Perspectives on Pop Culture and the Arts

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Propaganda against the system"

Over at The Guardian it was reported that Iranian director Jafar Panahi has been sentenced to six years in prison and is banned from directing, producing, writing, and anything else film related for 20 years. He was convicted of "colluding in gathering and making propaganda against the regime." This is a rather heavy blow to Panahi, especially, but also to the whole Iranian film community.

According to another article, a group of European filmmakers, stars, and critics have put together an online petition protesting Panahi's sentence and demanding it be changed. The petition claims,
Jafar is innocent and his only crime is wishing to continue to freely exercise his profession as a film-maker in Iran ... Through this sentence inflicted upon Jafar Panahi, it is manifestly all of Iranian cinema which is targeted.
That Panahi supported and distributed "propaganda against the system" seems possible - watch his films, it's in there. So there might be no way around the allegations of collusion against the state. Except he isn't being convicted because of his films, but allegedly for some other acts of "civil disobedience," which he might indeed be innocent of. Maybe the Iranian government works kinda like the Oscars, awarding you not for the film that deserves it, but rather for the film you most recently did. Never mind what Panahi's past films say, he's punished for whatever political statements he has said recently.

Yet his punishment attacks his role as a filmmaker, not as your average concerned citizen. And that's why his sentence is targeting all of Iranian cinema. At the very least, his sentence is a message to filmmakers, as well as all citizens, that the government means business (like we all didn't know that already), and that filmmakers need to behave in a government-approved fashion. Panahi (and fellow filmmaker Muhammad Rasoulof, also sentenced to six years prison) are examples to the whole community of what happens when you step out of line. This isn't a new government tactic, for opposition to filmmakers by the government has always existed. Film has always been both a tool of and threat to the State.

Panahi's sentence is being appealed, so who knows if things will play out differently for him. Hopefully so. In the meantime, I'd watch some Iranian films, but I don't actually own any (shame on me). I'll have to settle for The Lives of Others, which seems quite appropriate in light of Panahi's statement that, "When a film-maker does not make films it is as if he is jailed. Even when he is freed from the small jail, he finds himself wandering in a larger jail." The government has punished him as a dissenting citizen, but his punishment targets his art, because his greatest political weapon is arguably his art, his films. Keeping an artist from their art does more than just snub a hobby, it damages their whole character. And in the case of a particularly good artist like Jafar Panahi, it hurts the entire community.


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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oingo Boingo's "Insanity"

I can't really go through Halloween without watching Oingo Boingo's video to "Insanity". It's still one of my favorite videos and seems the best example of the much darker part of Oingo Boingo's personality. While the edited version of the song erodes some of the album version's saturating and resonating power, it's still a very punchy version that works well enough for a music video version. The stop-motion animation is done well and contributes to the song's subject matter quite well - people as puppets, fantasy/reality, fairy tales, the uncanny, the grotesque, etc. Basically, there's a lot here. This song isn't out of character for Oingo Boingo, who made a long and phenomenal career out of addressing these subjects and others, but I think the dark, dark tone of the song (as well as the whole Boingo [1994] album) was rather new. But at the core it was still very much Oingo Boingo, and that is a wonderful thing.  

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Grinderman's "Heathen Child"

The new album from Nick Cave's Grinderman project will be out in the U.S. on September 14 - now, less than a week away. To help whet your appetite a bit, I thought I'd share the music video for the LP's first single, "Heathen Child". John Hillcoat directs, chalking up yet another collaboration with Nick Cave. For anyone expecting the "Heathen Child" video to look like Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, you're in for a shock. This video is something else entirely. Where The Road avoids showing us the apocalyptic destruction that created the bleak, dystopian world of our future, "Heathen Child" presents an apocalypse that could send even the strongest souls into outer darkness.

This one's not for the kids.

Do you ever get the feeling that Nick Cave sometimes doesn't wanna be liked?

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How to Destroy Angels

How to Destroy Angels is the collaborative project of Trent Reznor, his wife Mariqueen Maandig, and Atticus Ross. They've completed their first EP and, in the spirit of Nine Inch Nails's The Slip, have released it as a free download. The download is in 320 kbps - mighty nice of them. Or, for $2, you can get an HD download. A CD will be available July 6, and a vinyl at a yet undisclosed date after that.

The EP opens with the chilling, attention-grabbing "The Space in Between", which sets an ominous, heavy tone for the EP that doesn't let up much. It makes sense that a video was shot to this track, and the video pushes the song into even more gruesome and dark territory. "The Space in Between" is a standout track, for sure, but is hardly the only song deserving of praise.

The music often echoes NIN's Ghosts I-IV album. "Parasite", "BBB", and "The Believer" are songs that seem to channel the musical ideas in Ghosts I-IV most overtly, though Maandig's vocal contributions take these songs immediately in new directions. This is not to say that How to Destroy Angels is NIN in disguise - it's not. How to Destroy Angels naturally contains NIN sounds - how could it not? - but that's what I'm hoping for in a Trent Reznor project. That Reznor takes a backseat on vocals, contributing backing vocals on a couple tracks, and primarily contributing to the music is always exciting; I've always thought that Reznor excels foremost as a musician, technician, and producer. So, to have his wife's lovely vocals hypnotize and mesmerize on tracks like "The Space in Between" and "A Drowning" while Reznor and Ross work their music magic seems a glorious thing.

Overall, this first release from How to Destroy Angels is a fine piece of work. This is rather weighty, dark, serious stuff - even "BBB" with its somewhat amusing line: "listen to the sound of my big black boots." That this first release is an EP heightens its appeal, for it's enough to satisfy, but leaves you excited, curious, and hoping for more.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pitchfork Presents: The National

So, has everyone heard The National's new album, High Violet? I'd recommend doing so; it's a good album. What's more, some nice videos were shot of The National performing a few of the new tracks at an abandoned castle in New York. The videos are quite good, and the songs are too. You can check out all three songs at Pitchfork. My personal favorite of the three is "Anyone's Ghost", featured below.

Also, The National recently performed a benefit concert for the Red Hot Organization, filmed by Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker. Here's the performance of "Slow Show", from their 2007 album Boxer.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

TIFF: She, A Chinese

This is another installment in the long delayed series of reviews I had planned for the films I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, 2009. I hope to write several more of these in a much more timely manner than I have so far. But I make no promises. Alas, life is busy and writing this stuff doesn't pay.

The second day of the festival began with Xiaolu Guo's She, A Chinese, which is based on Guo's own novel. Guo introduced the film as a coming-of-age film, or a film about youth. She asked, "What is coming of age?" In our globalized world, it is likely that question is becoming more difficult to answer. How does a young individual discover who they are in a world that has become more accessible, both through access to transportation, as well as through technology (the internet, film, literature, etc.), which, in a way, makes the world much larger. Today's youth perhaps feel even smaller, in a world that appears much bigger. Of course, our modern youth do not really have any other time to compare their time to, so how aware of this changed world are they? Nevertheless, their methods of navigating through the 21st century are different than those of previous generations.

Connected to this question of youth, is Guo's assertion that the film is not about national identity. To this I then wonder, why is the film titled She, A Chinese. This title suggests questions and/or themes of nationality, be they on national identity, multiculturalism and other cultural studies, as well as issues of gender. The film follows Li Mei (Huang Lu), who is born in a small Chinese village and eventually leaves for the big city, then on to London, England. It is a global journey where we initially want to think about the film as being only about a Chinese girl; but it eschews the still too common Western approach, which shows China through the lens of Western Orientalism: China as the foreign and exotic. It becomes more a study of displacement and wandering, where both China and England can seem both foreign and familiar. Guo herself was born in a small Chinese village, but has lived in London for years now - she is of mixed culture and heritage; an example of the multicultural existence familiar to an ever-growing number of people. Guo, aware of how many Western and Chinese films alike have portrayed China through this Oriental lens, tries to focus on individuals and cross national barriers, creating a multi-national image of the world.

National identity might not be at the root of the film, but it is still a part of the film and a subject worth examining. The film presents three different cultures through its principle characters: Li Mei and Spikey (China), Mr. Hunt (England), and Rachid (India). The film does a pretty good job to present these characters as individuals rather than cultural stereotypes, while showing how some of their cultural differences create tensions between them.

Even more interesting to me than the cultural issues are the gender issues within the film. Li Mei's track record with men throughout the film is hardly stellar; every man she has a relationship with takes advantage of her, and proves unreliable, leaving her alone to fend for herself. After being sexually assaulted by a truck driver in her home town, Li Mei heads for the city, begins helping and working in a brothel, and eventually becomes the girlfriend to Spikey (Wei Yi Bo), a criminal thug. Ironically, Spikey seems to be the nicest man to Li Mei, though he tries to pay her after having sex with her (perhaps a misguided act of sincerity on this bumbling criminal's part). But Spikey's machismo, gangster lifestyle is hardly a safe, dependable one; his demise leaves Li Mei on her own again, though - thanks to Spikey's criminal activities - financially set.

When Spikey and Li Mei Meet - A Poor Quality Excerpt

With Spikey's money she travels to England and falls in with the elderly widower Mr. Hunt (Geoffrey Hutchings). This seemingly kind old man helps Li Mei for a while, but eventually his own attraction to her pretty, youthful body becomes problematic. Mr. Hunt displays a rather Oriental tension of attraction and repulsion to the beautiful, young foreigner. Here both sexual and cultural tensions drive the two apart, for they can neither satisfy each other sexually, nor fully understand each other culturally. As is true of all the relationships in the film, there is a general failure to really communicate; most of the time the relationships are sexual, and if a sexual relationship is all there is, then the failure of that relationship is seemingly guaranteed.

Li Mei's Indian boyfriend, Rachid (Chris Ryman), also takes sexual advantage of her, through buying her clothes he thinks make her look sexy, to just pressuring her into sex. After using her for a while Rachid abandons her, claiming to be going back to India. This is likely motivate by the news that Li Mei is pregnant. This storyline becomes a somewhat conventional statement of men's failure to commit to a relationship, choosing instead to simply use women for sex and then dump them when the men no longer have a convenient use for those women.

This abuse of women by men seems a more common theme of the film than the cultural themes, showing how men's mistreatment of women to not be nationally or culturally exclusive. Men just mistreat women. While Li Mei is rather resourceful and finds a way of surviving, she is also rather ignorant and irresponsible, often expecting those men to provide her with the material pleasures she wants. She is often selfish, assuming that she can use men to get the things that she wants. The abuse between the sexes is less than commendable and in the end all the characters seem to hardly have fulfilling lives. The motives of these characters, influenced by the ever-more material world and belief in self-centered preservation and immediate pleasure leaves everyone lacking.

She, A Chinese raises some interesting questions and tries to tackle multiple themes in a way that is both supportive of its main character, Li Mei, and distant from that character. The film does not idealize her; her flaws are apparent and I found myself both sympathetic to her, while being completely exasperated by some of her behavior. Huang Lu's performance captures that balance of drawing our sympathy and frustration very successfully. In the end I felt more distant from her and uncertain as to whether I liked her at all. In some cases she brought her troubles upon herself, in others she is genuinely a victim. The themes of the film are interesting ones, but in the end I felt too distanced and annoyed with what I was seeing to feel much optimism for Li Mei's future. As one who likes to think that society still contains decency and goodness, this film seemed a somewhat flat declaration that we just can't win and we don't know where we're going anymore.

Director Xiaolu Guo

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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Short Film for Massive Attack's "Saturday Come Slow"

Just wanted to remind everyone that Massive Attack's new album, Heligoland, is out and it is fantastic. Really, it is a great piece of work, though some reviewers have been less enthusiastic about it, pining away for the glory days of Mezzanine and Protection. Hypnotic, mysterious, brooding, groovy and every other adjective you wish of a Massive Attack album. Not as dark and menacing as Mezzanine, but smoother, with some sounds that remind me of Portishead's Third (which makes sense since Adrien Utley contributes on Heligoland). Like Third, Heligoland has less trip hop, though "Splitting the Atom" channels that pretty well, I think. So some "die-hard" fans might seem grumpy; I guess that is the problem with some alleged die-hard fan, they want them to just keep churning out the same disc rather than move around, expand and explore. For me, I'm more often very excited to hear a band move in new directions and try new things, even if that means they come up a bit short sometimes. But I don't think Heligoland came up short at all. For me, the album is just fabulous.

Anyway, what I would also like to draw your attention to is the great short film by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin for their song "Saturday Come Slow". It features former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ruhal Ahmed, who was interrogated using music at painfully high volume. Ahmed reflects on his experience in Gitmo and on his reintegration into society. The effects on the body due to high volume music are also discussed. All combined it is a fascinating short that contributes nicely to the discussion of torture and harsh interrogation that has already been addressed by good films like Standard Operating Procedure and Taxi to the Dark Side.

I have been wondering how music artists feel about their music being used in harsh interrogation and torture. I doubt the military bothered to ask them if it was okay to use their stuff. Guess they just assumed that everyone would be on board with their patriotic efforts to protect freedom. Maybe that's too snarky of me to say. But I doubt the military thought about it much since some troops in Iraq also got pumped up for the day by cranking Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", like Kilgore's boys in Apocalypse Now (Did anyone tell the military that Kilgore wasn't the character to emulate in that film?). After spending some time studying harsh interrogation and torture, I find little that's noble or patriotic about what has gone on in Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

TIFF: Antichrist

PREFACE: I had the weighty responsibility to represent Boast at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. I like to think it’s because I’m the only Boast writer whose opinion actually matters, but the reality is: I'm the only one frivolous enough and void of real responsibility to throw down the money to attend. As a disclaimer, spoilers are likely to happen, which isn’t really a big deal since it’s film studies’ duty to rid film-watching of any surprises or entertainment. (Watching movies should never be just for fun, right?) I'm also aware that the festival is now some months in the past and these films may not exactly be breaking news, but sometimes it's good to wait a while, let things process, read some other people's thoughts, and then write about the film.
In the case of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, watching this film is not fun. If fun ever crossed your mind while watching this film I'd recommend you order yourself a personal exorcism. Von Trier is no stranger to painful stories, putting his characters (and actors) through the most horrible experiences, and/or pushing you far outside your comfort zone. But Antichrist goes beyond anything I’ve seen von Trier do before, and honestly beyond anything I’ve ever seen in a film, which I guess says something about my viewing habits. So this was new territory for me and I tend to think I, or anyone, shouldn't be there, at least not for very long and not very often.

In the post-screening Q&A, lead actor Willem Dafoe
explained that von Trier wrote the screenplay while in a severe depression. It became quite a personal film for von Trier, who was – according to Dafoe – in a delicate state during the whole filmmaking process, his core crew members there to help keep him stabilized. I’m not sure how good a job they did since the personal fracture and depressive anxiety assaulting von Trier’s psyche seems to have spawned a brutally violent, perverse, and justifiably objectionable finished film. Then again, Lars von Trier enjoys making offensive films; he means to provoke, upset and unsettle the viewer. He succeeds here better than he ever has before.

So what is Antichrist doing? Aside from being ridiculously graphic and explicit, and rather misogynistic? Hopefully a lot of things, otherwise I really wasted my time and the well-being of my everlasting soul. I’ll try expressing what I took away from Antichrist while saying I don’t claim to have ‘gotten’ all aspects of the film, nor do I agree with a lot of the message. Antichrist contains many standard von Trier subjects and themes: A central female character, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg and only named She in the credits; children also still interest him, like in his adaptation of Medea, though to different effect this time; nature, both human and environmental, is investigated; issues of control and domination, which von Trier has always struggled with and you see quite nicely studied in The Five Obstructions; then there’s psychology and religion, with primary attention on the female sex and the story of Adam & Eve. All this (and more) comprises a film less interested in telling a story, preferring to wax hyper-metaphorical/symbolic/philosophical/existential/psychological; all while slowly destroying both his characters and his audience.

It's rather obvious after the first
minute of the film that sex is a central issue. More specifically, this is about carnal, aggressive, violent sex. In the story of Adam & Eve, the partaking of the fruit has often been interpreted as symbolic of the first sexual act; Eve tempts Adam into having sex, which brings about their fall from innocence and expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Mankind's nature is then corrupt, since, after being tempted by the Devil masquerading as a serpent, Eve tempted Adam, and Adam gave in to temptation. He and She - besides the child, the film's only characters - represent Adam and Eve, and the bulk of the film unfolds after they return to their cabin in the woods they call Eden. That they return to Eden to try dealing with their grief bears its own significance: are we sometimes trying to get back to the Garden? What do we think that will accomplish? For Lars von Trier, it accomplishes nothing good.

The opening scene shows He and She in severe carnal embrace, to such intensity that they fail to notice their kid has woken up and climbed out of his crib. The child then comes to their bedroom door and sees his parents having sex. He then climbs onto the table, opens the window and falls out to his death. All this makes me wonder if this is how von Trier sees sex and the Fall: simply a cruel, carnal and corrupting act that destroys as much as it creates. If mankind began with such a violent act, what does that say of our nature? Are we indeed evil, controlled by the Devil? And what does that say about Eve who was the first tempted and, unfortunately, has taken a severe beating throughout history, labeled at the primary cause of the fall of man. We seem to forget Adam's own roll in the whole thing. But von Trier hasn't. The husband's cold, sterile psychological approach to the death of their child is troubling and keeps us distanced from and annoyed at him. That He then succumbs to the violent sexual tendencies his wife is exhibiting shows his own capacity for cruel, vile behavior. And He is ultimately the one committing murder (considered by most to be the greater, if not greatest sin), not She. In the end I think Antichrist finds mankind rather evil, and that the sexes will eventually destroy each other.

I saw the movie and am thinking it might have been better if I hadn't. It's not worst film ever made, as some will annoyingly cry, but it certainly isn't the best film, as some will also annoyingly proclaim. The visuals are captivating. It looks gorgeous and sometimes crosses into some great surreal, symbolic territory. The pacing is good as things spiral down further and further. Dafoe and Gainsbourg are good, not brilliant, but good for what they're working with. The explicit content is rather terrible. An argument can be made that the content fits the story and is therefore necessary. Maybe. But was the film necessary to make in the first place? Von Trier might have needed it to cope with his own demons, but did he have to put it out there for us to see? A viewer has to take responsibility for their viewing practices and not condemn a filmmaker for having made an offensive film - the director didn't force anyone to watch it. But von Trier is a popular name and how many people are going to stumble into this thing who really shouldn't? Von Trier pushed too far here, and even people who have stomached and/or liked his other films have been really bothered by this one. Cannes was all upset at him for the film, but they put the film on the festival program, not von Trier.

A controversial film like Antichrist raises accountability questions for both the viewer and creator that are good to think about. Maybe thinking about those questions is where Antichrist succeeds best with me, which is outside the film itself perhaps (I doubt von Trier was thinking about such things as he made the film), but I do think that films should have some impact on our lives, how we see the world and are involved in it. If Antichrist thinks that the world and mankind are rotten, with the film itself as an example of that corruption, fine. But please excuse me if I disagree with that opinion and want to devote my time to other films.

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Jeanine Meerapfel's Regionalzeitung

For those of you who dig obscure 60s German documentary, check out Jeanine Meerapfel's Regionalzeitung (Local Newspaper) at Wissen und Medien's website. The film was done through the Ulm Film Institute, where Meerapfel was a student in the late 60s. It focuses on the Schwabian Danube Newspaper in Ulm, showing the different departments and jobs, as well as going through the newspaper's production process. But more than just a dry, mechanical look at how things at a newspaper get done, this student production presents some of the issues a newspaper faces - how to present news and how to represent social issues and what comes with working for a newspaper.

It's interesting to see the early student work of a director who has been an established, professional filmmaker for thirty years. Might give some aspiring chaps a bit of hope.

Unfortunately, the film has no English subtitles, so only those fortunate enough to understand German can fully appreciate this early work from a quiet and interesting filmmaker. For the rest of you: the solution.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dark Night of the Soul

In case anyone missed the news, Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse did an album together, titled Dark Night of the Soul. If that wasn't enough coolness, David Lynch shot a whole book of photography for the project, and sings on two of the album's tracks. The album's release remains uncertain thanks to record label lameness. Luckily, NPR Music allows you to listen to the whole album on their site.

Boast's verdict: It's brilliant.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Something Sinister: 5 Horror Film Classics

Horror films are cool. Well, sometimes. For some, drinking battery acid sounds much more pleasant than sitting down to a horror movie. Others can't get enough of these shows, constantly needing the latest straight-to-DVD exploitative gut fest to ease the addiction. My feelings are more that I like good horror, and hate bad horror. Sounds simple and dumb, but I find that too many of us spend more time with bad horror than good horror.

It's true that horror movies can be uncomfortable and (surprise) horrific. It's also true that the majority of horror films out there are rubbish and exist only as exploitation films that do much harm and little good. I'm not going to try solving the mystery of what makes a good horror film, or try telling you what criteria you should follow when choosing a scary movie. I don't really have the answers to those questions, for my own reasons and rules shift as I think, study, and learn more about life, cinema, and everything else. But I'd like to spotlight five classic horror films that I've found particularly good, though that does not mean these five are for everyone; 'good' or 'old' aren't descriptors that equal 'clean', though these are dreams compared to most any modern horror film. These five I've found to be important enough that anyone interested in looking at the horror genre a bit closer should check them out.

Night of the Hunter [1955]: Now here's a horror film about children that children can watch. Charles Laughton's only directorial credit is one incredible first and only film. Like many horror films, this one deals strongly with religious journeys and inquiries, as well as redemption & mercy, justice & punishment, and sexual obsession; all revolving around kids. And Robert Mitchum is awesome. Terrible, but awesome. It's correct to say the film is critical of religious hypocrisy, but that isn't all it is. Pay attention to Lillian Gish's character, Rachel Cooper. You'll notice how her own faith differs from that of Mitchum's Harry Powell, whose own faith lies more in the belief in one's self and one's divine right to judge, condemn and punish. In contrast, Cooper's faith is a fuller, more sincere Christian faith, rooted in Christ and Christian ideals of charity, love, and forgiveness.

The Unknown [1927]: Tod Browning's film of body horror and obsession is one of my favorites of the silent era. A traveling carnival troupe is always good for a horror film, though you run the danger of exploiting lifestyles and deformities that don't deserve such treatment. Browning worked in carnival shows for a while and knows something about the way people with physical handicaps and deformities were treated by the 'normal' public. In The Unknown, you can see Browning beginning to address some of these issues that he would more fully address in the offensive and brilliant Freaks [1932]. Also, Lon Cheney and Joan Crawford's performances are so good that they're reason enough to watch this film.

Repulsion [1965]: If you were ever starting to think that objectifying someone was cool, stop. And watch Repulsion. Catherine Deneuve is tragically great as the beautiful, psychologically scarred Carole. Thanks to this film I swore off straight razors for life. And rotting rabbit meat - gross. One of my favorite horror films. It's cold, dark and troubling, with a dash of tenderness and a whole lot of sincerity in the film making. Shows Roman Polanski's fascination/obsession with psychological trauma, and while his treatment of that subject might seem overly simple by today's standards, in 1965 it was a fairly new way of thinking about sexual trauma.

Peeping Tom [1960]: Michael Powell wins big points for making a film about serial killer Mark Lewis, who films the horrified expressions on women's faces as he murders them, and then later watches the footage. Collectively panned and banned when released, Peeping Tom has now become hailed as one brilliant piece of work, but initially it destroyed Michael Powell's career. Many thought Powell has just made a snuff film and were disgusted. Well, he didn't make a snuff film, but we should still be disgusted and disturbed by this film, because the subject matter demands it. But that doesn't mean it isn't a great film, because it is. My suspicion (okay, it's not just mine, many people say it now) is that Peeping Tom has more to do with film audiences, and our fascination with and consumption of violent and sexual images, than it does with serial killers.

Eyes Without a Face [1959]: Holy crap, they cut that woman's face off! Holy crap, that mask gives me the serene shivers. Mad scientist films can be cool and this one is very close to my heart. Plenty of fairy tale and myth in this one, along with a potent dose of identity anxiety, obsession, guilt, and complicated accountability. Georges Franju's disturbing film about a doctor's obsession and the consequences it has on family and neighbor alike is really beautiful to look at and has one unsettling, poetic, and gorgeous finale.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

What do you watch in a year?

Now that the Academy buzz has subsided a bit, I feel obligated to alleviate some of the post-awards backlash by posting a list of honors based on movies/television that I've watched in the past year. Since part of my proper day job deals with what I watch, I find it helpful to keep a little log - title, year, director/creator, and a basic rating. When I say basic I mean a three star system:

Three*** = I would own it
One* = I'm so violently angry at this particular movie that I spend the next five days rehabbing with non-stop German New Wave films while mainlining peanut butter.

You might think this is a pretty simple system, and I wouldn't disagree; I'm a simple kind of guy. Easy to please you might say. Forgiving. Stupid. Whatever. I justify the simplicity by the fact that I refuse to watch 'anything'. I hate, hate, hate to have my time wasted watching something lame when I could be watching something I know I'll enjoy (see therapy for one-star films). Therefore, I tend to know beforehand a bit about the film, be it history, context, people, etc. and many titles on the list are repeats (yes, I had seen, among others, Back to the Future, Night of the Hunter, and Big Trouble in Little China before). Basically, I know what I like and what I don't. Now that doesn't mean that I don't like to be challenged or surprised - I do. Hence... the variation in the ratings.

[this is the part where your brow furrows as you contemplate the profundity while simultaneously questioning your life's direction and purpose without Boast]

Since this list isn't limited to what was released (and forgotten - Zodiac!) in the past year, it can serve as a ready reference when you need something new (or old) to watch. And, in an effort to achieve our goal of being the coolest, I have also highlighted a few titles that stood out over the course of the year. Think of this as the Oscars minus the annoying bits. Plus you can print yourself a personal copy of the list for free. Now that's what I call the bomb-diggity.

* * * * *
And the Winners are...

Overall Favorite- West Wing (1999-2006)
Aside from being one of the most prophetic shows on television, Aaron Sorkin's blend of drama and comedy is remarkable. A refreshing polar opposite to the current administration.

Weirdest/Coolest - American Astronaut (2001, Cory McAbee)
It's like indie sci-fi New Wave expressionist rock musical noir. The universe that McAbee creates is like Isaac Asimov meets Joss Whedon. Rocks much?

Best movie that I wouldn't watch with my grandmother - Tipping the Velvet (2002, Geoffrey Sax)
Adapted from the novel by Sarah Waters, this BBC drama is a raunchy, dramatic, and hilarious trip through a side of Victorian England that would cause your grandmammy to blush and then slap you silly. Waters' novel Affinity was also one of my favorite reads from last year.

Strangest run of back-to-back movies - Gabbeh (1996, Mohsen Makhmalbaf), Blade (1998, Stephen Norrington), The wind will carry us (1999, Abbas Kiarostami)
OK. So, I was doing a bunch of research and prep for an Iranian Film Festival that I was organizing and presenting at our public library. That is where Gabbeh and The wind will carry us come in. And honestly, I can't think of a better group to sandwich a bloody vampire flick between. Can you?

Most Misunderstood - Barbarella (1968, Roger Vadim)
That is, "Most Misunderstood" by adolescent boys as well as middle-aged city council members. I'll just say that Vadim's brilliant sex-lib satire does more to illustrate the merits of film as a political tool than anything in the mainstream media. If there is any question, Barbarella holds the power people. Barbarella holds the power. And if any of you feel the need to pour on the Hate, I've got an arsenal of yet unpublished material to make you weep like an impotent man-angel.

The Goods:

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Et tu, Cleanflicks?"

As you have all come to expect, the stalwart interns here at Boast HQ will not rest until we, like the NY Times, have updated you with "all the news that's fit to [post]." How else do you think our world-wide readership topped 300,000 last month? Well I can tell you that it isn't by posting controversial little nasties about a certain former movie-editing franchise that is "NOT Affiliated in Any Way with Daniel Dean Thompson, a Convicted Felon Recently Arrested on Sexual Abuse Charges."

Hey, speaking of...

Did you hear Ray Lines, CEO of Cleanflicks, telling everyone, "[Daniel] Thompson was never a partner, officer, affiliate, dealer, franchisee, collaborator, consultant or representative of any Clean Flicks entity in any capacity"? He pointed out that because of Thompson's scandal, "Our name has been dragged through the mud and it's not right." Boy, it sure isn't right, and it's a good thing that Cleanflicks isn't associated with this guy because nothing brings your business down like criminal activity.

Sarcasm aside [sigh], what Cleanflicks has done by releasing a statement and filing charges against Thompson is the equivalent of a schoolyard "Nuh-uh!" Like all businesses who appreciate a good sports metaphor, Cleanflicks has adopted the philosophy that "the best defense is a better offense." Ask the Patriots about that one, Ray.

What I see is Thompson claiming one thing and Lines another. It's not like Daniel Thompson has only just started making this claim - he's been doing it since the courts ruled that the movie-editing business was bad (and by bad I mean illegal) business. We didn't hear Cleanflicks filing lawsuits and non-affiliation then and it's not like they weren't being dragged through the proverbial mud of public perception.
But now the company who made such a show of being picked on by Hollywood is now suing Thompson for $1.1 million in damages, fees, and awards. What makes me sad is that because of this, Ray Lines and Daniel Thompson will probably never be friends.

The official Boast, M.D. diagnosis:
Cleanflicks suffers from acute martyrdomitis (the interns watch a lot of House) - first it's Hollywood, now it's the lying pedophiles.

The Boast Judges:
Not one finger - but two!

[Link to Cleanflicks statement]
[Link to SLTrib article]
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