed “others” that “bourgeois” society oppresses. These “others” are the civil rights activists, feminists, homosexuals and left political people in general.  To end this, Romero’s films are an example of progressive political filmmaking. 

SOME AFTER THOUGHTS ON MY SPEECH
The reality on the streets is the horror community is one that rather support the idiocy of Saw over Pan's Labyrinth. Then when the horror scenesters cling to a filmmaker, they have little justification for it other than camp romanticism. Romero's recent films have been garbage. All I can say is we can look forward, in terms of political horror, are Alex de la Iglesia, Srdjan Spasojevic, Xavier Gans (whose Hitman was garbage, but whose Frontier(s) was one of the better political films in recent times (and whose next film The Divide maybe along the same political lines)), Catheriene Brellat (whose designation as a "horror director" could be debated, but she has horror elements in her work), and their is at least a social conscious in the horror-influenced films of Chan-Wook Park


In terms of the best horror films, political or not, in recent times we have Pontypol, The Orphanage, The Devils Rejects, Splice and The Mist. Let The Right One In was decent, but didn't pack any punches. It still deserves mention. As does the film House Of The Devil by Ti West, which has several issues as a film, but the control West should be commended. He goes for atmosphere and no one else is doing that in horror. He might be the next great American horror filmmaker.


Still, horror is an odd genre that should be personal and the personal is always political.


-KARL


Sunday, December 12, 2010

UPCOMING FILMS


Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,

As you can see from our below post, the first issue of Shooting Wall is out! You can either view or download and print the below or we have also placed hard copies in various strategic locations around Philadelphia, which any true Philadelphia cinephile should be able to find. I hope everyone enjoys and please forward us any criticisms or questions or if you want to dispute any of the articles in the next issue or on the blog, please do. We want to open up the film dialogue. We are also actively seeking contributions for Shooting Wall Issue # 2. The deadline for articles is Jan. 15th.

Shooting Wall has a lot of stuff we have been discussing and trying to plan for the new year, including screenings and meetings and possible film festival at some point? So keep checking the blog for updates.

There are a number of good screenings coming up in Philadelphia the rest of December. See below:

Now playing at the Ritz
White Material by Claire Denis. This one sounds like it could be quite good. Claire Denis is one of the best filmmakers working right now, so go see this film.
The Black Swan by Darren Arronofsky. This one is a bit contentious. As you can see from Karl's post, he doesn't care for Arronofsky. I think he started out pretty good and has been incredibly disappointing. This film? I can't say for sure, but check it out and see for yourself. Let's open up the debate on this one.

International House:
Lot of good things still coming this month at IHouse
Dec. 15th Le Amiche (The Girlfriends) by Michelangelo Antonioni
Dec. 16th The Searchers by John Ford
Dec. 18th Seance on a Wet Afternoon by Bryan Forbes
Dec. 20th Is it Fine! Everything is Fine! by Crispin Glover

That rounds out 2010 at IHouse. All excellent programs and they are going to be continuing with some excellent stuff next year as well.

Wooden Shoe:
Our friend Ben Webster will have two screenings coming up this month at Wooden Shoe
Tomorrow night, Sunday Dec. 12th a screening of Godard's La Gai Savoir
Dec. 19th Frederick Wiseman's High School.
I encourage everyone to attend these, if they can make it.

PHILADELPHIA FILM FESTIVAL POSTSCRIPT


Out of 125 features and shorts these were the only films that contained cinematic elements: Carlos, The Last Circus, Film Socialism, Certified Copy, Outrage, Revoución, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and White Material. (Then there is Black Swan, which I didn't see at the festival and wrote a negative review for below. I will include it in the list of films that contained cinematic elements until the debate over it it is completed though, which will probably be around the time of the Oscars when there is hype of several nominations.) Joshua Martin in issue #2 of Shooting Wall is going to further investigate this film festival epidemic, but I'll give some thoughts.

ERRORS

One can easily point out the $12 prices and the fact they wouldn't grant us a festival pass as errors. There was no reason for inflated prices, that had no student pricing options. Or I could of joined the Philadelphia Film Society (PFS) for a year for $150 dollars to be granted 6 free tickets. That would have also yielded 6 free tickets to their other events they put on, but only 1/3 of the films they played in their FilmadelphiaEXPERIENCE (the only series of theirs that Cinephiles would even engage with) last year were decent. They contained names like Reservoir Dogs and 8 1/2, so non-risk cinematic film that deserve to be seen, but still doesn't lead to exposing a film-going audience to other great films. My anger at this is not the PFS's fault, but most of these decent FilmadelphiaEXPERIENCE films have also been shown this year at the Ritz or at the International House for around 6-7 dollars for students or during matinees. PFS also plays a fair amount of documentaries in this series. The connection of cinematic film to documentary needs to break. The idea that the “intellectual class” that wants to see classic film also wants to see documentaries is sadly the prevailing notion. There is a major difference in seeing Double Indemnity and No Impact Man, but the 'Arthouse' business model sticks to this paradigm. The difference between cinema and documentary was discussed in spirit in my “Functionalist Realism” piece in Issue #1 of Shooting Wall, but needs further discussion. Still to get onto the second error, there was no reason in the age of blogs that they wouldn't have granted us a pass. We emailed them months in advance, then called a month before, then when we were given a response we were told that “we probably wouldn't receive a pass,” which we never did.

WHAT WE WERE GIVEN

The films I saw were decent, but the majority of the narrative films and shorts fit the Sundance and Indie model. Then more than 1/3 of the features and shorts were documentaries, and just to point out, several had a recurrent theme of the horror of the social networking age. A theme that is given more weight I think than it deserves. What is the issue of being interconnected? Having the ability to meet more humans that you ever would pre-cyber technology? I sadly think it is an issue of the audience that could afford to attend several $12 films. And then a handful of the films were of the 'Grindhouse homage' or Japanese Extreme cinema variety (but goofy, not Auteur quality like the films of Miike). Yet, The Last Circus snuck in with this gorehound crowd as a film of some value and A Serbian Film almost pulled off a concise film with a poignant nuanced political statement. It just fell short in some areas, but I think the writer/director Srdjan Spasojevic should be someone to keep an eye on.

TOWARDS A NEW FESTIVAL

I think Joshua Martin, in his work in issue #2 will elude to this, but we need a new concept of the festival. In an age with sites like Vimeo making distribution difficulties a thing of the past, we need to see festivals as organized attempts at furthering cinema. If they are well put-together in terms of advertising and educating the public, they can take risks. The industry obviously still has an effect. Films from studios like Sony Pictures Classics, Fox Searchlight, etc., are always the opening night films and the ones publicized at these festivals. They allow the people putting on the festival to feel they are doing something professional. The issue also lies with the crowd that engages with these festivals. I doubt they are concerned with whether the film is good or not. It's just part of some social clique of going to festivals, preview screenings, etc., that I don't understand. We also need to hold people accountable that are just OK with seeing everything. This Tarantino-style of film viewership had to be the ideology of many of the volunteers who made this festival exist.

In conclusion, with the decline in festival and non-festival film attendance, torrent and video uploading sites, and cheaper methods of making cinema, we should expect more.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

AN APOLOGY FOR BLACK SWAN


Darren Aronofsky's films in one sentence:


PI- Gimic and black and white student film.

Requiem For A Dream- Magical realism with no magic and done already to death by other filmmakers hyper fast abrasive montage sequences that impress film school students.

The Fountain- Darren tries to find the meaning of life after only reading a couple pages in a either The Bible or a World Cultures textbook.

The Wrestler- Upper class guy Darren gets to tell bougie art film audiences what he thinks poor people do and proves that what he is expressing is real through un-imaginative anti-cinematic cinéma vérité.

Black Swan- The train that never could Aronofsky was building up to this film by not building at all because he never had the potentiality to make a good movie.

I apologize then on the behalf of cinema that you are given films like Black Swan and told that they are decent, the best of the year, etc. So you want to run out and see them, tell strangers you're excited about them as to have some human connection, etc. When the majority of what have been fed is garbage. So sweeter smelling garbage, but garbage none the less, is then digestible to you.


-KARL

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shooting Wall Issue #1

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Here it is, for your viewing pleasure, the first issue of Shooting Wall for you to view, print, or download! We hope you like it.
Shooting Wall Issue 1

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Events This Week

Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,

There are a couple of events coming up around Philadelphia this week I wanted to let everyone know about. Tonight at 6:30pm at International House there will be a screening of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's 1972 film The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant. The film is being played in conjunction with ICA's Set Pieces exhibition and will be introduced by Set Pieces artist and curator Virgil Marti. I went to the Set Pieces screening last month of Antonioni's L'Avventura and it was a good turnout and they ended up having free pizza and beer afterwards. For my money, I think this is one of Fassbinder's best films and I highly recommend everyone come out for this one, it will definitely be worth it.
Tomorrow night at 7pm International House will be screening Walter Ruttman's 1927 film Berlin: Symphony of a Great City. This is one of those "city" films, which were so often being made in the 1920s celebrating modernity and progress a la Man with the Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov, Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand's Manhatta, and Joris Iven's Regen. The film is largely visual with no real story, though it is arranged chronologically to present a day from morning until night. The film uses many experimental and avant-garde techniques from the 1920s, including a reliance on soviet montage. It is a really interesting and visually beautiful film.
Again, at International House on Saturday at 7pm, there Janus series continues with Fellini's 1954 film La Strada. The Janus series is always great, so this is worth checking out. For my money, Fellini and especially La Strada are kind of overrated, but as far as good film events going on in Philadelphia, I recommend going to see this instead of going to see another stupid documentary at the Ritz.
There really isn't anything that I can recommend playing at the Ritz right now.
Stay posted for more information about where to obtain your copy of the first issue of Shooting Wall!

Friday, November 12, 2010

First Issue Being Printed

The first issue of Shooting Wall is currently being printed! It took some time and a lot of effort, but by this time next week, the issue should be ready for distribution! We are still seeking articles for issue #2, so send them in, if you have them. We should hopefully be meeting next week to figure where we are going from here concerning next issue, screenings, meetings, etc. I will keep everyone posted as to the progress and any events that may be on the horizon.

It has been a pretty dismal month for film in Philadelphia. The Ritz has been getting absolute shit. There hasn't been anything coming out worth checking out. Just one crappy documentary after another! This is fall, the time when the best films are supposed to come out and, yet, nothing...nothing...nothing. Needless to say, this has been incredibly frustrating for cinema fans. It isn't that the films aren't out there because I know they are (Pedro Costa, for example, has a new film playing in New York right now). The Ritz is either getting lazy or they are just totally unwilling to take chances anymore. Either way, things are not looking good.


In better news, there are couple of things going on this weekend. Tonight Secret Cinema is playing some Velvet Underground concert films from the '60s at Moore. There is a 8pm and 10pm show. These are apparently pretty rare films, so this should be quite a treat for any VU and/or Warhol fans. Also tonight, IHouse has An Evening with Lynne Sachs. They will be screening two of her recent films and Sachs will also be there for a Q&A. Both of these events should be good.


Tomorrow night at IHouse there will be DDR/DDR  at 7pm. This is a series of "cine-constellations" as a visual essay. I have heard a lot of good things about this film and will definitely be attending.


More updates to come...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Updates

Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,

I apologize as it has been some time since I last updated everyone here on the blog, but I have been out of town. Shooting Wall is still working on printing the first issue. Hopefully, we will be meeting this week to figure all that out. It also appears we may be getting some screening support from Temple. Karl has been in talks with them and we may have a facility to screen films and someone to gets us prints! This is quite exciting and I will update everyone with more once we get everything worked out.

I didn't get to see much at the Philadelphia Film Festival this year (there wasn't much worth seeing anyway). I did see the new Abbas Kiarostami film Ceritifed Copy, which was mediocre. Not nearly as interesting as his best films (Close-up, Taste of Cherry, Ten) but not terrible either. It is a pretty standard and straight forward film. I saw Four Lions which was pretty funny and interesting content wise as it was a comedy about radical Muslims in England, but cinematically not brilliant. It will be playing at the Ritz next week and is worth checking out for its willingness to satirize something most people do not find funny at all and succeeds in that capacity, but leaves a lot to be desired stylisically. Lasly, I saw a documentary called The Woodmans. which was okay and, like most documentaries about artists, it didn't really offer any real insight into its subjects and was cinematically quite ordinary. Something better suited for PBS probably, but interesting if you are into art and still photography. Karl is working on more concerning the film festival, as he was able to see the big films this year.

Tomorrow night IHouse will be screening Antonioni's L'Avventure at 6:30pm. Needless to say, this is essential viewing.

I will offer a longer update this weekend, hopefully with good news on the printing of the first issue of Shooting Wall.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

UbuWeb...Hacked!

Recently someone hacked Ubuweb and shut it down for a few days. It's back up and functioning in a limitted capacity now. If you'd like to read a bunch of academics and experimental filmmakers argue about the morality of this action (which has been assumed to be connected to Ubuweb's policy of not asking permission to post work and for a brief time listing artists who asked for their work removed on a "Wall of Shame" page) you can find such an archive of somewhat ridiculous (but sometimes very interesting) articles in the Frameworks archive here.

You can also just subscribe to Frameworks, you'll probably be sent an e-mail about this topic every five minutes.

Really though no one is reporting any news as to why this is happening. Philadelphia's own cinematic jewel Secret Cinema occasionally gets hacked as well.

Obviously there are cinephile cyber terrorists out there. If they're googling themselves right now, I would like to make it known that Shooting Wall would love to talk to you.

Ubuweb Twitter here.

The Cows Are Out Of The Barn: James Franco and Joaqin Phoenix

" I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle." - Alfred Hitchcock

I'm Still Here is not a bad movie. It took me all the way to the last frame to decide I felt that way, but it's true. Casey Affleck's editting style may be kind of annoying and self-conciouslessly artsy and the themes always teeter on the edge of not being very good ones but the grand experiment of transgressing the rules of celebrity is well targeted and the basic story of "I hate being famous, I did it to impress my Dad" is saved by it's sincerity, it's lack of real self pity, and it's basic factual account of itself.

I loved seeing Joaqin Phoenix fat, with prostitutes, not talking up his latest movie, and performing on Letterman with an aplomb that no one will ever thank him for. Watching a celebrity pretend to self destruct under the pressures of fame sounds like a horrible film (Sunset Boulevard aside). The whole film was like waiting for someone to finish a sentence you were just waiting to turn out racist. But by the very last frame I felt OK about all of it. If you're going to see it, see it all the way through.

James Franco is the other side of this phenomenon. His experiments with his fame serve pretty much no purpose. He stated that he wanted to be on General Hospital because you couldn't stop thinking that you were watching him rather than his character - and he liked that. In other words, hitherto consistent second banana James Franco suddenly stands out when you put him on a soap opera and we all think "hey I'm watching James Franco" because we've just been told who James Franco is. He was the Green Goblin and now he's on General Hospital and is attending 17 different grad schools.

I suspect the readers of Shooting Wall already know this. We won't get into his gallery openings of videos of men pooping and peeing. I haven't seen them yet and I don't want to judge. Certainly there has been some good things done with pooping and peeing. However, point made, he's kind of an insufferablly pretensious dude. And God love him for it, he just keeps doing it and there's something valid about that.

I don't know if there's anything to really say about this phenomenon other than to see if it becomes a thing. Certainly these men are not Orsons, Busters, or Charlies. They're not even Sam Rockwells, Dustin Hoffmans, or Donald Sutherlands. But now they're artists. And (soon) they'll both have been to the Oscars.

-Alex

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Upcoming Film in Philadelphia

Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,

I wanted to give everyone an update on the some of the film events that will going on around Philadelphia in the next week.

Tonight Thursday Oct. 14th Flux is kicking off their bi-monthly film screenings with Short Films by Kenneth Anger beginning at 7pm.
Sunday Oct. 17th Wooden Shoe movie screening will feature Jean-Luc Godard's 1967 film La Chinoise. This is the first in a series of films that is being curated by our friend Ben Webster. Other films will include Oshima's Night and Fog in Japan and Chris Marker's Grin without a Cat. I highly recommend attending these screenings and will keep you updated with the times and dates for all of them. You can also check out some of Ben's writing on his blog, which you can link to from here.

The big event starting this week, of course, is the Philadelphia Film Festival. Well, it would be exciting if they had decided to play some really good and interesting films, but instead, as usual, have decided to play it safe and pick the most mundane Sundance approved films. The lineup is lackluster to say the least. I have been going through the films today and reading reviews and watching trailers and, honestly, there is not a lot I can recommend. There probably are one or two good new films playing here, but considering the price of admission ($12 with no student discount available! You have to be kidding me!) it isn't really worth taking the chance. Besides, most of the films they are playing already have distributors and will most likely be playing at the Ritz in the near future, so why waste the $12? It's a pretty sad state of affairs; film festivals used to be a place for true cinephiles to gather and see the most cutting edge and original undiscovered films and now? What are film festivals now? Just a chance to network and schmooze; it is not even really about cinema anymore. It all about money and sponsorship and bullshit. There is essential cinema being made now, we all know that to be true, but 99% of film festivals do not play it. This is the problem not only with film festivals, but with American independent film in general. Whereas, an independent film used to be exactly that: films made by filmmakers working outside of the establish or the confines of a studio; now "indie" is a genre. There certainly are "indie" films and, quite frankly, they are crap. Film festivals such as the Philadelphia Film Festival are totally unwilling to seek out the truly challenging, avant-garde, and interesting films being produced today in an actual independent way, outside of the mainstream. There are very few festivals or venues for these types of films anymore (Anthology Film Archive in New York is one of the rare exceptions which I can think of off the top of my head). Film has become so compartmentalized and commercialized in every aspect and in every sector. It may be time for the old film festivals and old modes of distribution to die. Something new needs to happen! $12 fucking dollars for a film festival ticket (upwards of $20 for the New York Film Festival)?! Fuck you! Cinema and art should be easily accessible to everyone and should, for the most part, be free or as cheap as possible. Shooting Wall has been discussing forming our own film festival where submission and admission would be completely free; and we could show films of all lengths, forms and styles by filmmakers who are as frustrated as we are by the state of mainstream cinema (and don't fool yourselves IFC, Sundance or the myriad of other film festivals out there, you ARE mainstream cinema). If you are a film festival or a distribution/production company or a theater that is unwilling to at least partly play or proliferate truly groundbreaking and unique cinema which may not have mass appeal, but does have appeal to people who are legitimately interested in cinema, then you are mainstream and you are the problem. The Philadelphia Film Festival is only a small part of a growing problem. There are much bigger enemies of cinema and much worse offenders (Sundance, I am talking to you!), but it is symptomatic of the bigger problem at hand, the problem which Shooting Wall is attempting to bring to light and then crush with cinema!

Below are a list of the only things I can truly recommend seeing at Philadelphia Film Festival, everything else, see at your own discretion. Almost all the recommendations are from known directors, who have made interesting work in the past.

Film Socialism by Jean-Luc Godard
Carlos by Olivier Assayas
Certified Copy by Abbas Kiarostami
Heartbeats by Xavier Dolan
The Housemaid 1960 version by Kim Ki-Young and 2010 version by Sang-Soo Im
The Last Circus by Alex de la Iglesia
Page of Madness (1927) by Teinosuke Knugasa
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
White Material by Claire Denis

That's about it. Honestly, you can probably see more cutting edge and interesting contemporary cinema at home. I recommend watching films by Lucrecia Martal, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tsai-Ming Liang, Azazel Jacobs, Sofia Coppola, Claire Denis, Gerardo Naranjo, Harmony Korine, Carlos Reygadas, Lynne Ramsay, Guy Maddin, Craig Baldwin, Albert Serra (also best dressed), etc etc. etc. There are many many more hugely talented and undiscovered filmmakers out there making real cutting edge cinema.

Monday, October 11, 2010

First Issue Complete!

Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,

As of last night, the first issue of Shooting Wall is complete! We were able to finish the layout and do all the necessary editing and now it is just a matter of printing, distributing and taking over cinema! I think we have put together a very good first issue; we are all quite pleased with how it turned out, I think. A special thanks to the lovely Miss Carrie Love for the amazing layout and all the artists and contributors who helped get this first issue done. Like I said, we are now working on getting a bunch of copies printed and placing them in strategic areas around Philadelphia and handing them out at the upcoming Philadelphia Film Festival. It is very exciting to finally see this thing done and ready to go out into the world. With all that being said, Shooting Wall is now actively seeking out contributions for Issue # 2. If anyone has an idea or an article or artwork they would like to submit please do. You can email it to us at shootingwallzine@gmail.com. We had an editorial meeting last night and have some interesting stuff planned for the future, so keep checking the blog and submitting articles.

A couple of events going on this week in Philadelphia film. Firstly, the new Woody Allen film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is currently playing at the Ritz. I haven't gotten a chance to see this yet, but I will be very soon. I know it is very fashionable right now, especially in mainstream criticism to bash Woody Allen and his films, but I think that is all nonsense. Woody Allen has consistently been one of the most interesting, original and individual filmmakers working in American cinema. Certainly there have been misfires, but every film he makes is at least work checking out.
Wednesday at 7pm at IHouse is Gustav Deutch's Film ist. 1-6 and 7-12, which looks quite promising.
The big event this week, of course, if the beginning of the Philadelphia Film Festival on Friday. We have not received any word on whether Shooting Wall will be receiving press passes, but it looks pretty unlikely at this point. There will be more later in the week about films we are recommending people go see.


This Weeks Recommendations:

1. Mickey One (1965) by Arthur Penn. Arthur Penn died a few weeks ago, and it got almost no attention, much like this early film of his. One of the first American/Hollywood films to utilize techniques from the French New Wave, Mickey One is an odd, disjointed, and largely unrecognized film from one of American Cinema's real innovators. The film was made on a small budget for Columbia Pictures in 1965, received terrible reviews and died at the box office. The film has been receiving sporadic screenings and write ups in the last 10 or 15 years, but has still not be fully rediscovered due to its lack of a DVD release. There is not much else like this that was made in America in the 1960s and definitely not within the studio system. The film is fractured, elliptic, chaotic, referential, paranoid, and totally compelling. I highly recommend tracking this film down if you can find it. The film is well worth the effort and begs for a DVD release.

2. Bluebeard (2009) by Catherine Breillat. What can I say about this film? It is absolutely essential viewing. I was never a huge fan of Breillat until I saw The Last Mistress, but this one really put me over the edge with her. A strange, evocative, odd, compelling, and beautiful film. This is a more restrained Breillat, but she is in complete control of craft and her ideas in this film. Everything fits and everything is perfect. This film proves Breillat is hands down one of the most interesting filmmakers working today. Her next film is supposed to be a version of Sleeping Beauty and, if it is anything like Bluebeard, should be just as exciting.

3. Flaming Creatures (1963) by Jack Smith. One of the most notorious films to come out of the American underground in the 1960s, Jack Smith's film is grotesque and beautiful, alluring and repulsive, hilarious and disgusting. It is safe to say you will probably never see a film quite like Flaming Creatures again. The film is a series of bizarre tableau featuring trasnvesites, divas and glamour girls all in wonderfully kitschy and obscene performances in a bizarre invocation of Maria Montez and 1930s Hollywood.

4. Regular Loves (2008) by Philippe Garrel. I have mentioned Philippe Garrel in this blog before and I will continue to do so in the future until everyone is as big a Philippe Garrel fan as I am. Regular Lovers was Garrel's response to The Dreamers. Like that film, Garrel's takes place before, during and after May 1968 in Paris, but whereas Bertolucci's film is big and referential, Garrel's film is small and arty and deeply meditative. The film is nearly 3 hours, but you will never see the May '68 riots depicted quite the same as Garrel presents them here.

5. The Intruder (2004) by Claire Denis. Claire Denis has always been a fascinating filmmaker, personal and individualist throughout her career. She is always trying new things and pushing the bonds of narrative filmmaking. The Intruder is a film I want to re-watch. A highly idiosyncratic and elliptic film, which can be quite challenging, as many of Denis' films can be, but definitely a film worth seeing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Women Without Men and Night on Earth

Greeting Soldiers and Cinephiles,

I apologize for not making my weekly post this past week, but I assure you Shooting Wall is alive and well. In fact, we are just about finished with the first issue. The layout is complete, we just need to do a little editing, then we will be printing and distributing! After much ado, Shooting Wall Issue#1 should be out by the end of October and this is a promise fellow cinephiles.

Tonight we have some nice events at International House. At 5pm visual artist Shirin Neshat's debut feature film Women Without Men will be capping off the three day Women Directors from North Africa and the Middle East series. I went last night to see Algerian novelist Assia Djebar's very rare first film La Nouba des femmes de Mont-Chenoua, which was a difficult, but overall very rewarding film. Women Without Men is the centerpiece of the series, and I have heard nothing but good things about it.
This will be followed by Jim Jarmusch's 1991 film Night on Earth. This is part of International House's continuing Janus film series and should be quite good. I expect Jarmusch's film will get much more of a turnout considering he and his films are much more well known, but cinephiles, I think Women Without Men should be essential viewing as well. Everyone who can attend both should. Last night's screening of La Nouba des femmes de Mont-Chenoua was not heavily attended, which was quite disappointing for such an interesting, rare, chanllenging and adventurous film. These are the kinds of films Shooting Wall should be seeing and discussing; it is not just about seeing the well-known films by the famous autuers, but about expanding cinema and discovering lost films and great new ones. Cinema of the past has not been written in stone and there are so many great and interesting films that have yet to be discovered. All cinephiles should feel obligated to seeking out these undiscovered films, especially these non-Western films, which have been seriously neglected in Europe and America for many years. Not to mention films by women, which in many cases are far more adventurous and challenging and intellectual than the more well-known films by men from the same period. I encourage everyone to attend tonight.

More updates on the what's going on in Philadelphia film tomorrow with the weekly update. I hope to see all Shooting Wall soldiers and cinephiles tonight at International House.

Friday, October 1, 2010

TWO FILMS: THE AMERICAN & NEVER LET GO


 The American is Anton Corbijn's Limits Of Control and Ghost Dog. Simply, Corbijn is trying to be Jarmusch. The similarity in visual style is too strong. Still, Corbijn is did something amazing with The American. He made a subtle action film that asked more than it told. Corbijn, whose superior Control or his Stranger Than Paradise, did the same. This begs to question, did what The American asked have any answers? Or was the film just a tight and controlled action film. That worked on it's simplicity, rather than some esotericism of a film like Inception.

To clarify, there is a scene in The American were the main character Jack (played by George Clooney) is sitting in a cafe. He is being followed. A man is in a car out on the street in the foreground, while Jack is in the foreground. Jack turns around and sees the man sitting in the passenger seat of the car. Then, when the camera comes back, we see Jack in the foreground in focus and when he turns around again, the background is now racked out of focus. This scene, possessing the best rack focus of all time, is one of the moments that makes the film. Its one of the several scenes in the film that treats the audience with such respect.

So, these little scenes, that amount to no more than being "well done," do not warrant The American to being great. Rather, they make you hunger for better action/thrillers and/or films that posses those genre elements. Of which only recently The Limits of Control, The International and Che come to mind. Still, we can "push" for better films in the genre.

On top of this, Corbijn is working towards some thematic schema that might turn out to be rewarding. I feel he is interested in individuals that want to exist. They have elements that come into their world, epilepsy in Control and the assassin's code in The American, that impede on their existence. They work to gain some understanding, but ultimately these characters know of their coming demise. I feel though that this isn't strong enough and this director needs to build on what he is trying to say.

So, if Corbijn can move away from his understandable love of a great director like Jarmusch, and move towards some thematic coherence, then I feel he has the potentiality to be a master director. Also, have to note, Clooney, stripped of his Cary Grant-esque charm, was refreshing.

With Never Let Me Go, the film is a totally a "Performance Film." Still, it contained moments of possible auteur quality. Yet, it never reached the height of something of value. The director, Mark Romanek, whose One Hour Photo had it's moments, makes a better film here. Being that, the awkward scenes in One Hour Photo, a dream sequence that Robin William's character Seymour comes to mind, are gone from this film. So, what is superior about this production is interesting visual moments. Especially with the lighting of given to Kathy, played by Carie Mulligan, who gave the best performance in the film by far. They tend to express her through variants of light and dark. Where her understanding, emotion or spirituality is expressed via her exposure and that of those around her. These purely cinematic gestures enhance the literary quality of the film.

But, I have to admit, the questions it raised in the arena of Bio-Ethics were insightful. So, what I would suggest, is to read Kazuo Ishiguro's book of the same name. Being that, the film had a literary style, that I'm sure works better in a literary setting.

So, if you have to go out and see a film in theaters, I suggest people go see The American and Enter The Void. Skip Catfish and Let Me In. The former is Realist garbage and the later is an excuse for Hollywood to spend millions of dollars because “Americans won't read subtitles.” Check out Let The Right One In, the original, but make sure you get proper subtitles. The main version out right now has improper ones, but supposedly they released a new batch of DVD's that fixed the problem.

-KARL 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall and the Philadelphia Film Festival

Greetings Soldiers and CInephiles,

It appears the fall may actually be upon us now, which will hopefully mean an increase in the amount of good cinema being shown in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Film Festival has officially unveiled their lineup and there are definitely a few worthy entries, including new films by Jean-Luc Godard, Abbas Kiarostami, Claire Denis and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, whose film won Palme D’or at Cannes this year. Those will definitely be worth checking out and, as soon as I get a chance to really go through the festival films, I will come up with a more definitive guide. The festival will be Oct. 15-24. I have contacted the festival about Shooting Wall possibly receiving press credentials, which could really be great for our cause, but I am still waiting to hear back from them.

Next weekend at the Ritz we have Enter the Void which, as stated in a previous blog, could be hit or miss, but promises to at least be an interesting film; something that may even promote some heated dialogue and debates among cinephiles.

International House’s schedule picks up this week with Corpus Callosum by Michael Snow on Wednesday September 29 at 8pm with Michael Snow in attendance! For anyone interested in experimental and/or formalistic cinema, this will be quite a night. Snow has been on the forefront of the North American avant-garde since the 1960s with such canonical experimental films as Wavelength and La Region Centrale . The film is screening in conjunction with the opening reception for Many Moving and Still Works by Two Torontonians at Slought Foundation. This exhibition will be going on through the end of October featuring recent works by Michael Snow and John Oswald. This should be a fun night and an exciting exhibition definitely worth checking out. There will definitely be more coming up at International House next week and beyond, so keep checking the blog regularly for updates.

Bryn Mawr has a couple of good repertory things coming up in the next month or so including Memento, The Fly, Metropolis and Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown, but their first run films, as usual, aren’t terribly interesting.

This Week’s Recommendations:

1. The Headless Woman (2008) by Lucrecia Martel. Cinephiles, if you have not discovered the cinema of Lucrecia Martel, then now is the time to do so. For my money, she is one of the best filmmakers working right now and this is an absolute masterpiece. There have not been many films that I have seen in the last few years as amazing as this one. This is utterly brilliant film about ideas and is masterfully done in every single way. I am highly recommending everyone see this film immediately.

2. Je Tu Il Elle (1974) by Chantal Akerman. Again, cinephiles, if you have discovered the cinema of Chantal Akerman, then you are way behind. She is an absolutely essential filmmaker and this, her first feature film, is a good place to start. A grainy, formal and minimalist triumph. Once you have watched this film, then you can move on to her 3 ½ hour minimalist masterpiece Jeanne Dielmann.

3. The Beaches of Agnes (2009) by Agnes Varda. As far as I am concerned, this was one of the 10 best films of last year. Varda is continuing to make interesting, experimental and personal films. This one is part documentary, part essay and part autobiography and brilliant throughout.

4. The Connection (1962) by Shirley Clarke. American independent pioneer Shirley Clarke’s first feature film may not be very well known, but it is definitely worth checking out. The whole thing takes place in a New York City apartment among heroin addicts. Clarke is part of the group of the first wave of American independent filmmakers who started working in New York in the 1950s. This list includes John Cassavetes, Morris Engle and Ruth Orkin, Lionel Rogosin, Robert Downey Sr., Jim McBride, and Brian DePalma (before all he did was rip off Hitchock). This is an incredibly interesting period in American Cinema, which is unfortunately overshadowed by the New Hollywood filmmakers of the late 1960s and early 70s (Scorsese, Coppola, et. al.), but nevertheless a period and filmmakers worth checking out.

5. Nathalie Granger (1972) by Marguerite Duras. Probably the most well-known and easily available films by the great French novelist Marguerite Duras is fascinating and beguiling and in every way. A minimal, highly elliptic piece of early 1970s filmmaking. I only hope more of her films become available on DVD in this country very soon.

-Josh Martin

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Son, My Son and The Match Factory Girl

I finally got a chance to watch Werner Herzog’s most recent film My Son My Son What Have Ye Done last night. Bad Lieutenant was good but this film was amazing; so odd, compelling, funny, absurd and full of ideas. Herzog has definitely made a comeback with these last two films, which are miles away from most of the other garbage being put out these days. It is nice to nice Herzog not trying to make something more conventional, as I feel he had been doing with Invincible and Rescue Dawn. It is so nice to see these older directors embracing digital filmmaking as a tool to allow to them to make whatever kinds of films they want. This film and David Lynch’s Inland Empire really show how great filmmakers can use the new medium to do exactly what they want, in exactly the way they want to do it. THIS IS WHAT SHOOTING WALL IS ALL ABOUT. Using whatever means necessary to make GREAT CINEMA! There is no need for huge budgets or crews or producers; JUST MAKE YOUR FILMS! The only disgrace associated with My Son My Son What Have Ye Done was abysmally small release it received in this country. It barely played anywhere and got little to no write ups from anyone. It is such a shame to think that cinema this unique, beguiling and totally and completely fascinating made by a filmmaker considered by many to be one of the greatest living directors cannot find adequate distribution. Every Shooting Wall member should see this film, if they haven’t already.

International House will be screening Aki Kaurismaki’s 1990 film The Match Factory Girl tonight at 7pm as part of their Janus film series. I will be there. All cinephiles should attend if they can. For those who haven't seen any Kaurismaki films, this is a good place to start. He is a filmmaker who is sorely underappreciated in this country.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Inception

Since Shooting Wall did not update the blog all summer, we were unable to comment on the summer movie season. Therefore, I would like to use this post to discuss Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

Inception was one of the biggest films of summer 2010 and received, largely, glowing reviews. It has a 74 score on Metacritic with 100s from eleven of the top American film critics including the Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Time, Variety and the San Francisco Chronicle to name a few. The film even made the cover of the July/August edition of film comment, which featured a lengthy interview with Christopher Nolan (this last one I find particularly obnoxious). And what was all of this acclaim and attention for? A so-called “intelligent” action film? What exactly does not even mean?

Christopher Nolan is regularly considered the new Hollywood wonderkid, revitalizing the action genre as more serious, thoughtful and intellectual. Many saw Inception as another Nolan success. I can admit that compared to the other trash released this (or any other summer for that matter) Inception was tolerable and, in comparison to a Michael Bay film, intelligent. But that really isn’t saying much at all. Inception is a mediocre film at best.

Inception does have ideas and Nolan does have the capacity for intelligent filmmaking, but Inception completely blows it in almost every way. The ideas, quite frankly, have been done and have been done better. Dreams have been explored more interestingly not very long ago in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for example, and in numerous films since the invention of cinema. Dreams and cinema have always been closely related and film offers a unique perspective for those interested in the idea of dreams, unless of course you are really only interested in making an action film, which is what Christopher Nolan has decided to do with Inception.

And this is the real problem with the film: it is first and foremost an action film. 90% of Inception is about plot and about action. The ideas have so little time to be fully developed in any meaningful way. The myriad of chases, gun fights and car crashes has little to no bearing on any of the so-called ideas explored in the film. This film is superficial in almost every possible way. It is so loud and obnoxious that it becomes distracting and not in a good way. Even when the characters are simply speaking to each other, music was constantly playing. Almost every bit of dialogue is used for explanation or to further the plot. Nolan was a not able to fully integrate his ideas with the plot. He shows in almost every instance that he is more interested in the plot and the action than in the ideas. If Nolan is really making a so-called “intelligent” film, then why does he insist on hiding all his ideas under constant music, special effects and overblown, overlong action sequences? Why does Nolan insist on appealing to the lowest common denominator? Where is the innovation? I don’t see it

Why is Nolan constantly receiving praise? What is exactly is an “intelligent” action film? And, more importantly, why should we care about “intelligent” action films? Is it necessary? It is truly discouraging to see someone like Nolan receiving so much praise not just from audiences, but from critics as well, for films that are only good in comparison with bad action movies. The praise is especially unfortunate when someone like Steven Soderbergh, who is also working in the Hollywood system and actually making legitimately bold, interesting and intelligent films continues to get mixed to bad reviews from critics and is ignored more and more by audiences.. As Nolan’s stock continues to rise with each more and more mainstream and idiotic film, Soderbergh’s continues to fall as he makes less accessible, yet truly intelligent films.

Has mainstream cinema become so devoid of intelligence that Inception could be mistaken for some kind of an art film? Yes.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Are You Serious Cineaste?

Hello Cinephiles and Soldiers,



I received the new issue of Cineaste this week and it had The Kids Are All Right on the cover. Really? Why is it that in America just because a film is about lesbians it has to be considered an "independent" or "art house" film. The Kids Are All Right is a mainstream film. The same thing happens with foreign films. If a film has subtitles, it has to play in a small "art house" theater, when a majority of the time it just a conventional mainstream film. For example, the upcoming French film Heartbreaker is a case in point. A film that looks conventional and stupid in every way, but because it is in French, it is playing at the Ritz. This is something that I do not understand at all. If a film like Heartbreaker were made in Hollywood, it would probably star Dane Cook and Jessica Alba. I am not making any kind of value judgment about The Kids Are All Right, as I haven't seen it and probably won't, but if the film wasn't about lesbians, I know for a fact it would not be considered an "independent" film. It has Annette Bening in it!



No really anything good playing at Ritz right now. Like I said, A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop looks like it could be all right, but I don't think there is any reason to rush out and see it. I'm Still Here looks like it could be funny and absurd, but again, probably not essential. Not too much interesting on the horizon. Enter the Void could be interesting. It has mixed reviews and I am not particularly a fan of Gaspar Noe (Irreversible was a piece of shit), but as far as an interesting experiment, if nothing else, it appears promising. That opens October 1st. Otherwise, the Ritz lineup looks pretty bad. A lot of bad documentaries; kind of standard these days, I guess.

The Chestnut Hill Film Group starts their fall 2010 screenings on September 28th with Badlands. I haven't been to any of these screenings yet, but they play some very good films. attend a few of these screenings this fall. Nick Ray's On Dangerous Ground in October, Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman in the Dunes in Feb and Howard Hawks' Twentieth Century in March are the highlights.

Next weekend should be promising at International House with Aki Kaurismaki's The Match Factory Girl Saturday Sept. 25th and Chaplin's The Kid with a live score on Sunday Sept 26th should make for some excellent viewing.


Recommendations for the Week:

1. In a Year of 13 Moons by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. My viewing of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul has reinviforated my love for Fassbinder, so I think I need to watch some more. I am going to go with my personal favorite this week, 1979's In a Year of 13 Moons.

2. Eyes Without a Face by Hiroshi Teshigahara. This film is not nearly as famous as Woman in the Dunes, but for my money this is Teshigahara's best film. Highly original, expressive, intellectual and subversive. This, along with maybe Alain Resnais' Je T'aime, Je T'aime is probably the height of 1960s film modernism.

3. Frontier of Dawn by Philippe Garrel. This was Philippe Garrel's most recent film and along with Regular Lovers proves him to be one of the few filmmakers still working who is offering unique and challenging films. Garrel is incredibly underrated and under-seen in the United States. I will be writing more about him in the future, but everyone should see anything by him that is availble here.

4. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia by Sam Peckinpah. My favorite Peckinpah film. Violent, cynical and one of the great examples of a time when Hollywood would actually let a madman like Peckinpah make a film like this.

5. La Pointe Courte by Agnes Varda. Agnes Varda's first feature film from 1954 is one of her best. It doesn't have the same reputation as Cleo from 5 to 7 or Vagabond, but this is a key film in the development of the French New Wave and the move toward subversive "art house" cinema that would take place in the 1960s. This is a really underrated film, which I hope gets rediscovered thanks to the recent criterion edition.

I also have the latest Herzog film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done and Docks of New York by Josef von Sternberg from criterion's new box set from netflix, which I am looking forward to watching this week.

I hope to be adding another blog or two this week as well. One about Summer 2010 highs and lows and some words about Inception.

I also want to put together a list of upcoming fall films, which are actually worth seeing.

-Josh Martin

Monday, September 13, 2010

3D and zombie movies

Resident Evil: Afterlife just made 27 million at the box-office for its opening weekend, pretty ridiculous seeing as how the plot is no different from the previous 3 installations in the series. This happened, and is still happening, with the Saw series - same movie, new money, over and over again, never going to stop. 3D can be thanked for wasting our time by prolonging these series even more, reeling us audience into theatres across the globe with the temptation of new technology. Here, put on these glasses, they'll make the movie more fun. Yeah. Right.

I didn't see Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3D, but I did see it, and by not seeing it in 3D, I prevented myself from being distracted by it, therefore allowing myself to see the movie for what it truly is - offensive. I swear it's as if the inventor of 3D has arose from the grave and created Resident Evil: Afterlife as an hour and a half long example of what his new invention is capable of doing, leaving cinema out in the cold. Cinema is lying in a gutter, alone and crying, as Resident Evil: Afterlife goes on in its demonstration of abominableness. It ceases to be a film, it's moreso equivalent to a laser light show, or -- if it weren't for the special FX -- a baby's rattle toy. No amount of 3D can save it. Its value as entertainment is insulting.

I just as much felt tortured by its plot. How old is this plot exactly? 42 years. Perhaps longer. Here it is: The main character, Alice, thinks herself alone in the post-apocalyptic world, which is inhabited only by zombies, until she flies a plane and finds fellow humans holed up in a building, which is surrounded by thousands of zombies, so she lands on the roof and joins them in their struggle to make it out alive. Is there more depth to it than that? No. 42 years now, we are still subjected to the same...god...damn...zombie plot first seen in the year 1968 in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead!

And what eagerness the movie has to hurry up into the action. Worse than Inception. No build up to the action - it's just there, suddenly, no transition, no nothing, before you know it you're stuck watching over-stylized fight sequences, the whole time wondering, "WHY?" I don't see how enjoyment is possible when what I'm watching has no meaning. I AM NOT A DOG.

I read this interview with Wentworth Miller, one of the stars of Resident Evil: Afterlife, where I found his opinion on classic horror films as very respectable, as he commends them for their use of suspense to build the horror and for having respect for the audience by not cheaply scaring the audience within the first 5 minutes. He then goes on to insult the way modern horror films betray the audience's intelligence. Why he would say this in an interview to promote Resident Evil: Afterlife is beyond me. It is the epitome of the modern American horror film which treats its audience as stupid and it furthers this insult by being in 3D - 2 gimmicks combined to make 1 pile of shit. This is the worst case scenario horror film, I cannot imagine anything more bad.

I cannot live with myself for donating $9 of my own money toward those who made me endure this experience. An innocent Sunday afternoon turned to horror, not by the scares from the movie but by my supporting such blatant anti-cinema.

- Jon Seidman

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Upcoming Cinema in Philadelphia

I will be routinely updating everyone with the good and bad screenings and cinematic events in Philadelphia.

Now Playing:

The Ritz has has had a fairly lackluster selection of films in the last few months. The new Faith Akim film, Soul Kitchen, is playing. Does not appear to be essential, but his last two films were very good, so Soul Kitchen may be worth checking out. None of the upcoming releases at The Ritz appear particularly promising, but I have heard a few good things about A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop. Hopefully, the releases will be picking up as we move into the fall, although every single list I have seen of the most anticipated fall films has been shamefully disappointing. We will see.

There is nothing particularly interesting screening at Bryn Mawr Film Institute this month either, but nothing as shameful as their playing Eat Pray Love. My sources tell me the film did not do as well as hoped, so at least that is a plus.

September is shaping up to be a rather lackluster month in the area for new films. I see nothing on the horizon worth seeing.

This month at International House has been slow, but they will be continuing their Janus Film Series on Saturday September 25 with Aki Kaurismaki's The Match Factory Girl. This is required viewing for all Shooting Wall soldiers and everyone should be there. There schedule should pick up next month, which I will go into more detail about in later posts.

Required Viewing of the Week:

I plan on listing at least five films every week, which I am hoping to revisit. If you have not seen these films, DO SO IMMEDIATELY.

1. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. This film has been a staple of mine for many years, but I realized that it has been quite a while since I have watched any Fassbinder films, so I thought this would be a good place to start to revisit him.

2. Partner by Bernardo Bertolucci. For anyone interested in political cinema, Partner is required viewing. It is not one of Berolucci's more famous films and it often gets mixed reviews, but for my money it is way better than that psycho-sexual piece of shit Last Tango in Paris.

3. Teorem by Pier Paolo Pasolini. For my money, this is Pasolini's masterpiece. This and Porcile are the apex of his work before he detours into his highly sexualized adaptations of The Canterbury Tales and Arabian Nights.

4. I'm Not There by Todd Haynes. I have been meaning to rewatch this film since I first saw it in the theater. A very rare biography that is subversive, interesting and consistently cinematic.

5. Three Women by Robert Altman. Altman's best film. Strange, elusive and full of ideas.


Please continue to check the blog daily, as I hope to be consistently updating it with everything cinematic and everything Shooting Wall.

The Future of Shooting Wall is Now

Greetings cinephiles and soldiers,

It has been a few months since we have updated this blog, but now that the oppressive heat of summer is over and the fall is upon us, Shooting Wall is ready to reclaim cinema. First Philadelphia and then the world.

We have spent the summer preparing the first issue of Shooting Wall, which should be coming out (hopefully) by the end of September. Karl and Jon are working on the final touches now and it is sure to incite all kinds of cinematic riots and revolutions throughout the city of Philadelphia. I (that is Josh Martin) have spoken to Karl and Jon and we have agreed that I will take over the main duties of the blog, with their assistance whenever an idea strikes them which they need to immediately get out. I plan on updating this at least once a week (sometimes more if I am feeling particularly cranky). The blog will be the outlet for day to day Shooting Wall activities, reviews, screening information and what not. I will be keeping all the soldiers up to date with all cineamtic happenings in Philadelphia. All true cinephiles will check this blog at least twice a week (daily for the truly committed).

Other than the first issue, Shooting Wall has several plans for the fall and beyond. We will be organizing various meetings, discussions and screenings throughout the city. This will hopefully be taking place either monthly or bi-monthly. All screenings will feature Shooting Wall approved local films. We hope to expand regionally as well encompassing all meaningful cinema from the region. You will have to read this blog and stay tuned so you do not miss out on the revolution. A Shooting Wall film festival is also in the works....