Monday, August 29, 2011

Film Recommendations of the Week

DVD Recommendations:

La Pointe Courte (1955) by Agnes Varda - Agnes Varda's first feature film is a lovely, understated, and formalist precursor to the French New Wave. Varda fuses documentary and fiction and uses parallel editing (the film was edited by Alain Resnais) to tie the story of a small fishing town with lovers analysis their relationship. An early statement of what would later be the explosion of the French New Wave. Available on DVD from the Criterion Collection. You can find it on Netflix and Facets.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939) by Howard Hawks - One of Howard Hawks' greatest and most fully realized films. I always felt this film got pushed to the side in favor of Hawks' more famous works (Red River, Rio Bravo, The Big Sleep), but I find this to be one of his greatest achievements and a beautiful summation of the style and themes Hawks explored throughout his career. Available on DVD through Netflix and Facets.

Les Rendez-vous d'Anna (1978) by Chantal Akerman - Akerman's follow up to Jeanne Dielman and News from Home is less formally rigid, but just as masterful. It was her most "mainstream" film to date in 1978, but is just as insightful and beautiful as anything she has done. I actually recommend watching this film before Jeanne Dielman to get a taste for Akerman, especially if you are at all put off by Jeanne Dielman's epic length and formalist reputation. Les Rendex-vous d'Anna is an excellent introduction into the films of Chantal Akerman and one of her most personal statement about herself as a filmmaker. Available on DVD through Netflix and Facets and released as part of Criterion's Eclipse series entitled Akerman in the Seventies.

I'm Gonna Explode (2008) by Gerardo Naranjo - The second feature film from Mexican director Gerardo Naranjo is a fresh, youthful, and radical take on the teenage, criminal lovers on the run genre. I have heard it described as a Pierrot le fou from the girl's point of view. I believe that Naranjo is one of the best young filmmaker's working today and one of the most interesting coming out of Mexico. Available on DVD through Netflix and Facets.

Region 2 Pick of the Week:

Le Lit de la vierge (1969) by Philippe Garrel - Another film from the Zanzibar film group, Philippe Garrel's Le lit de la vierge is a bizarre, minimalist, radical take on the story of Christ starring Pierre Clementi. Filled with long takes, anachronistic music, and revolutionary ideas, Le lit de la vierge is was one Garrel's best early films and one of the few available on DVD. It is available in France as a region 2 DVD with subtitles and can be obtained through Facets, the University of Pennsylvania library has a copy of it as well.

Free Movie of the Week:

Flaming Creatures (1963) by Jack Smith - Surely one of the most infamous films to come out of the American Underground in the 1960s, Flaming Creatures is strange, insular, insane, and beautiful. A film influenced as much by classic Hollywood cinema as by pornography and modern art. The film is difficult and strange, but it is worth checking out. You can view it on ubuweb for free.

Download of the Week:

Ticket of No Return (1979) by Ulrike Ottinger - Ottinger is a new discovery for me as well; she is a filmmaker I have been wanting to watch for a long time, but her films remains sadly unavailable in the United States. She is a colorful, kitschy, outlandish, and hilarious German filmmaker who came in at the tail end of the New German and has carved out a following among dedicated cinephiles for her bold and bizarre films. Ticket of No Return is a nice introduction to her work. You can download it on Pirates Bay. There is also an un-subtitled version of her film Freak Orlando (1981) on UbuWeb for those who know German.

As always, start threads on the Shooting Wall Message Board with your own recommendations and thoughts on these or any other of the recommended films.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Incendies is a film I saw half a year ago, but it's currently playing at the place I work. If you're right by the theater and are a member and/or a student-as to get discounted tickets-then, and only then, come check it out if you have time to waste. Otherwise, save your gas money or train faire. The film, a international mystery film, adapted from Wajdi Mouward's play Scorched, is about a woman discovering she has family, not in her home of Quebec, but in her ancestral home of Lebanon. A discourse is proposed involving what the Middle East was, at one point, and still in several ways, if you look outside the Orientalist (go read Edward Said) US military hegemony on US media, a progressive and modern place. There are still the regressive elements, but we have that also in our society.

What unfolds is interesting, yet only traditional cinematically, so its not worth much merit. And my whole intellectual analysis above borrows more from my anthropology undergraduate courses than what is actually in the film, but I had to try to sound smart. The movie seems to borrow a bit from Atom Egoyan. Especially Egoyan's Ararat in terms of Incendies and it both being Middle Eastern historical and political mystery films. Yet, Ararat is a far superior film because unlike Incendies-which tricks you with glossy art house cinematography and a non-linear script-it delves much deeper into socio-political implications. Not only of what occurred in Armenia (where the main character in Ararat is trying to expose a genocide to the world), but also how the story is being portrayed. This is done via a non-linear meta-film technique that ultimately yields a much more intelligent analysis of the implications of one's history and how your history is portrayed-and spread-in terms of what history does to us phenomenologically. 

Incendies is then just a so-so film, surely better than most mystery films you'll see this year at the multiplex, but nothing that will incite cinephilia as it is overall a film that fits many of the dull Hollywood conventions art house movie theater-goers now expect after 30 years of Blockbuster saturation plaguing our understanding of what film can do. I mean, the film could of done so much more, but it just does the job and gives Western audiences a American History X-esque and.or Hollywood-ized portrayal of what occurred and is currently happening in the Middle East, which a film like Ararat was intelligent enough to avoid through more innovation. Definitely check out the director of Incendies Denis Villeneuve's better last film Polytechnique along with Egoyan's Ararat, but in the historical-political mystery market there is a whole contingency of films to check out before these like the amazing Katyn (Andrezj Wadja) or Z (Costa-Gravas). 



Nicolas Winding Refn's DRIVE is good.  Scratch that.  It's great.  Really great.  Some may have feared that Refn sold out with his pretty-boy Ryan Gosling action movie, and I'm inclined to call those people fools.  Yes, DRIVE does feels like a Hollywood film, but not like anything you've seen Hollywood put out in a long time.  Did you really think that Nicolas Winding Refn, one of the best and most interesting working directors, would submit to the evil ways of the studio system?  Refn actually benefitted from the opportunities Hollywood gave him with this film.  Utilizing his best cast yet (not that he hasn't always used great actors) and some very nice Los Angeles locales, Refn has created what I feel to be his most complete film to date.  

No, it isn't as existential as, say, BRONSON or VALHALLA RISING, but it is just as thoughtful, and even more violent, than anything he has made.  What Refn has done with DRIVE is make something that is not only accessible to a fairly wide audience, but also completely in keeping with the rest of his filmography.  Some diehards may rail against the film's familiar action movie structure or its dabbling with romanticism, but by the end it's clear that Refn is deconstructing the modern action film, rather than falling in line with it.



Catherine Breillat is a director we at Shooting Wall champion as one of foremost cinematically progressive directors working today. Breillat's latest is something every cinephile, if they have the opportunity in a theater or through the internet, should see. Stronger than her last film Blue Beard and on the same plane as the masterpieces The Last Mistress, Fat Girl, and Anatomy of Hell, I wonder in the coming weeks as I re-watch the film if it will come to dominate as my favorite of hers.

Sleeping Beauty's elements, the combination of the mise en scene and narrative pieces that each constitute metaphors, combine to create a layered interwoven epic. The film is non-linear: the story begins around the time the original fairytale was written and then the film leaps decades into the future. As sleeping beauty sleeps, we follow her as she is constantly displaced though various shifts in time in space. Though the film remains true to the eras which it depicts, it is dominated by a general "fairy tale" aesthetic. It is quite spectacular just to get your head around what you're being given. 

Now, there is a lot going on with this film. It is definitely using the strengths Breillat has honed with her past mytho-historical works like Blue Beard and The Last Mistress, to push her unique feminist polemics found in Anatomy Of Hell, Sex Is Comedy, Fat Girl, etc., on a grand socio-historical scale that ultimately pushes her ideas to a totalizing extreme. This film, in a simple sense, also pushes to a horrifying limit a line said earlier in the film, that "the lives of little girls are so boring." A thing meditated on through out and then heightened towards the end when the idea of abstracting oneself is seen as a nightmare.

Breillat, a filmmaker with amazing formal strengths in cinematography and art direction, utilizes her unique formal strategies to a limit with this film. Her gray muted color palettes, her surrealist gestures found in everything from sculptures adorning backgrounds to cobwebs suggesting century long immobility, long takes which slowly move closer to the character and heightened emotion impact, harsh complex lighting set-ups that highlight the muted-grayness of the highly unique characters and of the world, etc., make the narrative so much more meaningful. 

In short, this film is spectacular. With Breillat, you have to be open to what she is doing. She can be a harsh and violent filmmaker, but it is never without purpose. There is always so much going on her films. And Sleeping Beauty is one of her and cinema's crowning achievements. See it however you can. 


Monday, August 22, 2011

Film Recommendations of the Week

This is a new feature being added to the blog. Each week, on Monday, I will offer some recommended viewing for the week. There will be a mixture of DVDs, downloads, and stuff you can watch for free and where to find it. I hope everyone will check in every week for these recommendations and check out a few of them, if they can, and maybe start a thread about the films on our message board. Happy viewing!

DVD Recommendations:

Brigitte and Brigitte (1966) by Luc Moullet. One of my goals in Shooting Wall is to expose more people to the films of Luc Moullet. He is one of the most interesting, funny, and unique filmmakers to emerge in the last fifty years and is barely known in this country. Brigitte and Brigitte is his first feature and is an excellent starting point to his highly referential, cinematic, minimalist comedies. This film is available on DVD and can be obtained through Netflix or Facets.

Daisies (1966) by Vera Chytilova. One of the more bizarre and original films to come out of the Czech New Wave, Daisies is a funny, freewheeling, and surreal feminist masterpiece from Vera Chytilova. The film is available on DVD and can be obtained through Netflix or Facets.

Shadows in Paradise (1986) by Aki Kaurismaki. The first film in Finnish director Aki Karusimaki's Proletarian triology and a good introduction to the filmmaker's wry and deadpan style. The film and the trilogy are part of the Criterion Eclipse series and are available on DVD from Netflix and Facets.

The Headless Woman (2008) by Lucrecia Martel. Argentine director Lucrecia Martel's most recent and best film to date; if you haven't seen this film, then see it now. One of the best films in years from one of the most interesting directors working today. Available in DVD on Netflix and Facets.

Region 2 Pick of the Week:

Duex Fois (1968) by Jackie Raynal. An odd, difficult, yet engrossing film from France in the late 1960s. Raynal was a member of the Zanzibar film group, which featured the likes of Philippe Garrel, Pierre Clementi, and Serge Bard. She isn't nearly as well-known as Garrel, but this 1968 film is worth checking out. It is available on Region 2 DVD with English subtitles, which can be obtained through Facets or downloaded at the Pirate Bay.

Free Movie of the Week:

Mes Petites Amoureuses (1974) by Jean Eustache. Eustache's follow-up to the mammoth The Mother and the Whore is less extreme, but just as remarkable. A film about youth, but played in a minimalist style reminiscent of Robert Bresson. Exposing more people to the films of Jean Eustache is also one of my goals with Shooting Wall. This film is rare, but a subtitled version is available to watch in 10 minute segments on You Tube. I highly recommend everyone checking this out.

Download of the Week:

L'amour fou (1969) by Jacques Rivette. Rivette's mammoth (nearly 4 1/2 hour) masterpiece about the decline of a marriage is essential viewing for fans of the director. In many ways, it is a transitional film for Rivette, it doesn't have the magical and dreamy feel of some of Rivette's more well-known works (Celine and Julie Go Boating, Duelle, etc.), but an ambitious film full of interesting visuals, acting, and an essential portrait of artists in late '60s Paris. The film is long and hard to find, but is available for download in three easy to digest parts on the Pirate Bay. The quality isn't perfect, but it is well worth it to see this rare and important film.

Check back next week for more recommendations!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Upcoming Films Philadelphia

Greetings Soldiers and Cinephiles,

Shooting Wall is hard at work on Issue #3 and is still accepting article submissions, so send us something! Below are a list of some upcoming events in Philly. Check these out in more detail on our website in the upcoming film section:

Cinema 16:9
The Sleeping Beauty by Catherine Breillat. I am not certain, but it doesn't seem like anywhere else in Philly will be playing this film, so I suggest everyone run out and try and see this. Breillat's last film, Blue Beard, was amazing, and this looks promising as well.

International House:

Saturday August 20 at 7pm - Blank City by Celine Danhier
Saturday August 20 at 9pm - The Early Films of Vivienne Dick

Wooden Shoe:

Sunday August 21st at 7pm - The Working Class Goes to Heaven by Elio Petri
Sunday September 4 at 7pm - The Circle by Jafar Panahi
Sunday September 11 at 7pm - The Day I Became a Woman by Mazieh Makhmalbaf
Sunday September 18 at 7pm - Ten by Abbas Kiarostami
Sunday September 25 at 7pm - The Apple by Samira Makhmalbaf

Stayed tuned to the blog and the website for more updates of upcoming films, Shooting Wall events, and Issue #3.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Rudolf Arnheim is my chief theoretical influence, his formalism was a “critical challenge to certain principles of theory.” His Film As Art is the Das Capital of film theory, dialectical in methodology, an assault on the misguided realist notions still irrationally haunting the movie halls and academia. As he states in a introduction to Film As Art, that art doesn't,produce mechanical recordings of the outer world but organize the sensory raw material creatively according to principles of simplicity, regularity, and balance, which govern the receptor mechanism.” A trained psychologist, the man tried to blend science and art theory, especially in his later works.

I found his work after years of intellectual malaise, reading book after book hoping to find some theory that would help me appreciate film, while also strengthening my own cinematic skills. The dominate forms of theory-psychoanalytic, Marxist, critical, structuralist, feminist-barely added to my film appreciation. A student of political anthropology, I felt the theories used by the film theorists fell short of actually reading Marx, Engels, Freud, Lacan, Foucault, Adorno, De Bouvior, etc. I felt, for example, that the theorists were trying to confuse the multitude of filmmakers and students of film in the academy (in the very near future there are going to be more people with Film BA's than Pre-Med BS's) with ultra-histrionics as to suggest their genius and justify their position instead of leading to better cinema. When not enough critics came to terms with the very nature of cinema itself.

The scientific attention to detail in Arnheim's works, like The Power Of The Center and Art and Visual Perception continually pushes his notion that “how the various peculiarities of film material [or in his later books, anything specific to each art] can be, and have been, used to achieve artistic effects.” He details in Film As Art as many of these “peculiarities” as he could. This, I felt, constituted the beginning stages of what later become my strong foundation of film appreciation, theory, and criticism.

His theoretical cannon though didn't elude enough to any key intellectual celebrity. There was just film truths and film fallacies, but nothing for intellectuals to egotistically idolize. The only contention one can have with Arnheim's theory is how it comes into conflict with Cashiers Du Cinema's auteur theory, which also allowed me to be more enriched by the cinema. Arnheim, with his formalism, suggests that the pure experience of the art is what is key. I find that to be true, in a sense, but feel film is too layered to allow for pure experience. It isn't painting, photography, music, etc., but has so much going on autuer theory allows for you to a) identify the filmmakers themes as to connect more with the material via trying to gain more information about the filmmaker's specifics (if the filmmaker is Marxist, read Marx, if the filmmaker is a feminist, read Bell Hooks) and b) that auteur theory allows you to identify the formalist strengths of all the cast and crew and then c) how those auteurs strengthen the whole cinematic package. So with my adulation of Arnheim, I had to re-assess auteur theory, but as I re-read Arnheim and continue with my adoration of auteurist texts, my appreciation and what I get out of film has only grown.


We could drop theoretical bombs all day. Expect a piece lauding the genius of psychologically oriented formalist theorist Rudolf Arnheim, but until then try to let me use this blog as therapy.

The theater above, AMC Marple 10 in Springfield, PA is the one my single mother of 3 took her children for the before 5pm and early morning weekend matinees. She took me weekly to see everything and anything, which definitely lead to the angel (or monster) I am at this very moment. Today though didn't evoke images of a happy childhood escaping my "lets bring store brand popcorn to the theater instead of buying it so we can have Christmas this year" existence, but was terrible because I am emotionally unstable sometimes and normal at other times-diagnosis anyone? Anywho, I wanted the cinema equivalent of a speedball- I needed something to pep me up, but ultimately make me black out into the fantasmical wonderland of movie magic. So, through some leads, I returned to the place that spawned the cinematic warrior that writes truth for you right now. And my old dealer, my old friend, had a new drug:  30 Minutes Or Less.

The shit my dealer gave me was just nutrasweet mixed with pencil eraser dust spit on by my pallid inner-child. It only backed up the immensely cultivated heroic notion I came up with awhile ago that I should stop going to multiplexes. Want me to talk about the movie? Alright, two guys do goofy shit, movie goes on too long, everyone else is better in other movies. Comedy for me is different than other types of film, but this didn't even try. Where was the impact I get with good movies? What is that impact? If you would even ask that you probably just like things because they make you feel good, lower-animals do that too. 

And I say this as most of you probably have the higher cognitive strength to not even think of going to a movie like 30 Minutes or Less. If you feel I have done wrong, I rather die by the hands of you then by someone who would even sit in a theater with a bunch of prepubescents barking at each other while I watched on trying to learn how to pick up women from 14 year olds in sleeveless jerseys advertising gyms they have never been too. In there middle there:

Not enough? Was it OK I was insulted with this right when I came in the door? 

The original Shit Dogs lacked all merit. If you feel some connection to it you surely lack any semblance of meaningful film appreciation. You probably like that the actor in the movie usually isn't like that in other movies. Well. I usually don't give a shit. Peckinpah should of drank himself to death sooner.

I'm saying this as my insomnia-15 years now and still going-impelled me to take a sleeping pill. One that is now beckoning me to stop trying to mix intellectual irony with criticism. You probably are hoping we never mix those two together again like most music and/or post-modern hipster online outfits. We won't, if we do, we'll put the proverbial gun into my literal mouth. Should of done that instead of walking through the hollowed halls of my cinematic first fix. Cinema, my drug, used to be fun, but I feel sometimes I have taken it too far. And I'm now the guy at the party begging everyone to stay while they have to go home to their petty children or something. Yet, ultimately life is really dull, so why not get something stronger. Hence my appreciation of the cinematic equivalent of whatever annoying drug users who, by the way  think I'm one of them, but get annoyed that I just stare at them as they destroy themselves, think is "the better stuff." You can't leave then, your kids will figure out how to find new parents. 

The noose of modern cinema is strangling me to death as the chemicals in my brain tell me to literally fade to black. If you hate that I wrote this, go blow up a movie theater. I'm now going to stare at photos of Juliet Berto.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Driving through City Hall in Blow Out

As the post title states, I will watch anything shot in Philadelphia. To my surprise, I had no idea that Brian DePalma's Blow Out was made in the 'Devil Town.'

Being OK with the filmmaker's works-Redacted, Carrie, Greetings, Sisters, Hi, Mom! and Scarface-DePalma (well not in Redacted) evokes Hitchcock with less of an auteurial stamp. Sure, the guy has his signature split screen shots, long takes (generally utilizing cranes), etc., but his films more times than not are style over substance. Themes of religion and capitalism sometimes connect throughout his films, but he seems more concerned with just making a decent film (or fun film in the case of his more campy works like The Fury or Dressed to Kill) than making high art. Now, many say that has its place, but should he be patted on the back for that? I think not.

Why? He has just as many flops as viewable films: Dressed To Kill, Body Double, The Fury, The UntouchablesThe Bonfire of The Vanities, Raising Cain, and Mission To Mars. This shows that he lacks what it takes to be an Auteur or a filmmaker who demands a certain amount of quality in his or her own films.

And this is where I think it is key to understand that Pauline Kael (former critic for The New Yorker) was one of the chief proponents of DePalma's cinema (found this out in the Criterion DVD supplemental book). A connection that links him to the adulation thrown at him by Quentin Tarantino, who was connected to Kael's complacency. Tarantino, a very talented filmmaker-a definite Auteur-must have subconsciously connected with Kael's assault on Auteur theory that allowed her to like films that lacked the rigor of cinephilic Auteurism. Tarantino, a lover of most cinema, good and bad, found affinity I'm sure in Kael's sometimes nonsensical choices of what was good film. Other critics at the time, influenced by 1960's intellectualism-Marxism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis-couldn't jump on to Hollywood cinema as easy as Kael who lacked the intellectualism. Being that she was fully opposed to Auteur theory due to some theorists and critics deeming certain filmmakers poor works as great simply because they liked the filmmaker so much (her main issue was with people loving Ingmar Bergman no matter what he did), she criticized this blind adherence of many auteur theorists. This is an understandable criticism, but instead of re-assessing Auteur theory, in an infantile fashion, she denounced all of it.

The height of Kael's assault was her war against Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, a battle that awarded her press coverage during the late 70's and early 80's when the economic decline of the post-WWII Keynesian war economy lead to a rollercoaster ride of recessions. Film, being a immensely capitalistic art, was targeted along with the billionaires for allowing "Auteurs" to go wild with their budgets, simply to see their "vision made," when some of those millions could have gone to people starving. Yet, it was a poor approach by Kael,  fueled by her desire for personal fame. She never proposed, say, an economic program of how the millions spent on films that she attacked like Heaven's Gate or Apocalypse Now could get to the starving people. No, she just had to get her opinion out there, helping lead to the decline of viable film criticism in America.

Saying this, Cimino isn't an amazing director. His best work, the so-so The Deer Hunter, a film that owes more to Vilmos Zsigmond-who was also cinematographer on Blow Out-and the actors rather than to the director, is a slow moving film that is generally hollowly contrasted with moments of greatness.

Blow Out is like The Deer Hunter in this regard, as it looks great consistently throughout-not all DePalma's films do, so Zsigmond's stamp then can be seen. One of DePalama's best also because the story is basic and the film is solely based on tension, obviously hearkening back to films like Conversation and Blow Up, which are much deeper and layered films. This film is wrought with tension and has some cool long takes. The best LT is found here (at 4:26) and shows that a simple scene on paper, Travolta's character learning all his audio has been wiped, can be made more effective by some creative formalist techniques. Then there is this LT (at 0:44) which shows what one can do with a large budget. I was amused by the non-motivational lighting throughout and especially in the final scene (see image below), where blue and red lights, which are supposed to be from the fireworks in the scene, flashed during a murder scene. This added to the tension, with an interesting cinematic device that only had a causal connection to "the world" around it. Modern filmmakers can take something from this, as it is lacking in most films and film-schools, where you are taught how to make things "look like movies," "professional," and/or "look real."

Overall, the film has technique, but lacks everything else. It works because the story is simple and to the point. I felt about this film what I felt about Tree of Life: to me this is what all Hollywood films should be. Well done, but not that challenging, just get the job done. Then there should be filmmakers who can do what DePalma does or what Tree of Life did, but go above and beyond that. In the era that was New Hollywood, which DePalma was apart of, I tend to favor Francis Ford Coppolla. He can do what DePalma does, but his films are so layered, so concise and poignant, you get the story line, the technical craftsmanship/high aesthetics, but you also get a immensely layered film that allows for hundreds of viewings. Modern film lacks this as a result of several factors, some due to the mainstream assault lead by Kael against Auteur theory, others on the account of the full take over of Hollywood by corporations in the 70's and 80's-whose logic became immensely financial in the 80's. Those who lead the corporations saw themselves as the smartest guys in the room (in the 1980's these tended to be ex-Wall Street players, ex-CEO's of corporations) and felt the directors should give up their "vision" for the producers genius input. This is now, after 30 years of corporate rule, a steel boot with its consolidated power forces everyone below to tighten their belts/relegate their power even more now "due to piracy." Goodbye cinephila, hello corporate-capitalist Big Brother a la big event Blockbuster cinema or what a producer in Hollywood-during my time in the nightmare city-called "producer films."

Putting all the analysis that really calls for something like Shooting Wall aside, if you live in Philadelphia, it's fun to watch Blow Out to see Philly back in the day. If you like Hitchcock and have already seen his films, skip Argento and check out Blow Out or preferably films like The Butcher and Les Biches by Claude Chabrol. Otherwise, there are better films that you could check out before Blow Out. Or check out our 2nd zine pg. 13, most of the best films of last year barely got distribution in the US. See them, using whatever means required, instead.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Cinematic militants,

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A Gentle Reminder from Errol Morris


 By K Gronsbell

Errol Morris is the one of the most adept one-trick ponies in American film. His 2011 endeavor, Tabloid, explores America's sensationalist interests. Studying the 70's "Mormon sex in chains" case and its anachronistically bubbly star player, Joyce McKinney, Tabloid is exactly what a casual Morrisphile would expect: portrait-style talking heads with lighting that would make Henry Fuseli jealous, editing beats for laughs and gasps at the audacity of the interviewees, and a quaint manipulation of text that pops up to highlight particularly absurd ideas and events in the spoken story - in a terribly consumable newspaper font.

The conventions undoubtedly work. Tabloid gleaned a few laughs from this hardened cinéaste, especially during a segment towards the end of the film. A reporter, in a painfully traditional medium shot, had a few too many seconds of screen time. To incorporate his vocal information without jumping to another batch of B-roll, Morris racks focus. The subject and his school-picture backdrop cloth were out of focus for less than two seconds; Morris' ability to manipulate the audience is undeniable. The simplest narrative "error" and the viewer is reminded to pay attention, even if the editing has slowed and downloadable typewriter strike foley noises have ceased. This moment is not an amateur's attempt at anything; it is the mark of a seasoned director who understands the public's inability to commit. Let us not forget Morris' foray into commercials in the 2000s and understand that Tabloid is a child of that period. It is intentionally gaudy in content and construction, with a cast of jesters the audience is forced to identify with and support. Morris is serving exactly what he knows Americans want: little nuggets of recycled scandal, that are prepared to seem just absurd enough to enjoy but not disturbing enough to realize that there were allegation of rape, bondage and imprisonment.

Tabloid is Morris' proof that he still earns his reputation. It is camp enough for the elite to engage in metacommentary, but simple enough for the person who wandered in from Horrible Bosses to get a chuckle or two. Morris created a demon that is indicative of the state of American cinema: a beast with one very fluffy head and one with a mouthful of pointed teeth.

Monday, August 8, 2011


In our continuing efforts to dominate the 'cinema situation,' in Philadelphia and then internationally, we are now going to give what the cinephiles have been crying for, a podcast. We could do a video program, but we would never live up to our incredibly high standards. Subscribe to it on I-Tunes here or you're welcome to listen to it below. 

We have audio from our last Show & Tell event on Nagisa Oshima's Boy. Reviews of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, and Errol Morris' Tabloid. A discussion about the best comedy so far in 2011, info on SW's various tactics in their war against poor cinema, and polemical discourse from the host Karl Starkweather.


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To coincide with Carrie Love's and Joshua Martin's review of the film on the podcast, I asked one of my funnier cohorts and cinephile Rob Muggee to write up a review of Michael Winterbottom's The Trip.

Full disclosure, I was drunk while watching The Trip. This likely heightened the experience of this already fully enjoyable film though considering it is essentially a synthesized version of the BBC television series of the same name in which stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play fictionionalized versions of themselves as they travel through the North of England and stay at various inns and eat at various high rated restaurants. That at least is the aspect of the film they push; a fictionalized Travel Channel reality show with a fourth wall. If I'm going to be looking at seared scallops on a screen, it's practically a reflex to wash down my salivation with $5 pinot noir.

Albeit the foody parts having their charm, luckily that's only one small aspect of the film. The film/series is actually a follow up to Michael Winterbottom's previous effort, A Cock and Bull Story, which follows both Coogan and Brydon playing the same fictionalized versions of themselves and presumably not talking about food. I haven't seen it, so, that's what we're going to go with as long as you're reading this.

As the film unravels we learn about the separate lives of Coogan and Brydon and witness how it effects their relationship with each other. It's clear to the audience that there is a great amount of chemistry between the two, that they have many similar interests and tastes, and they both are able to entertain each other in a way that is so brilliant that it transcends the need to make you feel as you're a part of it as seems the case with most films, but Coogan hates Brydon. Throughout the film we see Coogan calling his girlfriend, Misha, as he climbs mountains and walks into desolate fields searching for a connection and yelling to be heard, while Brydon contacts his wife from bed and speaks in a warm tone as they giggle about him touching himself. We also witness dreams of Coogan as he is told he's about to be famous and a fan refers to him as a character he played on TV years prior that he is unable to move beyond in his career. Meanwhile, Brydon delights in falling into impressions he's been doing his whole career and is thrilled to serenade an elder woman into letting them into the Corelidge museum by performing his "small man trapped in a box" routine. The only women Coogan serenades are the various hotel maidens he talks into his bed. The women that whom once leave his bed instigate the aforementioned nightmares.

Basically, it's an odd couple scenario. And it fucking works. There are moments where you may feel like you're missing something, as with anything that starts off at 4 and a half hours and is cut down to two, but overall the film has a pleasant flow with many laughs and a brilliant ending. If only Hollywood films like Stupid, Crazy, Love could take a hint from endings like this. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, you should have ended it when Steve Carell was walking away after the fight in the back yard. Fuck you.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl is one of my favorite films by possibly the best director working today. There is a such a precision to Breillat's filmmaking, everything is taken into account, the layers there are mesmerizing. The film, a polemical and overwrought cogitation on the complexities of patriarchal socialization, holds back no punches. I could go into 3rd and 4th wave (was just informed this was a thing (is the ultra-post modernist feminism found solely on the internet)) feminist examinations, but I feel that wouldn't do the film justice. Being that, I feel a formalist critique of her films is always needed because her craft-her cinematography, mise en cine-strengthens what she is saying. 

The shot below is towards the end of the film. Traveling from a bourgeois complacency on their vacation back to the bourgeois compancency of their normal lives, they go from the gray desolate vacation to night. Yet, during this scene, on the verge of their deaths, there is a vibrancy not seen anywhere else in the film. Is great that she lit this large landscape at night. Uniquely beaming light in the middle of the plane. It adds a futurist feel in a shot minutes before an abrupt violent shift.

This shot speaks for itself, as beautiful as any painting.

The muted color scheme through out the film adds to the alienation. Through out muted colors can be found on the characters, sometime them wearing the same colors. Also, the father in the film and the boyfriend of Anais' sister look exactly the same. There is a suggestion then that everyone is connected.
This shot below is after the vacation, the upper class family is sitting at a table at a rest stop. This is after a blow up around the sexual endeavors of the sister on the right. The mother over-reacts, suggests extreme measures, but then calls the French pigs for leaving a mess. This being transposed amongst the nature in the background.
This shot suggests further a descent, psycho-analytic perhaps, into nature. "Animal" or ellusions to people being animals being a common word used through out the film. 

The film is out on criterion now or could be found at Netflix, Facets, etc., see it! I only made some connections, via a couple shots, to a film that has so many layers and is such a tour-de-force of cinematics that this is just a catalyst to what should be a continued discussion. Watch the thing and add to the analysis.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


 While in Hollywood last spring, I was informed that the lost revenues from piracy weren't the studios main fear-as they want us to think so they can break derive more surplus labor values from those working in the industry-but actually it was the fact Netflix and now Hulu were changing the media landscape once again by offering original programming.

The film industry was effected by television, but ultimately made major profits via cable operations, home video, etc., but it seems less able to deal with the advent of straight-to-internet productions. Such has already been occurring though for film, many filmmakers can make some coin by hashing out a deal with Netflix (or now possibly Hulu) to stream their films.

Film's collectivity has inherently dwindled since the pre-television age. Most of the cinema I have ever seen was due to Blockbuster (out of business), Westcoast Video (out of business), and TLA (a local Philadelphia movie rental operation that has shut down more than half of its stores). These stores though didn't have the capabilities to have the swath of cinema sites like Netflix and Facets (a must have online rental service for cinephiles) have. Yet, these sites even pail in comparassion to the access torrenting has brought cinematic militants, but one cannot always find the same quality cinema you can get even from a DVD with some titles. Yet, you can get films that Facets doesn't even have, but ultimately the interlacing found with most DVD's beats even the highest quality torrent.

After going to movies multiple days a week out in Hollywood, I found a major appreciation for the theater experience. Films shot on 35mm, obviously should be seen in that medium. Then bathing in the luminescence of the screen with fellow cinephiles, at excellent theaters like Tarantino's New Beverly, MOMA-LA, The Cinefamily, etc., was a much more rewarding experience than watching something alone in my mother's basement. Still, even at classic films, there wasn't a full crowd even in the global epicenter of cinema. Even there some outfit, like Shooting Wall, was needed to connect cinephiles and strengthen their cinephila. What I'm getting at though is we're in a new age, one where we must embrace the immense distributional options by the internet, but re-strategize our exhibition-collective methods to not let cinematic obsession die.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


LOCATION: The Last Drop 1300 Pine St. Philadelphia, PA 19107
TIME/DATE: Friday August 26th 5:30pm-7pm

As part of our strategy to continue the cultivation of an army of cinematic militants, we will have our first Shooting Wall Reading Group of Towards A Third Cinema By Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino.

A important piece in film theory, it has defined many of our modern ideas of art film and/or political cinema. It lead to many filmmakers taking the text's battle cry to heart, Godard being a major example. This document has largely been the property of academics, now it will be brought to the public. Its strengths acknowledged, its weaknesses highlighted.

A message board thread has been created to mobilize ourselves towards the meeting, the theoretical onslaught commences now.

And if any of you were wondering, expect issue #3 of film theory print zine out in September! If you haven't seen issues #1 or #2, you can check them out here.


"Exploring the ultimate “independent filmmaker’s” writing habits, casting, directing, and relationship with his actors, Weide traveled with Allen from the London set of You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger — a major coup “considering Woody has never allowed so much as an EPK [Electronic Press Kit] crew on his sets,” claims Weide — to the Cannes premiere of Midnight in Paris this May."

Unknown to us at Shooting Wall, this documentary entitled Seriously Funny – The Comic Art of Woody Allen (Sunday, November 20 from 9-11 p.m & Monday, November 21 from 9-10:30 p.m.) should be a important piece of auteurial theory for diehard cinema adherents.

Woody Allen's recent, Midnight In Paris, was a excellent contribution to the master director's canon, and very much recommended. What are you favorite Allen films?

Please answer at our message board. Cinephiles, we're looking forward to your response.