Nice to see this film making the rounds. Made by some of my fine coworkers at the Jacob Burns Film Center, this great short addresses the somewhat uncertain future of film exhibition. Check it out!
I grew up obsessed with Alfred Hitchcock.
By the age of twelve or thirteen I was already renting his films from the video store or the library and catching reruns of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on the pre-TV Land Nick at Nite. The television reruns were always really late at night but it was worth it for me to stay up and watch the show that I considered to be the morbid cousin of The Twilight Zone (which I also loved).
When I got to college and was studying cinema, I was pleased to find out that Hitchcock’s films were used as the basis for all kinds of classes in my program. Studying up on montage? Forget Eisenstein (not really), you can use the bus ride scene from Sabotage! Weighing the pros and cons of the Auteur theory? Hitch is your man! I even devoted an entire chapter of my undergraduate thesis on the importance of Psycho in relation to the history of the American horror film.
So naturally I was excited to hear that Sir Anthony Hopkins would be portraying Hitchcock in a biopic set around the production of Psycho. Wasn’t I? Honestly I don’t remember what my initial thought was because I feel like this project has been in development for ages. Sacha Gervasi’s film takes place during the most accomplished period of Hitchcock’s career — a period that arguably starts with Vertigo in 1958 and ends with Marnie in 1964.
Avant-garde and experimental film-making is an area of cinema I love diving into every so often. Watching avant-garde films always produces this unsure dread inside me as the work unfolds, whether it’s one of Brakhage’s painted leaders, or a moody, video piece by Weerasethakul. As dramatic as that sounds, I stand by it because anything and everything is off the table in these films. Expectations are impossible. Since they don’t follow conventional film-making structure almost anything can happen within the frame; you never know what’s coming, how it’s going to get there or when it’s going to stop. Plus a lot of the stuff is just downright beautiful to watch unfold. Such is the case with Hollis Frampton’s Lemon.
Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971)
Last week I had the opportunity to sit down in a gigantic theater and watch a European, Blu-ray release of Dario Argento’s Suspiria in gorgeous, 4k projection. After the glorious showing of saturated colors and eardrum-blowing music, I walked out thinking about how this put my number of Suspiria viewings somewhere in the low double digits, but there is still so much of the Master’s work I’ve yet to experience. So my Friday night ended with a home viewing of 1971’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet — Argento’s third feature and final piece of his ‘Animal Trilogy’ that also includes The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971).
Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (2011)
It seems every documentary that follows an artist in the process of creating a new work ends its second act the same way: the creative forces behind the project ultimately reach a boiling point where it appears as if all is lost and the work isn’t going to be completed. Whether it’s a filmmaker, musician, or writer, the threat of the artistic breakdown is always looming. Most of the time things pull through and the record is made, the film completed, and the subject’s creative mind is ready for a vacation.
We saw this happen with Jeff Tweedy and his band Wilco in Sam Jones’ 2002 film, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, a film that followed the group as they attempted (and attempted and attempted) to complete their masterwork, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. That same year we saw Terry Gilliam’s dreams crash and burn around him in Lost in La Mancha, Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe’s film about Gilliam’s plagued effort to complete his film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. La Mancha is almost entirely made up of that second act skid while Tweedy and the boys finished what went on to be their best received record to date. Gilliam’s tale hits a little bit closer to what we’re seeing in Rodman Flender’s Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.
Prince of Darkness (1987)
I like to consider myself a big John Carpenter fan. His Halloween is in pretty big rotation around my house and if I stumble across The Fog on TV, it’s probably not getting turned off for a bit. Yes sir, a big John Carpenter fan for sure. That is until I realize just how many of his movies I still haven’t seen and I instantly feel like I should turn in my Carpenter card. Before this week’s double bill of Ghosts of Mars and Prince of Darkness, the number was at nine. Now I’m at seven and the finish line is in sight. I swear, Starman, I’m getting to you.
John Carpenter is a director that finds more success with smaller budgets. Yes, he’s had his fair share of big budget projects, but it’s the smaller films that tend to flourish by challenging Carpenter to show his real abilities. One such film is 1987’s Prince of Darkness.
Pleased to Meet Me
Welcome one, welcome all.
This is my nth attempt at starting (and keeping up) a blog. I’ve done pop culture blogs, movie review blogs, blogs where I made fake covers of Tales from the Crypt comics… I’ve done blogs. With all of these blogs, I either gave the reigns over to someone else - see The Cinephile New York - or I’ve just simply abandoned them; left them alone in the cold, dark corners of the internet, forgotten to time.
But this is going to be different!
No, it’s not.
But maybe it is? Who knows. The point is, I’m a lot more focused these days and what better way to keep up a blog than deciding on one single, focused topic? I watch movies both for a living (sort of) and for recreation (most certainly) so in looking for a topic I figured why not just write about what I watch?
Here are the rules: