Archive for the ‘Film Studies’ Category

Take the Survey: 50 States, 50 Filmmakers

Monday, October 26th, 2009

The United States of America


I’ve been looking over Ted Hope’s blog lately and one thing he keeps returning to is the idea that in order for cinema to be truly free (i.e., liberated), we have to do our part to help film culture. I agree.

That’s part of what this blog has always been about. One of the reasons I began this blog was to champion filmmakers working regionally.

But now I’d like to undertake a concrete project specifically dedicated to spotlighting filmmakers that live around the country. To do that I need your help. Not a lot of help, mind you — just a few minutes.

I’m calling this undertaking 50 States, 50 Filmmakers.

It will probably end up being a series of discussions with filmmakers working around the country. I hope to talk with others about why they live and work where they do, the challenges and opportunities they face, the resources available to them, and how they support their work. Ideally, these discussions will include links that allow you to watch or purchase their work. And I’d like to do one for each state, in case the title didn’t tip you off.

So, to restate, to do this project completely, I need your help.

I want you to tell me who you think is living and making interesting films outside of New York or Los Angeles. The films can be feature films, documentaries, or short experimental works. I don’t care. “Interesting” and “not-New-York-or-Los-Angeles” is all I care about.

If you want to nominate a filmmaking team or filmmaking collective, that’s cool. I’m open to doing a few historical surveys, too, so if you prefer to nominate someone deceased (say, Eagle Pennell of Texas or Colorado’s Stan Brakhage), go for it. I just want some interesting ideas.

So, without further ado, CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY.

Don’t know 50 filmmakers in 50 states? That’s okay. I don’t either. That’s why I’m doing the survey — to fill in some blanks and to get some good ideas for this thing. Just take the survey and give suggestions where you can. You don’t have to provide nominations for all 50 states.

And please pass this along to your friends. I’d like as many people throwing out ideas as possible. I’m going to leave this post up for a couple of weeks, after which I’ll start compiling replies.

Again, here’s the link to the survey.

Best Film List, By Alphabet (x 2)

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Chris Cagle at Category D tagged me for the Alphabet Meme.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.*

2. The letter “A” and the word “The” do not count as the beginning of a film’s title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don’t know of any films with those titles.

3. Thanks to some clarification by The Siren, movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number’s word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under “T.”

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type “alphabet meme” into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you’re selected, you have to then select 5 more people.

I have rejected Cagle’s new guideline that with foreign titles one should “rely on the original title if in Roman alphabet, the translated title otherwise.” This rule had me making even more tough choices than I wished, so I threw it out. I’ve cheated, in fact, by using foreign titles or translations whenever it helped with difficult letters, tough choices, etc. My guilt is nil.

And to make the choosing even less painful, I have created two lists: One satisfies the theme of this website, the other lists more general favorites. Of course, MANY of my favorite films — a ridiculous number of them beginning with the letters “M”, “T”, and “G” — are left off of both lists. And if a film got listed on one list, I tried to list a different film on the second list.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder)
Black Ice (Brakhage)
City Lights (Chaplin)
Dance Party USA (Katz)
Edvard Munch (Watkins)
Frownland (Bronstein)
The Gleaners and I (Varda)
The Hours and Times (Munch)
Isle of Flowers (Furtado)
Jo Jo at the Gate of Lions (Sjogren)
Killer of Sheep (Burnett)
Last Chants for a Slow Dance (Jost)
Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren)
Night of the Living Dead (Romero)
O Dreamland (Anderson)
Pather Panchali (Ray)
Les Quatre Cents Coups (Truffaut)
Rome, Open City (Rossellini)
Shadows (Cassavetes)
Thirteen (Williams)
The Unchanging Sea (Griffith)
Les Vampires (Feuillade)
The Whole Shootin’ Match (Pennell)
Xala (Sembene)
Zorns Lemma (Frampton)

Harrill’s list:

The Awful Truth
Best Years of Our Lives, The
Chinatown
Diary of a Country Priest
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Fly (Cronenberg)
Grand Illusion
The Hours and Times
Isle of Flowers
Jacquot
Killer of Sheep
Love Affair
The Mortal Storm
Night of the Living Dead
Ordet
The Parallax View
Les Quatre cents coups
Ruggles of Red Gap
Starship Troopers
Tender Mercies
Unforgiven
Vivre Sa Vie
Woman Under the Influence
Xanadu
Yi yi
Zero for Conduct

Finally, I want to hear from David Lowery, AJ Schnack, Darren Hughes, Alison Willmore, and Karina Longworth.

Robert Bresson – A Bibliography

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Jane Sloan, Shmuel Ben-Gad, and Frank Blaakmeer at Masters of Cinema have compiled what appears to be the most comprehensive (complete?) Robert Bresson bibliography in the world. As someone whose passion for Bresson’s work led him to trying to read Notes on Cinematography in the original French back when the English translation was out of print, well, it pleases me deeply to see the hard work that these scholars have produced.

Here’s a quote from one of the 2000+ sources listed, J. Hoberman’s “States of Grace” (Village Voice, September 27, 2005):

Do this job long enough and you learn to accept certain realities. Some people will laugh at Written on the Wind and cry over Sleepless in Seattle –instead of vice versa. There are reviewers who find Godard boring and think Lukas Moodysson is a genius. And although it is tiresome to hear two-buck chuck extolled as Chateau Lafite Rothschild, you realize that hey, this is America — everyone’s got an opinion, and if it weren’t for bad taste, many folks would have no taste at all. But I reach the edge of my tolerance in the case of Robert Bresson.

Bluntly put, to not get Bresson is to not get the idea of motion pictures — it’s to have missed that train the Lumiere brothers filmed arriving at Lyon station 110 years ago.

Film Festival World: Resources

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Film Festival World has recently launched a few useful resource pages worth checking out:

Their Ezines, Journals, & More page selects some of the better sources of critical writing on film from around the (digital) globe. Alongside long-running magazines (like Cahiers du Cinema and Cineaste) are sites like the Rouge and Senses of Cinema. I’m looking forward to exploring the sites that are new to me.

Another resource worth checking out is what they call The Essential Film Blog Reader. Though some of my favorite bloggers aren’t listed (Mr. Schnack? Mr. Lowery?) what’s there is quality stuff: David Bordwell, Ray Carney, Chris Fujiwara, Girish, Sara Jo Marks, Chuck Tryon, and others. Needless to say, I was flattered by the compliment of inclusion (and their biography, which was done entirely without my input).

If you’re unfamiliar with Film Festival World, you can read more about the site here.

A Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking at William & Mary: Pt. 2

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Saturday morning at William & Mary began with Troy Davis giving Ashley and me a tour around the William & Mary’s Swem Library Media Center. The Director of the Media Center, Troy was my host for the weekend and one of the primary organizers of the Media Center’s Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking.

The Media Center is several things in one — an equipment training center, an equipment check-out center, a recording studio for music and podcasts. It’s anything and everything that students want and Troy makes himself, and his assistants, available to students to teach them anything from iMovie to Logic Pro.

Troy has been the Director of the Media Center for a year and a half, and it’s impressive what he’s accomplished. On a technical level, he’s helped secure some superb editing facilities (several Mac tower stations with Final Cut, Logic Pro, and the rest of the works, each in its own sound controlled environment). For a guy who describes himself as a “dabbler” when it comes to film, I was impressed with all the smart technology purchases he has been making, not to mention his ability to talk in depth about the subtle differences between various pieces of equipment they own.

Since there are, no doubt, places like this at universities across the country, the biggest accomplishment isn’t the equipment and stations he’s amassed — it’s the sense of community generates out from this media hub. A lot of that, no doubt, is due to Troy’s vision for the Media Center as a place that is accessible and inviting (as opposed to exclusive and intimidating). The Media Center, in fact, is littered with Troy’s self-desribed “propaganda” — humorous, well-designed posters — that invite students into the space and use the equipment.

After the tour, Troy and I recorded a podcast that covered making and teaching film. He had thought a lot about my work and had some great questions, which is really flattering. (The podcast will be posted at some point on Media Center site. I’ll link to it when it’s available.)

The podcast led into a “self-reliant filmmaking” workshop that I conducted with some of William & Mary’s film students and faculty.

I began by discussing the work I do on this blog, including my reasons for starting it, and how it’s transformed my own film practice. I then opened things up for discussion, which led to a wide-ranging conversation that covered everything from what video camera to purchase to some simple strategies for first-time documentarians. Ashley threw in some good advice during the conversation, to boot; I was happy she had joined me.

Our workshop group talked for nearly two hours, so Ashley and I had a quick break for lunch before I ran off to a screening of some of my own short films at the historic Kimball Theatre. The films looked good in this classy venue, I was happy with the turnout, and the questions the audience asked were, again, really good. (I even received some email from audience members after the screening thanking me for sharing my work.) There was a little reception in the theater lobby afterwards, and I enjoyed talking with some of the William & Mary faculty members that had come to the screening. That conversation led to a coffeehouse where Sharon Zuber, who teaches W&M’s production courses, and I compared notes about how to teach film production.

We closed out the day by stopping by the premiere of the Cans Film Festival (pun intended), a student-organized screening of films produced at a variety of Virginia universities. (There weren’t any entries from Virginia Tech — maybe next year?) Ashley and I weren’t able to stay for long — I was beat and we had a long drive back in the morning. We did manage to catch one zombie flick before we left.

Before we left on Sunday morning, Troy treated us to breakfast at one of Williamsburg’s many pancake houses. Ashley and I had seen a number of pancake houses on our drive in, and I suppose they reflect the fact that Williamsburg is a haven for retirees and a magnet for tourists (motto: “Where History Lives”). The three of us had one last movie-saturated conversation, and Troy told us about his next dream for the Media Center — restoring an unused auditorium in the William & Mary library and making into a screening facility/microcinema.

As we drove out of town, past a few more pancake houses, I thought about a place like Wiliamsburg. Even with the occasional major production (like Malick’s The New World) coming to town, it would still be surprising to see Williamsburg develop into the next Austin. Williamsburg’s a town of 12,000 people, and a lot of the people are transient (whether they’re tourists, college students, or retirees). That’s a tough place to build a film culture. Of course these things don’t only apply to Williamsburg. If this sounds like your town, too, well, so be it. It sounds like mine.

The thing is, something is happening in Williamsburg. Things like the Kimball Theatre, and the William & Mary Media Center are part of the puzzle. The “corner pieces” of that puzzle, though, are a dedicated group of people with vision, passion, and resourcefulness. That’s the real lifeblood of regional filmmaking and film culture. Some places don’t have this, or have enough of it. Luckily, for Williamsburg, it has Troy Davis, Sharon Zuber, Arthur Knight (coordinator of Film Studies at W&M), and a host of student filmmakers. Something tells me that their numbers will only continue to grow.