Tuesday, December 28, 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.

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)

(I like horror movies, I'm sorry cinema God):
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.
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


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. 

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.


Sunday, December 12, 2010


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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