Tuesday, June 30, 2020

More short films from VICA's Fine Arts Film Festival

At the beginning of June I discovered the Venice Institute Of Contemporary Arts's Fine Art FIlm Festival and bought access to the whole thing. Because it was rubbing up against other festivals and because I discovered the fest when it was almost over I stopped writing full reviews as I went and scribbled notes (with the full pass, I had a week to watch as much as I could) . The plan is to turn the notes for the 40 or so films I managed to see into reviews as I get the chance

This is third set of reviews from the festival- and more will be coming.

Stunning short film about an art installation in Iceland-three cave like rooms made entirely from artificial hair. It make it all look like a giant stuffed room. I desperately want to go and experience it in person because it looks absolutely overwhelming in the best sort of way.

Lovely short portrait of Jenny Mayer’s the first Black woman accepted into The Magic Circle Society of Magicians. This short piece is good enough I’d like to see what a full performance is like.

A portrait of what life is like for a performer who does circus- explaining what it is like to tour and having to constantly train so that your six minutes are as good as possible. This film beautifully explains what life is like in the circus

Portrait of a master neon sign builder that is actually a clever look at how we have to stick with the things we love in order to get good. It took him six months to first make a sign that he could sell.

Animation based on the work of Runi Langum is more a visceral piece that marries stark expressionistic images with folk music. Impossible to describe it is something one must experience

Mui Cheuk Yin dances a political dance concerning the protesters in Hong Kong. Solid dance piece is very good despite this not being my typical cup of tea. The use of rear screen projection works wonderful in creating a visceral connection between the footage of the protesters and the dance itself.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #85 The President’s Barber [2004] ★★★½

In the years since its release, many have pointed out that Im Chan-sang’s The President’s Barber feels like a South Korean companion to Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump (1994). Both films are about, shall we say, slow protagonists who through chance and coincidence find themselves thrown into climactic events in their nations’ histories. But while Zemeckis’ hero found himself pushed and pulled across continents and countercultures, The President’s Barber mostly restricts its hero to his home neighborhood. Of course, said neighborhood is the Jongno-gu district of Seoul, the location of the Blue House, the official residence of South Korea’s head of state.

The protagonist Seong Han-mo (Song Kang-ho) would love nothing more than to keep his head down and operate his barber shop in peace. But after a madcap kerfuffle with a man he mistakes as a North Korean spy, Han-mo is summoned to the Blue House and becomes the president’s personal barber. The president, however, is Park Chung-hee (Jo Yeong-jin), a former general who seized power in a coup d’état and ruled over South Korea for almost twenty years as a brutal military dictator. As Chung-hee’s barber, the hapless Han-mo gets a front-row seat to Chung-hee’s tyrannical reign, enjoying an odd personal immunity usually reserved for a dictator’s private doctor. Unfortunately, as Han-mo finds out, that immunity extends to him and only him as the film takes a sharp dramatic turn from breezy comedy after the first hour. After a group of North Korean assassins are foiled mid-mission by a sudden wave of diarrhea, Chung-hee’s government begins a round-up and purge of anyone in the capital suffering the same affliction, making the logical authoritarian deduction that having the runs proves someone had illicit contact with the spies. Among those disappeared for “questioning” is Han-mo’s son who—after a bizarre sequence involving a reluctant torturer, an electric chair, and Christmas lights—is returned to their house a cripple.

This speaks to the essential difference between The President’s Barber and Forrest Gump: the latter film assumes that someone can blithely bumble their way through history without being scarred by it while the former realizes that assumption is ridiculous. Unrestrained power corrupts, and anyone said power rubs up against will get hurt in one way or another, even if they’re just there to cut the boss’s hair.

Grindhouse Purgatory or what is Steve reading part 3?

My library is literally all over the place. Most of it is in storage at the moment as I shift things around. Pretty much the only things left are the essential (to me) film reference books. However there is only so many times I can reread things.

I needing some sort of real cinematic information in book form I picked up the 3 most recent issues of  Grindhouse Purgatory from 42nd Street Pete... and was so happy I went back and bought the entire run.

Started because Pete wanted to do something on the order of Screw magazine but with interest in all of the things that went on in and around the grindhouses of 42nd street and elsewhere the magazine is a mix of personal remembrances, reviews, interviews and pieces on a wide range of subjects. Simply reading the pieces in order without looking at the contents has been trippy because things bounce around.  While some details of some films isn't always spot on, some "reviews" take the form of a discussion of seeing a film decades before for the first time, you really don't care because the storytelling is so good.

Or mostly good. I'm not going to lie, some pieces are just okay. Its not that they aren't heartfelt, but they aren't well written. On the other hand go two or three pages and something will blow you out of the water.

If you want to try the magazine- and if you love exploitation/ grindhouse or just films in general I highly suggest you do, start with the Greatest Hits compendium and the current issue 15 a tribute to Sid Haig.

The Greatest Hits is a collection made up from the first three issues, with some deletions.  It gives you a wonderful sense of what the magazine is with frank reports of going into grind houses and porno palaces on The Deuce, 42nd St in NYC in the bad old days, reviews of films that played the houses, plus bits on wrestling in the 80's, discovering films because you had to see one film with an actor on a double bill (in the days before VHS) and all sorts of stuff. Its an amazing reference/time capsule of days gone by. As someone who was there for some of the glory days of grindhouse this is the real deal. There are great articles on cannibal films, the Blood Island films, what it was like to run a drive in, how Pete ran a video store in the early days of home video, and looks at a bunch of films you probably never heard of.

On the other hand I do have to warn you that the Greatest Hits has a couple of articles in it that are not cinematic but sociological. Pete gives us the low down on visiting the massage parlors, whorehouses and adult book stores.  There is nothing really wrong with the pieces, hell from the standpoint of letting you know what it was like in NYC during the bad old days they can't be beat, on the other hand I got about halfway through each and found I connected with the nostalgia but didn't care beyond that.(Part of it in reading a number of the early issues the stories seem to repeat)

At the same time the looks inside the adult film industry (there are a couple pieces in issue 4) intrigued me more since they spoke to something more than just one guy's experiences with sex.

And I should point out that most of the reviews are really informative. Forget nice and neat reference books, this magazine is full of pieces that tell it like it is. They don't mince words in calling a film crap or heaping praise. This is a friend talking to you not a NY Times reviewer trying to seem snooty.(They often talk about the 42nd St SRO audience reactions to classic grindhouse films like Cannibal Holocaust).  What I like is that Pete gives people the room to talk about the films they love or hate, with the results that, say in issue 5's look at STAR CRASH, we get a long look at film most people dismiss,

The Greatest Hits is worth a look for a taste of the magazine, with the understanding it is a bit rawer than later issues. With later issues the magazine found a footing and  as less scattershot.

If you loved Sid Haig you must get the tribute issue #15. While the issue is full of great short pieces on him it's in the long pieces that this becomes a must have.

First there is a long excerpt from a four hour interview with Haig. He holds nothing back and talks about his whole career. It is one of the best interviews I've ever read since it reads like two friends talking- which is what it is. His whole career is represented and it is so good I want to see what the whole talk was like.

Then there are several long reviews on Haig's films like those with Pam Grier or what many consider his best role in PIT STOP. Told with love and stories from Sid the reviews make you want to go out and see the films you've missed.

I love this magazine a great deal and it's worth a shot (assuming you realize it can be hit and miss like the grindhouse) and can be had at Amazon and elsewhere.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film The Soviet Little Mermaid

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monster Maniacs or What is Steve Reading Part 2

Monster Maniacs is a new fanzine that primarily focuses on horror in comics. If you are wondering why I am going to talk about something comic related it is because the discussion bleeds into the realm of film since Justin Marriot and his writers talk about the monsters of cinema.

Only two issues of the magazine have been produced but they are choice. Full color beauties the magazine reprints panels, and pages from various horror comics as it seeks to illustrate some killer interviews from artists, scholars and fans who talk about their love of form.

The first issue starts taking about other magazines such as MONSTER! as a magazine we should be reading, the issue then settles down to focus on art and comics with a discussion of National Lampoons dips into horror, Atlas' pre-code horror, Cracked magazine's short live For Monster's Only. Issue Two talks about Charlton Comics, Vampirella, Web of Horror, poster magazine and more.  Both issues are full of stunning art from people like Bernie Wrightson

While the interviews are great the art is even better. I love getting a chance to really look at all of the great art that was turned out in the hope of scaring people to death. I particularly love the articles on Atlas and Charlton's best horror stories since it made me go -"Oh yea I remember that". I also liked to look at the chosen panel and wonder what in the hell that meant for the whole story they were describing. (I never had many Charlton or Atlas comics, most newsstands growing up only had them sporadically, but when they did I snapped them up.)

I love these issues to death. My only real complaint is that as good as the issues are I know I am just a half step out side of being the perfect audience. While I understood a lot of the discussions in the interviews there is a point when discussing some of the older comics where I felt overwhelmed. I am not versed enough to completely know who some people were. But that is okay because being overwhelmed and sticking with it in a situation like this is how you learn.

Monster Maniacs can be had at Amazon

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule # 84 High Hopes [1988] ★★★½

Throughout the seventies and eighties, director Mike Leigh established himself as one of the most vital voices working in British theater and television. His plays and made-for-TV movies were caustic examinations of his country’s deeply entrenched class system. And though Leigh is now rightfully revered as one of Britain’s greatest film directors, having won top prizes at both Cannes and Venice, there was a time when he couldn’t get his movies funded. Leigh’s creative method favored heavy improvisation, both in terms of dialogue, scene direction, and plot progression. The result was that whenever Leigh went hat-in-hand to producers, he wouldn’t have a working screenplay to pitch.

After releasing his first feature in 1971, he’d be forced to wait seventeen years to make his second, the bittersweet family drama High Hopes that examined class and generational barriers in a rapidly gentrifying late eighties London. Leigh largely divides his cast into two groups, the first being the proletariat represented by Cyril (Phil Davis) and his partner Shirley (Ruth Sheen), both of whom cling to revolutionary ideals of socialism but are trapped in a perpetual stasis of boredom, despair, and simple laziness. After so many years of disillusionment, both are content to work just enough at their 9-to-5’s to pay the bills and spend their off-hours tuning in and dropping out. The other group represents Britain’s upwardly mobile yuppies, assuming nouveau riche airs of rampant materialism and a sociopathic disregard for their “lessers.”

Consider Cyril’s insufferable sister Valerie (Heather Tobias) who puts up with her philandering husband’s escapades solely for the weight of his checkbook and the accoutrements of wealth that come with it. Neurotic yet cruel, she’s practically a Labour Party’s caricature of the Tory-voting bourgeoise. In the center is Cyril and Valerie’s bitter, taciturn, and senescent mother Mrs. Bender (Edna Doré) whose dawning senility leads to the two cringe-inducing centerpieces of the film—her locking herself out of her apartment and Valerie’s throwing her a surprise birthday party which, of course, is actually about showing off her own wealth. She’s the crucible through which the values of both social classes are tested, revealing the innate selflessness of Cyril and Shirley’s and the innate selfishness of Valerie’s. Though frequently funny, the film’s overall mood is one of resigned melancholy that never tips into the outright anger that characterizes Leigh’s most incendiary work.

Hirokazu Kore-Eda's THE TRUTH opens Friday

Memory is not to be trusted- often repeated line of dialog

Hirokazu Kore-Eda's follow up to THE SHOPLIFTERS is a deceptively simple masterpiece that requires multiple viewings to fully comprehend what it is all about. I say that because this meditation on family, memory and performing keeps referring back on itself and changing what we know is "true"

The plot, such as it is, concerns a famous actress ( Catherine Deneuve ) who has written her memoirs. As the book is published her daughter (Juliette Binoche) and her family (husband Ethan Hawke) come home from America. As everyone reads the book and is stung by how much and who was left out, Deneuve makes a movie about a mother who travels into space to slow her aging- returning every seven years to see her aging daughter.

More a narrative thread to connect up scenes and discussions the plot is kind of optional. It allows for arcs of character but there are no real resolutions.. or maybe there is since one has to watch closely to small gestures and  seeming throw away lines to see what is really going on. I'm not sure since I really need to see the film again since the film has a constant series of revelations about what we know or think is true. What one character says happened is revealed later to not to be how it was. Characters will have forgotten that somethings ever happened only to have "ah ha" moments when someone says they were there.

I was a good third to half way in when I realized that what some writers had dismissed as lesser work from a major director was in fact something much more powerful. It was as if they were looking for him to repeat his last film when instead he went back to his earlier structures. I mentioned the negative reaction to one of my fellow writers after the press screening and all he could ask was "hadn't they seen STILL WALKING?" Apparently not.

Masterful plot aside there is so much to love in this film. From the witty lines that fill it, to two towering performances from Deneuve and Binoche who are both Oscar worthy, to the stunning scenes that fill us with emotion, an impromptu dance that is one of the most joyous moments in the last decade of film or a hug between mother and daughter that is physically tangible in its love between the women.

This film is a towering achievement that will be studied for ages.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Festival: The Russian Jungle Book

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #83 The Lineup [1958] ★★★½

In 1971, director Don Siegel changed the face of the police procedural forever with his film Dirty Harry about a violent, rule-breaking San Francisco police inspector who kills and tortures above and beyond the purview of the law. Correctly identified by Roger Ebert as fascistic, it’s since served as the template for any number of copycat cop characters who shoot first and ask questions later. (The legacy it’s had on the self-image of real-life cops is one we’re tragically still dealing with today.) But those who turn to Siegel’s earlier film The Lineup—another police procedural about San Francisco cops chasing mentally unstable killers—hoping for a precursor to Dirty Harry will be sorely disappointed.

With a script penned by Stirling Silliphant who’d go on to perfect the police potboiler with the shows Route 66 and Naked City before winning an Oscar for Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night (1967), the film has more in common with its fellow 50s noir which frequently eschewed the dreamlike atmosphere and carefully constructed studio sets of late 30s and 40s noir in favor of gritty, realistic stories shot on location in major cities and suburbs. Curiously, though, the film could also be seen as a crime procedural, as it gives equal narrative weight to its villains and their criminal methods as it does its police heroes. The villains here are Dancer (Eli Wallach) and Julian (Robert Keith), two unbalanced collectors-cum-hitmen for an international drug-smuggling ring who “visit” a number of recently returned tourists who unknowingly had heroin stashed in their souvenirs. As they leave a trail of bodies all over the city, they’re chased down by Lieutenant Ben Guthrie (Warner Anderson), a no-nonsense (and no-personality) cop who embodies the kind of impersonal yet dogged professionalism the police were desperate to project to the 50s American public.

The story itself is competently told yet hardly remarkable for its era, and with the exception of Wallach and Keith’s performances none of the acting is particularly memorable. Instead the film’s main selling point is its intense visual beauty; veteran cinematographer Hal Mohr made the best of his locations, more than once pausing the story so the film can drink in its characters being dwarfed by their surroundings like the cavernous hallways of the San Francisco Opera House or the spacious inner shell of the Sutro Baths

Shock Cinema or What is Steve reading?

Over 25 years ago Steven Puchalski started publishing Shock Cinema and he is still going strong. I have been a reader for decades. I would pick up an issue here and there depending upon when I saw one at a newsstand and the go through it for films I had to run down.

Over time the magazine drifted from just being a collection of reviews into a full on movie magazine specializing in anything not big and Hollywood. Reading the magazine was, and still is an education because Puchalski had such a wide spectrum of interests that you always ran into something that intrigued you enough to try and track it down.

Recently with the Covid crap I have been getting back to a point where I can do more reading. With less films being flung my way I am reading more. Since my library is largely in storage due to shifting rooms around, I have been looking for things to read and I recently pulled out an old issue of Shock Cinema.  I was instantly in heaven all over again.

What delighted me was the easy mix of facts and discussion. The reviews looked at the films as something more than just a thing to be reviewed, but as a living breathing animal. The discussion did talk about quality and if it as worth seeing but also tossed out facts about the films and the filmmakers that you simply don't get with most reviews today. Puchalski and the others know what they are talking about. They are just happening upon a film because it was sent to them, but because they are in love with the form. Facts drip out about the people connected with whatever they are talking about not because they looked them up, but because the genuinely know the works of whomever, or whatever  they are talking about.

Rereading some of the interviews realized that the interviewers ability to talk to a subject about their entire career, often with more detail than the subject, was something I strove to do with my interviews here at Unseen. I want to know as much about a subject as I can before I talk to them. While I may not be as successful as those at Shock Cinema, at least I'm aiming to copy the best.

When I finished the magazine I also realized that I needed to get all the back issues. There were bits and pieces in the magazine that I wish I had had available to me recently. With Covid altering the release schedules I have some reviews of some older films lined up and I wish I could have had the context the Shock Cinema reviews and interviews could have given.  Additionally I was also having a blast rereading and finding new films to track down or revisit. To that end I ordered the entire run of the magazine (in a couple of orders). Clearly my dance card will be full for several weeks.

One of the things I have loved about reading the early early issues from the mid-1990's is the pleas to information on getting good copies of many films we now have readily available. Films that are mainstays of Asian Cinema are talked about being sourced from convention dealers or odd sources. Everything is VHS and there is no internet. Oh how things have changed.

Do yourself a favor and get some issues. All the information can be had here. The list of available issues is there. What I love, and what pushed me toward getting the run is the website has a listing from issue 4 until 54 what everything that is reviewed, who is interviewed or discussed. Look it over and you will find just how wide their net is.

I can't recommend them enough.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus FIlm: The Snow Queen

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Baby Hers (2020)

Short documentary concerning the production of milk and how in factory farms the calves are taken away from their mothers once they are born in order to assure a steady production of milk.

Okay documentary seeks to move the farming industry away from factory farming to smaller environmentally and humane sound methods of producing milk and other products. Its a noble cause that I'm all for.

While I don't have any problem with anything we see in the film from an informational standpoint I found the presentation a bit bland.While I tend to refer a quiet approach the shortness of the film  isn't suited for that style. I also don't know if we really need the discussion of human babies and their mothers that weaves their way through the film. It is not that there's anything wrong with it on the face, but more that it seems more an attempt at manipulation, something the rest of the film doesn't do.

In the en BABY HERS is okay, but nothing special.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #82 Doctor Dolittle [1967] ★½

At a certain point, Richard D. Zanuck should’ve realized that the universe didn’t want a Doctor Dolittle movie to be made. Between an initial year’s delay for songs and a screenplay from Alan Jay Lerner that never materialized, the expense of training not one but two sets of animals after the first batch got stuck in quarantine en route to the UK, catastrophic weather delays at their British and Saint Lucia shooting locations, the bombing of their Wiltshire set by a disgruntled local, the racist and antisemitic prima donna antics of star Rex Harrison, perpetual cast and crew illness, feces-covered sound-stages, and the near-fatal heart attack of producer Arthur P. Jacobs, one can assume that Zanuck would’ve gotten the cosmos’ hint that Richard Fleischer’s Doctor Dolittle wasn’t meant to be. (All these details and more can be found in Mark Harris’ superb book Pictures at a Revolution which examines the production of the five 1967 Academy Award for Best Picture nominees which included Dolittle. It turns out that industry block voting and the bribing of Academy members with free screenings, dinner, and drinks can go a long way towards making voters hold their noses and pick a stinker.)

But the earth-shattering success of Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music (1965) had Zanuck—and every other major Hollywood studio head—convinced that overlong, over-produced road show musicals were their ticket to print money. So despite everything, Zanuck persevered and ground out a film that bored audiences, exasperated critics, and made only a fraction of its money back.

There are many reasons why Doctor Dolittle fails as a musical, but the major one is its crushing 152-minute length. The film’s episodic narrative structure results in a story that’s not really a story but a succession of tedious cul-de-sacs each more eye-rolling than the next. There are, surprisingly for a musical, too many songs, most of which sound the same and all of which go on for two or three verses too long. And while the spectacle of seeing so many real animals onscreen never quite loses its charm, Zanuck’s expectation that the spectacle itself should be enough to sustain the whole shebang cratered the whole production. The only redeeming moments come from spasms of unintended campiness like a scene where Harrison sings a love ballad to a seal dressed as an old woman.

Vivarium (2019) (and apology to Lorcan Finnegan)

I know I am really really late on reviewing Lorcan Finnegan's VIVARIUM. I saw the film almost a year ago when it played at Fantasia, but there is a reason I am just coming to the party.

The short version of the story is that I was allowed to see the film before Fantasia but I was told I could not review the film last July unless I made the review sound as if I was in Montreal. They were not screening the film for critics and any reviews were only to be from actual screenings. The distributor wanted to hold reviews for the release in 2020.  Since my Fantasia coverage was filled with references to being covering the fest remotely I couldn't in good conscious say I saw the film at the fest when everything else I published said I was home.  I had to fall back to the B position which was run the review when it hit theaters/VOD in 2020.

I wrote the review, banked it and then went on.

When the film was released, I somehow missed it was coming until reviews started appearing. No problem I'll put up the banked review- but it was not in the draft folder but somewhere else and I couldn't find it. Cut to the chase I still have no idea where the original review is.

Certain I would find it sooner than later I let it go. Time went by. Then needing a fix of a good horror film plunked down the cost of a VOD rental, rewatched the film and I did this review.

I know there is no reason you need any of that, but I feel horrible several times over especially since I had told Lorcan Finnegan how much I liked the film back in July. Having spoken with Lorcan on a couple of occasions and even interviewing, he is  a person I really like on a personal level.

With apologies to Mr Finnegan here then are some thoughts on his masterpiece VIVARIUM
The original teaser poster
After I saw VIVARIUM for the first time I told a number of people how much I liked it and I begged them to see it.

A year after I first saw it I know that reaction could be mixed. Some people I pushed to see it didn't like it.  I know that the film doesn't work for some people, or so they say. I suspect that in some cases this bleak black nightmare of a film just weirds them out. I have seen the film a couple of times now and it bothers me deeply on a primal level.

Simply put Lorcan Finnegan has made a supremely fucked up film.

Trust me you have no idea how off this goes.

The plot has a couple looking at a house in a new development. Its a weird place where everything looks exactly the same. Martin, the guy showing them the house is more than a bit strange, and despite sensing they should probably run, they go look at the house. Once they are in the house Martin disappears and they can't find their way out of the development. No matter what they do all roads lead back to #9. They are trapped...

...and then it goes off the deep end.

I won't say another word about what happens. I considered it because people have had time to see it so I am not too worried about spoilers- except that you don't want to know until you see the weird  shit starts hitting the fan.

While continuing to work with themes of isolation and suburbia that filled FOXES and WITHOUT NAME Finnegan ups the ante and creates a world that is completely under his control. Finnegan is working not so much with real places but places that are in "this development, name a place like ours but not somewhere else. I've spoken to some people who don't like the sense of unreality, but the truth is that is the point. This would never ever have been as chilling if this took place in a real place. Where his earlier films hinted or glimpsed another world VIVARIUM is in that other world.

I am in awe of this film in the way that I am of few horror films. Rarely has any horror film messed me up more with repeated viewings as this film has as the knowledge of what things mean appear earlier. I found myself shouting-NO DON'T because I know where the choices made are going to lead.

I also love that Finnegan doesn't supply any answers. Things are. With no real concrete answers he drains away hope and we just end up feeling bent and broken as the credits roll.

Why the hell did I rewatch this freaking nightmare more times than just the first? I have no idea.
Clearly I am a glutton for punishment. Actually it is more that Finnegan's film makes me feel...something. Watching VIVARIUM I felt  more  than almost any almost any other film out there. I was forced to engage and feel and try to come to terms with what that means.

Disturbing as it is,VIVARIUM is a masterpiece- one need only see it to know that.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Ben Drowns Again

Here is a look at a multiplatform creepy story called BEN DROWNS about a haunted video game.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Who Farted? (2020)

WHO FARTED? maybe an imperfect film, but I laughed my ass off and as such I'm putting it on my Best of 2020 list. That may sound crazy, but few films have made me laugh as much as this documentary and in these trouble times laughter is a valued commodity.

The film is the story of co-director Albert Nerenberg's need to see if   his daughter's assertion that cow farts are going to destroy the world is true. What follows is a rip roaring trip through the history of farts and farting with some serious talk about whether flatulence is responsible for global warming.

Yes, much of this film is full of fart jokes and puns, or if not jokes, humor laced discussion on what farts are and what their place is in culture is. It is screamingly funny and most importantly, incredibly informative. No joke, even if you think you know everything about bottom burps, you are certain to learn something.

The best part of this film is it will probably get you to lighten up. I say this because I know that some people will be offended, I have had a couple of people refuse to see the film based solely on the subject matter well before they even got a whiff of it's contents. Clearly they don't think they fart, but as this film proves pretty much every animal except birds pass gas, and there is nothing wrong with it. And if you see this film you will understand that the only thing wrong with farting is getting upset when people do something they can't stop doing.

As great and wonderful as the film is the film does have one problem and that is the climate change stuff. I'm not arguing against climate change or that flatulence may be part of it, rather how the subject is broached is not well handled. I mean while climate change and cow farts is what sets the ball rolling trying to steer the ball back into that court doesn't go smoothly.

Regardless if you want to learn about farts, both your own and cows, and you want to laugh your ass off and dont mind stinky humor  WHO FARTED? is a must see.

The Canadian broadcast premiere is June 28 with CBC’s documentary Channel, 9pm ET and PT.

The 11th Green (2020)

If THE 11TH GREEN wasn't hitting virtual theaters today I would I would have sat on this review for a while. I know I would have watched it a second time because it is completely not what I expected and I really don't know how to react.

The plot of the film had Campbell Scott's father being found dead in his home in Arizona. Scott was estranged from his dad so he was not really aware of how his dad was doing. Flying from DC, where he is a contributor to a TV news network, he begins to make funeral arrangements, grieve... and fall into the middle of the story of how in the 1950's aliens contacted the US government.

And before you think this is going to be an exciting film about a grand coverup with maybe a chase or two and all of that stop. This is a matter of fact drama that plays out occasionally like a thriller but is really not what you expect. This about people and a big secret. This is largely set in and around Scott's father's home. people do cross through time and Eisenhower and Obama are both major players, but mostly this is people talking. The secrets exposed are told by people who were there. It's all very low key and real with the result my initial reaction after seeing the film last night was "that wasn't what I expected" - I mean UFO stories don't play out so matter of factly. It's so not what I expected that I wanted to watch it again because it so caught me off guard I don't know how to react.

Don't get me wrong, it's a surprisingly good film, it's just one that so blurs the genre lines that I can't do the film justice in the short turn around time I was given to review it. (I received and watched the film in considerably less than 24 hours before this review posted.)

And for better or worse that instantly makes the film something you'll want to see if you want to see a film that doesn't play by the rules. It is a film that you have to adjust your perceptions for so you can fully engage. I wasn't fully engaged when I saw it because I kept thinking it was going to go one way and it went another. I now am looking forward to a second pass (that's a quiet rave folks)

Refusing to do what expected aside, THE 11TH GREEN, is a good low key drama about something that may or may not have happened. It is definitely worth a look for anyone interested in the subject or a film that isn't going to play out according to any roadmap.

To see THE 11TH GREEN go here

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #81 The Watermelon Woman [1996] ★★★½

In an era when it was still difficult for women—let alone black women, let alone gay black women—to find work as directors, Cheryl Dunye carved out her own damn space in the 90s American indie scene, creating a highly idiosyncratic body of work unique within black, feminist, and LGBTQ+ cinema. Frequently setting her films in her adopted home of Philadelphia, Dunye’s work is a dizzying kaleidoscope of cinematic modes and audiovisual formats that’s completely unconcerned with the strictures of fiction and documentary filmmaking. Termed “dunyementaries,” these self-reflexive confessionals explore Dunye’s complicated feelings about her race, her gender, her sexuality, and her love-hate relationship with the lesbian community. Frequently she’ll interview herself and her actresses—and they’re almost exclusively lesbians; of the casts of the ten or so Dunye films I’ve seen I can only think of maybe two men—both in and out of character, commenting on the story they’re in and its real-life production. The result are films that shatter the boundaries between the act of creation and the finished creation itself, pulling the audience into the disorienting dialectic of artistic production.

Consider her 1996 movie The Watermelon Woman. Inspired by Dunye’s real-life research on black actresses in the early Hollywood studio system, the film follows a fictionalized Dunye’s attempt to discover information on “The Watermelon Woman,” an unnamed, uncredited black actress in an old film called Plantation Memories. During her search through archives, interviews, and the nooks and crannies of LGBTQ+ academia (including a visit to the…*ahem*…Center for Lesbian Information and Technology) she discovers that the Watermelon Woman was, in fact, a lesbian and quite possibly Dunye’s dream girl.

Of course, there was no actual Watermelon Woman and neither was there a film called Plantation Memories—both were creations of the real-life Dunye to deliberately expose and interrogate the paucity of black lesbians in film history. But the observations she makes on black film history and the interviews she secures with real-life queer artists and academics are very real, forcing us to ask where the fiction begins and ends. This might seem hopelessly dry, but The Watermelon Woman is both hilarious and sexy due to Dunye’s interweaving of her quasi-fictionalized explorations into film history with the hopeless romantic escapades of her cinematic counterpart. It’s groan-inducingly cliched to say, but there’s honestly no other film like it.

Camden International Film Festival Announces Plans for Expanded Fall Event

In unprecedented move, CIFF will work closely with filmmakers to collaboratively re-imagine the role of film festivals and experiment with new strategies for audience development and transparency

50% of net proceeds from all virtual festival pass and ticket sales as honoraria for every participating filmmaker or filmmaking team

CIFF celebrates its sixteenth edition with a 12-day virtual festival, the launch of its Filmmaker Solidarity Fund and drive-in theatre, and a new Points North partnership offering $30,000 in funding for short documentaries

"This is the moment for experimentation and for risk-taking..."

CAMDEN, MAINE – Points North Institute, the organizers of the Camden International Film Festival, have announced updated plans for the 2020 festival with a singular goal in mind: to directly support independent filmmakers and collaboratively create spaces for community-building, organizing and collective imagination.

In response to the ongoing worldwide health crisis, this year's CIFF and Points North Forum will be the most global, accessible edition of the festival to date, and will include a 12-day creative virtual experience with dozens of livestream events, alongside the launch of the festival’s very own drive-in movie theatre, and screenings at a small number of reduced-capacity theatres in Maine.

The sixteenth edition of the Camden International Film Festival will take place from October 1-12, 2020 and will culminate with a special program to honor Indigenous People's Day in partnership with Nia Tero Foundation and Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

The Points North Institute also announced that SHOWTIME® Documentary Films will continue to serve as the Headlining Sponsor for the 2020 Camden International Film Festival and Presenting Sponsor of the 2020 Points North Fellowship.

During the festival, CIFF will bring together filmmakers, industry leaders, journalists, organizers, and other special guests to re-imagine the art, business, and future of nonfiction filmmaking. The festival and forum will continue to advance industry-wide conversations about Story & Power – examining how power and resources are distributed in the documentary film industry and how festivals can build solidarity with filmmakers to create more equitable, sustainable conditions for the creation and distribution of documentary films – particularly for BIPOC filmmakers and other communities that for too long have been marginalized or excluded by the industry.

CIFF’s commitment to accessibility will also include greater investments in closed captioning, ASL interpretation, live transcription services, and outreach to ensure that people with disabilities are able to participate fully in the 12-day virtual festival.

Organizers are working closely with filmmakers to collaboratively re-imagine the role of film festivals and experiment with new strategies for audience development and transparency.

This work begins with the establishment of the Filmmaker Solidarity Fund, which will distribute 50% of net proceeds from all virtual festival pass and ticket sales as honoraria for every participating filmmaker or filmmaking team, including both features and shorts directors. The fund will also seek new tax-deductible contributions and corporate sponsorships from partners interested in supporting diverse independent filmmakers during this time of critical need.

“These are unprecedented times, and they call for unprecedented changes to ‘business as usual’ for film festivals,” said Ben Fowlie, Executive and Artistic Director of the Points North Institute and Founder of CIFF. “Our ability to align and collaborate with independent filmmakers during these times to create something more accessible, more equitable, and more filmmaker focused, is our key metric for impact and success this year. This is the moment for experimentation and for risk-taking, and we remain committed to using our platform to contribute to a reinvention of the festival landscape and the field at large.”

Points North is committed to expanding filmmaker support through its Artist Programs as well. In a new partnership, the organization is joining forces with IF/Then Shorts, ScreeningRoom, LEF Foundation and Jigsaw Productions to offer a fund and rough cut lab for filmmakers from the American Northeast with documentary shorts in post-production. Growing out of the IF/Then Shorts program, Points North Institute's Shortform Editing Residency and last year’s Follow Focus grant, the inaugural North Shorts Fellowship will support 6 projects that explore a range of socially, politically and culturally relevant topics that are rooted in the region. Projects will receive a $5,000 post-production grant and participate in a month-long online rough cut lab, culminating with an invitation-only rough cut screening as a part of the 2020 Camden International Film Festival. Following the lab and festival, filmmakers will receive two months of distribution consultation to help get their film out into the world.

In addition to the festival and forum and these new partnerships, other Artist Programs, including the Points North Fellowship, North Star Fellowship , 4th World Indigenous Media Lab, and Points North 1:1 Meetings, will be conducted remotely. These programs will leverage digital tools to build stronger communities of support around each cohort of diverse, early-career filmmakers -- connecting them with mentors, collaborators, allies, supporters, and audiences.

The 11th annual Points North Pitch will be livestreamed to a global audience on Saturday, October 3. All funds previously earmarked for travel will be redirected as tipends to filmmaker fellows and mentors.

“Amidst a global pandemic, an uprising in defense of Black lives, and a critical election, some deeper truths about the world we live in are being exposed for more to see,” said Program Director Sean Flynn. “These events underscore the critical need to support filmmakers and artists committed to truth telling, especially those whose truths have not yet been fully heard.”

The submission deadline for the Points North Fellowship and North Star Fellowship has been extended to July 15th. Submissions for the North Shorts Fellowship will open on July 1 with a deadline of August 3. Fellowship participants will be announced in late August.

Submissions to the Camden International Film Festival will be extended through July 10th at the Regular Deadline rate, and any film whose premiere has been interrupted by COVID is eligible for a full fee waiver. The entire film lineup for the 2020 Camden International Film Festival and Points North Forum will be announced in early September. Passes to the 2020 Camden International Film Festival are now on sale, and can be found on the Points North Institute website www.pointsnorthinstitute.org.

The 16th Camden International Film Festival is a program of the Points North Institute. Building on CIFF’s long-established role in the nonfiction film community, the Points North Institute’s filmmaker programs provide a launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers. The 2020 Festival is made possible by Showtime Documentary Films and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Japan Cuts has announced it's slate and schedule of events

The always wonderful Japan Cuts has announced it's slate of films and events. And it's a killer. There will be panels and guests and a whole bunch of kick ass films.

As with every festival this year Japan Cuts has gone virtual so no matter where you are in the world you can join in.

Normally I would post the entire schedule but because of complications owing to the day job (I'm on a conference call as I do this so please don't tell the bosses)  I'm going to simply say all the information is here- go look and explore and prepare to by tickets on July 10

Ask No Questions (2020) hits VOD on June 30

ASK NO QUESTIONS is a look at China’s treatment of the Falun Gong movement which it supported for a while before it’s exponential growth scared the ruling party and the cracked down on it. The film focuses on the incident in Tiananmen Square where several members of Falun Gong set themselves on fire in protest. It was a moment that the Chinese government seized upon as means of showing how dangerous the group was. The investigation is at first tied to the testimony of Chen Ruichang who was a member of the group and he was in one of the brainwash centers that the Chinese send Falun Gong members to. Ruichang was a reporter for Chinese television and what he saw in the coverage mirrored the reports that that he used to produce at the request of authorities.

While absolutely political in nature ASK NO QUESTIONS subverts expectations by not seeming to be political. The film is structured more like a police thriller where directors Jason Loftus and Eric Pedicelli try to sort out what happened on the morning in question. While normally it would be incredibly difficult to sort out what the Chinese government was doing beyond their own reports, Loftus and Pedicelli is aided by the fact that Lisa Weaver, a CNN reporter was on site when everything went down. Her story of what happened was reported by Chinese news agencies-except that they embellished what happened. Over the course of the film the directors try to sort it out.

ASK NO QUESTIONS is a wicked trip down the rabbit hole. It is a decent into the world of doublespeak and state controlled media. Black is white and down is up. It is a wake up call to everyone everywhere at how a government can try and seize control of a narrative for its own ends. The film highlights an incident where China went to great lengths to control the story, much like it is trying to do in Hong Kong right now, where clashes between the government and protesters are a daily occurrence. If China had it’s way the protesters in Hong Kong would only be seen as the monsters.

The greatness of the film is that makes you think about what the official story is,not only in the case of the self-immolations in China, but also on the larger scale as well. It is this making you think about things on a larger level that lifts ASK NO QUESTIONS up from being just a really good docu-mystery into something else entirely.

Without a doubt ASK NO QUESTIONS is a must see. It is a great film on its own terms but by forcing the audience into a wider discussion about what exactly the Chinese government is doing to its own people, it becomes a vital living film, especially in light of the madness currently happening in Hong Kong. It is also a stern warning about what other dictatorships or wannabe dictatorships such as the current American regime are trying to do to their countries.

Stay At Home Fest: Bonus Film: Nuclear Attack UK Live News Reports

A 35 minute film of what BBC News coverage of the out break of a nuclear war might look like.
If the end of the world films of the last few days haven't frightened you- this definitely will

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Nate Hood's Quartantine Qapsule #80Songs My Brothers Taught Me [2015] ★★★★

John Winters knows he’s killing his community. He knows that when he illegally sells booze on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, he’s murdering a small part of it. He’s seen the scars of alcoholism in his family, in the face of his desperate mother, in the actions of his absent father. He’s attended meetings of recovered alcoholics at the local church and listened in silence as the pastor preached that God will scorch the impurities from their souls with fire. He’s chatted with relatives around late-night bonfires about legalizing alcohol and how it might do more harm than good, but certainly anything is better than what they have. Yet still he sells the stuff. For John is a man of no small ambition—he intends to leave his people’s South Dakota reservation and move to Los Angeles with his girlfriend. For that he needs a car. To get a car he needs money. And the only way a high schooler like him can get it is by peddling poison. So he distances himself from everyone else save his younger sister Jashaun whom he adores and dotes on.

Unlike John, Jashaun doesn’t see dead-end desperation in their reservation. The poverty, perhaps. But when she looks upon the land she sees tides of flame upon the prairie, leaving blankets of ash smoking silently under the stars. She sees cowboys breaking horses but leaving enough of their wild souls intact that they don’t lose their spirit. She sees powwow dresses, plates of fry bread, tattoos, and sacred numbers. She is the bank of hope John crashes against day by day. And for that reason he knows he’ll eventually have to leave her, too.

So it goes in Chloé Zhao’s feature debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me (2015), an achingly poignant portrait of contemporary reservation life. Shot on location and with nonprofessional actors, the film adopts an almost cinéma vérité style. Unlike her widely acclaimed follow-up The Rider (2017), Zhao embraces a sentimentality that could’ve come across as hollow and mushy if not for the film’s ever-present undercurrent of melancholy sadness. Much of this is due to Peter Golub and Tom MacLear’s spare, understated soundtrack which manages a remarkable amount of emotional heavy-lifting with just a piano and some strings. But whatever the reasons, the film is an astonishing debut for one of American cinema’s most promising new voices.

Brief thoughts on the We Are One Festival Talks

The recently completed We Are One Global Festival was put together by 21 festivals around the world with the intention of raising money for people and organizations impacted by Covid 19. As part of that they ran a number of prerecorded talks with actors and directors.  I watched a number of them and here are some quick thoughts.

Cinema Cafe With Jackie Chan from Sundance
Over the years I have seen Jackie Chan speak numerous times. I've actually seen him in person three times when he came to NYC for the New York Asian Film Festival. Jackie is the supreme showman and I really don't care what he has to say only that I'm in the room to hear it because it will make me smile. This talk with Jackie is exactly like that. It's Jackie being Jackie which means its a combination of real information mixed in with Jackie telling well honed stories and always playing to the crowd. This was a blast and I actually had it on a couple of times while I was working just because its Jackie.

In Conversation with Guillermo Del Toro From Marrakesh
Another stunning talk with a great filmmaker. Every time I've seen Del Toro speak in person I've wanted to invite him out for coffee afterward to continue talking movies. One of the most approachable of any director I've come across he has pulled back over the years simply because if he didn't he would get swarmed. Here Del Toro talks about everything and anything and he manages to hold our attention with such skill that you never want it to end. What I loved about the talk is that despite seeing and reading numerous interviews with the great man he still manages to reveal some unknown bit about one his films that you never heard before.

Locarno 2019 Pardo d'onore to John Waters
Hands down one of the greatest talks I've ever seen. I may not like Albert Serra as a filmmaker but his talk with John Waters kicked serious ass. Talking about everything Waters ,is just amazing. WHile I've heard his hitchhiking stories before he still managed to make them seem knew. Despite having a love affair with Waters work I loved that I learned a great deal (like his films never really made any money). This was the best filmmaker talks to filmmaker talk I've seen.

On Transmission: Ang Lee in Conversation with Kore-eda Hirokazu from Berlin
Two titans of cinema sit down and talk about film and you just fall into it. While I am a Kore-eda fan I am not really an Ang Lee fan but watching these two men talk about their work and their ideas about cinema and each others films made me want to go back and watch the films again

Rendez-Vous with Alain Delon from Cannes
I have always been a Delon fan but I never had a chance to hear him talk. Watching this hour long talk not only gave me an insight into his films but also his way of doing things. I wish this had been longer.

Rendez-Vous With Zhang Ziyi from Cannes
Almost to hours with one of the great actresses of the screen. It was a wonderful look into her life and work.

TIFF Talks: Viggo Mortensen & David Cronenberg on CRASH
I think it's clear the best way to get David Cronenberg to talk is to have him talk to a friend. I've seen Cronenberg talk in career retrospectives, at press conferences and after a new release and there was something about the way that he shot the breeze with Viggo that made this one of the most enjoyable. There was no pretense in the questioning just genuine curiosity and the result was unrehearsed responses that delighted.

There were other talks of course (Tessa Thompson with Jane Campion, Song Kang-ho with Bong Joon-ho, Olivier Assayas with Claire Denis, Tantoo Cardinal,Alejandro Iñárritu with Marina Abramović, and Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Soderbergh) but I either missed them entirely or only caught a small portion.

I do hope that if we are gifted with another We Are One Festival they will do more talks because what I saw were all wonderful.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Panorama: If The Bomb Drops

a depressing documentary on what might happen if the bomb drops.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #79 Dry Wood [1973] ★★★★

Many know filmmaker Les Blank primarily (or solely) for Burden of Dreams (1982), a making-of documentary about Werner Herzog’s shot-on-location-in-the-Amazon epic Fitzcarraldo (1982). The film’s reputation as one of the greatest in the sub-genre focusing on chaotic movie shoots isn’t unearned—it’s a penetrating exploration into the psyche of one of world cinema’s most over-the-top figures making one of his most over-the-top films. But those who limit themselves to just this one film will cheat themselves of one of the richest and most warmhearted filmographies in American cinema, documentary or otherwise.

Blank was primarily an explorer of the hidden nooks and crannies of America, exploring subcultures and communities largely unknown to or ignored by society at large. His documentaries were frequently about traditional music, often about food, but always about people first and foremost. But it was the way he approached said people that made his films so unique. Blank would never treat his subjects as figures in a vacuum, transforming them into sterile talking heads dully reflecting on their lives and careers. Instead Blank would immerse himself in the culture that produced and sustained them, replicating its rhythms and moods.

Consider his superb Dry Wood, a look into the world of black Creoles in French Louisiana. Ostensibly a portrait of accordionist Alphonse “Bois Sec” Ardoin and fiddler Canray Fontenot, both groundbreaking pioneers of zydeco music, the film treats its subjects as entry points into their community, not the other way around. Consider one early scene shot during a Mardi Gras dance party. Musicologists might be exasperated by Blank’s refusal to hold his camera on them, choosing instead to frequently cut away to shots of children sitting on benches on the sidelines playing with each other or staring off blankly into space. From the ecstatic celebrations of Mardi Gras, Blank then turns to their everyday toil, of men working in rice fields and women tending house and children. Much of the film concerns their tireless efforts to make, grow, catch, kill, and cook food. And this too is used as an in to explore the Creole people, whether it’s watching a young girl struggle to eat an oversized pork crackling or a group of women gossiping about a friend who burned her “murderer boyfriend’s car” while sorting through guts. Blank finds humanity amid the gory viscera and zydeco twang.

Cine Las Americas announces CLA2020 Virtual Showcase (July 16-19, July 23-26)

Austin, TX (June 24, 2020) – Cine Las Americas announced the film lineup for the CLA2020 Virtual Showcase presented by the Cine Las Americas International Film Festival (CLAIFF) & the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (ESB-MACC). Taking place on consecutive weekends, July 16-19 and July 23-26, the virtual event will present 49 films (7 features, 32 shorts, and 10 music videos) hailing from 12 different countries. The films represent the works of some 60 directors with over 30 being female, as well as films from Indigenous filmmakers, LGBTQ+ filmmakers and POC filmmakers.

Following the postponement of the 23rd edition of Cine Las Americas International Film Festival until a future date due to the coronavirus pandemic, Austin’s signature film festival celebrating films made by and/or about Latinxs and Indigenous peoples of the Americas immediately began the process to find alternative ways to give films that would have been featured at the film festival this year a featured platform. CLA Executive Director Jean Anne Lauer said, “This presentation of a virtual showcase of films is a testament to the dedication of our staff to find a way forward and continue to foster connections between our Latinx filmmakers as well as those of Indigenous heritage and Texas audiences – even if we can’t do so in person. While this special event will mark the final in my tenure with the organization, I’m incredibly honored to have worked with dedicated board, staff, volunteers, and supporters over the past 12 years, and look forward to a bright future for Cine Las Americas.”

Last month, CLA began working with the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (LALIFF) to cross-promote films and start the process of building a relationship between the organizations to create an all-important bridge and support system for their films between the two filmmaking hubs of Austin and Los Angeles. During that announcement, CLA Lead Program Associate Ernie Quiroz said, “During a time when a common refrain is ‘We’re All in This Together,’ we are embracing that idea and looking to form and sustain alliances with organizations that share our desire to promote filmmakers’ work, and of course, share our love of film with our communities.”

The CLA2020 Virtual Showcase co-presented by the ESB-MACC and in partnership with LALIFF, the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) and other entities, is the next step in the organization’s retooling and re-imagining, and expansion of its efforts on behalf of Latinx filmmakers and those of Indigenous heritage. CLA programmer Florencia Choto says the organization and its staff feel that CLA is an essential platform for those filmmakers, and that belief has galvanized and fueled their mission to connect the Austin and Texan audiences with these works despite the challenges presented by both COVID-19 and the nation’s upheaval due to protests across the country. Fellow programmer Alan McLane Alejos added, “Being part of a great festival that stands for stories from the Americas and its Indigenous communities, is one of the reasons to continue programming and showcasing the best films and to support the filmmakers during these uncertain times. The movies that are part of the digital edition keep providing a glimpse of the complex and yet magical world we live in.”

Narrative feature competition films include Patricia Velásquez Guzmán’s Costa Rican and Chilean drama APEGO (ATTACHMENT) about an architect facing a career and family crossroads, Fernando Zuber’s Argentinian film CIEGOS, about the physical and emotional journey a 13-year-old boy takes with his blind father to his hometown, and Dainara Toffoli’s Brazilian drama MAR DE DENTRO (THE SEA WITHIN), about a professional woman dealing with an unplanned pregnancy.

Documentary feature competition films include Claudia Escobar’s U.S and Mexican co-production, DEAR HOMELAND, which tells the story of Mexican singer/songwriter Diana Gameros coming of age in the United States while finding her voice as an artist, Eliza Capai’s Brazilian documentary ESPERO TUA (RE)VOLTA (YOUR TURN), which looks at the Brazilian student movement from the protests of 2013 until the election of the new president, Jair Bolsonaro, in 2018, and Simón Uribe’s Colombian film SUSPENSIÓN (SUSPENSION), which focuses on the project of a modern road seeking to overcome the imposing geography of the Andes.

All films and videos presented in the CLA2020 Virtual Showcase will be offered free of charge, with prior registration, and all will be eligible for Audience Awards in their respective categories. For more information for access to the CLA2020 Virtual Showcase and additional details, visit https://cinelasamericas.org/.

CLA2020 Virtual Showcase films and descriptions


Curses! Bully has ceased updating Comics Ought To Be Fun!

After 15 years and somehow only still being 7 years old Unseen Films founding member and reigning Oreo eating champion, Bully The Little Stuffed Bull has stopped writing his blog Comics Ought To Be Fun.

I, like several people I know, are wondering if this means comics will ever be fun again?

Possibly, because Bully has stated that he isn't leaving Twitter.

The explanation of why he is stopping is found in his penultimate post. In part, it is the state of the world making the little Bully not feeling the joy. (Curses, hexes and rotten fruit can be directed to that fat man in the White House) and part it's because blogger has been farting around with its posting platform so that what should be simply postings have become a chore (curse you Blogger). Since Comics Ought To Be Fun is a graphic intensive website adding 9 extra steps would kill anyone. (Why is it that the people who are tasked to make things simpler are people who don't actually use the thing needing simplifying?)

For those who have not read or seen Comics Ought To Be Fun I suggest you click on the link. The site is a loving bear hug to comics and related subjects, where Bully would post a panel a day on a subject, or muses on some topic, or reveal ten variations on a comics cover or really neat stuff that just made you smile.

To be honest I am hoping that this is only a brief retirement. I am hoping that this is like other times when he just stepped away only to come roaring back.

Actually what I want him to know is that he doesn't need to do a post a day, but every now and again is perfectly fine. (A little bit of madness now and then is treasured by the wisest men)

The real truth is I just want Bully to smile. The state of the world and a supervillain in the White House has broken the heart of a seven year old. How can it not when your favorite art form tells you that people are basically good, and that good triumphs over evil, and that in the end it will be alright, but reality shows you that sometimes that isn't the case. Sometimes soulless men do bad things.

I suspect Bully actually does smile but only in brief spurts, hence his sticking to Twitter. His page is here and it is often very funny and always loving like the little guy himself.

Personally since people can unretire - look at Michael Jordan- I am hoping that once the current nightmare is over Bully can rethink and regroup and give us his wicked insight into comics and life. And besides weird things happen around Bully since he is seven, the blog has been around for 15 years but the posts go back to 1972 (no- really they do-just look) and he skipped a few years in there so you never know.

 I don't know if that will happen, I don't know if Bully will come back to posting, but I am hopeful for a better future since Bully is still making jokes over at Twitter.

Joking aside- Bully can do whatever he wants. He is one of my best friends and as much as I can beg and plead for him to continue, he can do whatever he wants. Besides after posting 50 years of material in a 15 year span this 7 year old bull deserves a break....

...and a hug....

...and cookies.... lots and lots of cookies....

While Bully has his cookies why don't you go over to his website and look around. Bully may not be updating but there is still a ton of stuff  to see and read and make you smile.

And also follow him on Twitter because he's a great deal of fun there too.

So long Comics Ought To Be Fun. It's been... fun.

(Hey Bully- once you finish the cookies- lets go get some burgers)

ADDENDUM: Bully is back reporting on comics but in smaller bite size pieces. He ha started TODAY IN COMICS HISTORY on Twitter (https://twitter.com/TodayComics). He's doing the same sort of things with panels that he was doing on the website but in Twitter size pieces. If you ar on titter follow him- and if you are not follow along.

What the hell is Francis Ford Coppola's TWIXT (2011)?

Shooting all the way back to his Roger Corman days Francis Ford Coppola's film is not something you'd expect from the maker of the Godfather-at least not at this point in his life. Based in part on a dream Coppola had the film concerns a drunken writer (Val Kilmer) on a book tour. Its going badly when he meets the sheriff (Bruce Dern) of a small town where people are mysteriously dying. The Sheriff thinks they should write a book together. Kilmer isn't sure. However the strange dream he has convinces him otherwise.  That's when things get weird...

Strange kind of road accident of a film is the sort of thing you can't take you eyes off of, simply because you want to know what is going to happen next and how it's all going to come out. Weird beyond words, this film has serial killers, Edgar Allen Poe (really), vampires, witches and Walt Whitman manuscripts.

Low brow and low budget the film moves and feels like a modern equivalent of some of the early Corman films of the 1960's. As WTF and bad as many low budget horror films are these days few can match the Corman, AIP films or their contemporaries for unbridled weirdness. Many were made fast and cheap with no thought of logic. People were going to be seeing them in drive ins were they'd be doing things other than watching a movie. TWIXT has that sort of feel to it. To me it should have been made by a 20 year old novice, not a 72 year old master

I've read that it was shot as a 3D film and I can believe it. Some of the dream effects would look great in 3D.  I have no idea if it ever played that way- though I would love to see it. I've also heard it was an experiment- which i'd believe since this feels off the cuff

I have no idea what to make of it.

Its kind of disposable but with Coppola in charge maybe not

A must for Coppola fans for all others I have no idea.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: The Last Broadcast

Not really a film but a 1980's radio broadcast about the end of the world.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Narrowsburg hits VOD Friday

If you ever wanted to make a movie or wanted to run a film festival then you must see NARROWBURG about when Richard C. Castellano (Jimmy Bootsin ANALYZE THIS) moved up to a sleepy and tiny (it's literally a block long) town in Sullivan County New York and decided to not only start the Sundance of the east, but also make a movie...and it all went sideways.

This was one of my must see films when it played the Camden International Film Festival last year. There was something about the subject of wannabe film people going off the road that appealed to me. It was the first film I had to see... and I was not disappointed.

While the film takes a couple of minutes to get going,  it simply goes from 5 MPH to 100 when the star of the madness Richard Castellano finally appears. Castellano was a ball of energy who bulldozed and charmed his way not only through the town but also through life. An ex-con who became an actor, he dreamed of bigger things and thought he found the perfect place in Narrowsburg.

As much as I want to discus what happens I am going to refrain. I want you all to take the ride as Castellano's hopes and dreams bleed into the town and then become turned. Its a crazy ass ride that we are better watching from the outside.

Filled with new interviews, old film footage shot by one of the guys in the town, as well as copious clips from FOUR DEADLY REASONS the film at the heart of the tale, this is a film that puts us in a particular time and place and makes us party to what happened. It also gives us the story from several people who who caught up in the madness so its clear this isn't just one version of what happened.

Half way into the film I was sending out missives to friends saying that they had to keep an eye out for this because they would fall madly in love with the film.

I think you'll love it too. This is not only a warning about the hubris that filmmaking can bring on, but it's also a grand tale in its own right.

Highly recommended.

NARROWSBURG will be digitally released by Gravitas Ventures on all TVOD and AVOD platforms, including Amazon, iTunes, Google, Vudu.

Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #78 Cat Ballou [1965] ★★

Elliot Silverstein’s Cat Ballou feels like what would’ve happened if a Hollywood studio tried to make Blazing Saddles (1974) without Mel Brooks as a director or Richard Pryor as a writer. Ostensibly a tongue-and-cheek send-up of the Western genre, it neither satirizes nor parodies; it doesn’t mock its conventions nor explore their cultural underpinnings. It is, quite simply, a rote Western.

After her father is murdered for refusing to sell his ranch to a nearby town, Catherine “Cat” Ballou (Jane Fonda) swears vengeance and hires notorious gunslinger Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin), a dead-eyed dead drunk, as muscle. Together they, and an assorted motley of other Western archetypes like the subservient Native American and the good-hearted outlaw, pull off a heist stealing the community’s payroll and hunt the gunslinger who killed Cat’s dad. Astute observers will note that in some ways this plot predicts Charles Portis’ seminal novel True Grit and its famous film version starring John Wayne by several years. Yet it’s Portis’ novel and Wayne’s film we remember better, mostly because those two works weren’t half-deluded about their identity. Cat Ballou, on the other hand, can’t realize that it works better as a musical than it does as a Western, and certainly better than it does as a comedy.

The most inspired moments in the film come from Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye’s cameos as the film’s Greek chorus, popping up now and then to ironically comment on the story while ostentatiously pretending to play the banjo. Whenever the film embraces the elasticity of the musical, it succeeds wonderfully. But these moments are few and far between. Most of the film consists of tired comedy that felt tired even by the sixties. Consider one sequence where Cat’s gang flees from a posse after robbing a railroad. Sped up like a silent film, they chase literal circles around each other like Laurel and Hardy were waiting just off-camera for their cue to make a pratfall.

A few words must also be said about the elephant in the room: Marvin’s winning the Oscar for Best Actor as Shelleen, beating out the likes of Olivier, Burton, and Rod Steiger’s career-best performance in The Pawnbroker (1965). Not only was he a supporting character at best, his performance was hackneyed burlesque. Marvin gave many Oscar-worthy performances in his career. This wasn’t one of them.

Ariela Rubin on House of Hummingbird (2019) which hits virtual theaters Friday

We covered HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD for the 2019 Tribeca FIlm Festival. With the film hitting virtual theaters Friday here is Ariela Rubin's review from last April.

This film takes place in 1994 in Seoul. It is a story about a 14 year old girl named Eun-hee. Her family is quite dysfunctional. Both parents are so cold and absent. Her mom seems to be in a daze more than half the time. Her brother is violent towards her, and the parents don’t care. Her sister has somewhat rebelled and isn’t around much. Her teacher calls the kids idiots. Kids in school laugh, and make fun of her. She loves drawing comics. She does have a best friend from a different school. She spends time with her by going to karaoke and roaming around. Eun-hee winds up having a health scare and has to go to the hospital.

Eun-hee is looking for love. She has an on again, off again boyfriend, and then meets a girl who has a crush on her.

Eun-hee doesn’t really have anyone to talk to, until a new understanding teacher arrives. The scenes with the two of them were sweet.

The writer and director wrote this film based on her own experiences of growing up in Seoul in the 90’s.

I enjoyed this sort of coming of age film. The girl who played Eun-hee was sweet, and cute. This film was also sad, it seemed as though nothing could go right for her.

House of Hummingbird is 2 hrs and 18 minutes, and while I enjoyed it, I definitely think it could have been a little shorter. It’s a slow paced film, that really spends time showing the daily life of Eun-hee.

I recommend it!