Tuesday, October 26, 2010


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


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.


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


 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.