Launched: The New Self-Reliant Film.

If you're looking at this website in anything other than an RSS reader you can probably tell that we've completely overhauled the website. Thanks to our wonderful designer friends at Nathanna, we've both expanded and simplified the Self-Reliant Film website.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, our new look is based on some new directions for the website.

Today, with the launch of the new site you can do a few things that you couldn't do before:


Sign up for the email list. Our new email newsletter will have exclusive content we don't put on the blog. We’ll share tips on great films we’ve recently discovered, we'll provide some extra filmmaking tips, and you’ll get access to see our films for free. The newsletter is only sent once a month, we never sell or share others’ email addresses, and it’s ad-free. Subscribe!


Watch our films: Some folks that visit this site do so because they're fans of our films. Others visit the site because of the blog. If you've not seen our work, or you want to see our films again, or you want to see more of them… we've spelled out all the ways to watch.

The easiest and least expensive way is to sign up for the email list. But there are other ways, too. Find out more here.

Must reads: Look to the sidebar on the left. These are a few of the most popular posts on the site. Check them out if you're new here or if you've not read these. The Declaration of Principles was the first post on the blog, and it's still pretty much as relevant today as it was when it was drafted in November 2005.


Resources: If you click on "Resources" (look to the upper left of this page) you'll see some of the more helpful pages we've assembled for filmmakers (and everyone) since beginning the site. Over the coming weeks we'll be updating and expanding these pages.


Submission guidelines: We've always received emails from readers wanting us to watch and/or review our films. This has been done pretty much catch-as-catch-can in the past. We finally drew up some ideas about how to do this, as seen in the sidebar on the left. We want to review and put a spotlight on great films more than we've been able to recently. This is a way to encourage this. Click on the Submission Guidelines and and let us know if you've got a film you want us to watch.


What hasn't changed?


Our blog still features all the same stuff that we've championed and discussed from the beginning -- DIY, regional, and personal filmmaking. We've moved it to, so update your bookmarks.

(If you bookmarked an old page from the blog it should automatically redirect to the new permalink structure, but if you encounter a broken link, let us know!)  

Finally, one other thing that hasn't changed: This site is still ad-free.

For us, self-reliance has always gone hand in hand with the idea of simplicity. While filmmaking is a vocation that often resists even our attempts to simplify the process of making movies, we feel the least we can do, sometimes at least, is keep our tiny corner of the internet quiet from flashing banners, pop-ups, and google ads buried within our own reflections. This website, like our films, continues to be a labor of love.

We hope you like the new site, and the things to come. If you do, spread the word by sharing with a friend by using facebook, twitter or, you know, by actually telling someone about it face-to-face.

Sita Sings the Blues is out on DVD. How, I'm still not sure.

Sita Sings the Blues, the critically acclaimed animated feature film single-handedly made by Nina Paley, is being released on DVD today. For those that haven't been following the story, the film's use of uncleared, copyrighted musical compositions has restricted the film's release. Today, indieWire reports that "[t]hrough an intense study of copyright laws, Paley has realized the opportunity to allow other people to sell her work with her endorsement, and she can receive donations from these distributors."

But the author of the article does not mention the legal conclusions that Paley (and her lawyers) arrived at, nor does the article make any mention of the source for this information.

One website that is acknowledged is QuestionCopyright, which has a lengthy interview with Paley. The comments section that follows the interview is worth a read, too, as there's a lot of back-and-forth between commenters supporting Paley's attempts to produce "new work" (as copyright law is supposed to encourage) and several other others that argue that blame Paley for the situation at hand.

Unfortunately, I still don't have answers about how Paley and her lawyers have decided to release the film on DVD. Perhaps it's because they're also giving it away via torrent?

If you want to buy the DVD, it's available here.

UPDATE: See the comments for answers....

New Final Cut Studio released: Yawning and Gnashing of Teeth Ensue

Apple announced a major (i.e., "you have to pay for it") Final Cut Studio upgrade yesterday. It doesn't have a flashy name like "Final Cut Studio 3" or anything like that. They're just calling it Final Cut Studio. Kinda like The Velvet Underground calling their third album... The Velvet Underground. As most readers know, I'm a fan of Final Cut, so it's a big deal to me when a major upgrade of the software is released. This new FCS has a lot of changes and new features. Like the upcoming Snow Leopard operating system many of the new features strike me as time-savers, not game changers. But after looking over the changes....I'm a little underwhelmed. Are there improvements? Sure. Am I going to stand in line for this release? No.

Disappointments? Sure. The biggest one is that there is still no fix for QuickTime's gamma problems. (Google page count for: quicktime gamma problems: 3.2 million.) Supposedly the gamma problems will be fixed with the release of the Snow Leopard later this year (and, honestly, that's probably the better place to address it -- system wide). But it is distressing that it's not even mentioned in Apple's 66 page "product overview" discussing the new Final Cut Studio features.

Another disappointment -- and one I've come to expect: DVD Studio Pro is not upgraded whatsoever. For anyone counting, DVD Studio Pro hasn't had a true upgrade since 2005. Obviously, this means no Blu-Ray support.

The kicker?

Compressor now includes a setting that allows you to create Blu-ray–compatible H.264 files that can be imported directly into third-party Blu-ray disc authoring software.

So, Apple, you want me to buy Final Cut Studio so that I can compress footage and prepare it for Blu-Ray burning... but you want me to buy some other company's video software suite so that I can actually author a DVD that takes advantage of Blu-ray's capabilities? Sigh. Thanks a lot.

It's no secret that Apple's business model (e.g., iTunes store, Apple TV, etc.) is built around the premise that DVDs will soon be dead. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. But one way or another this is the clearest indication I've seen that DVD Studio Pro is marked for death. It makes you wonder why they even bother including it with FCS.


For a brief list of the changes, here's Apple's webpage regarding the new versions. If you want the full 66-page overview of changes, Apple has a PDF for you.

Happy Birthday, Agnes!

If it seems I've taken a bit of a blog-holiday, well, that's because I'm on a bit of a working vacation. (I was in England last week; Switzerland this week and next.) But I have to post a happy birthday announcement to Agnes Varda, one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. David Hudson is gathering well-wishes at Greencine. What a great way to make the announcement that one of my favorite films of Varda's, Jacquot, is now available on (Region 2) DVD from her web store.

Ashley, who is in France (on her way to meet me here in Switzerland), stopped by Varda's office just two days ago, where she briefly met Agnes herself and purchased "the second copy in the world" of the Jacquot DVD. As they say in France, super cool!

DVD Round-Up: April 29, 2008

It's been a long time since I've done a round-up. Below you'll find micro-reviews of these recent releases if I've seen them, otherwise I'm giving you the blurbs or awards that have piqued my interest in each. Manda Bala Winner of Cinema Eye awards for Outstanding Achievement in Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking, Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, Outstanding Achievement in Editing. Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize and Documentary Cinematography Prize.

Ganja & Hess I saw a tattered print of this landmark of African-American cinema in Philadelphia in the mid-90s. As a vampire film, I'm not sure it's the "lost masterpiece" it's sometimes claimed to be. But it's definitely a strange and mysterious film worthy of a second viewing, and possibly more. The film stars Duane Jones (the original Night of the Living Dead).

The Guatemalan Handshake A goofy take on Americana and the eccentrics that inhabit it, Todd Rohal's Slamdance hit gets "the Benten treatment" in this deluxe 2-disc set. The road-trip plot sputters in parts, but the constantly-inventive cinematography kept me involved, suggesting a post-post-modern update of David Byrne's True Stories.

Lake of Fire J. Hoberman (Village Voice): 17 years in the self-financed making, Lake of Fire may be as daringly aestheticized as any social documentary since Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line.

The Delirious Fictions of William Klein: Eclipse Box Set From the Criterion/Eclipse website: An American expatriate in Paris Klein [has been] making challenging cinema for over forty years yet with the exception of his acclaimed 1969 documentary Muhammed Ali The Greatest his film work is barely known in the United States. In his three fiction features...Klein's politically galvanizing and insanely entertaining social critiques seem even more ahead of their time than works of the more famous New Wavers that overshadowed them: colorful surreal antidotes to all.

Dance Party USA and Quiet City on DVD

Aaron Katz's second feature, the Independent Spirit Award nominee Quiet City is being released on DVD today. While well worth seeing, the real treasure here, in my opinion, is the second disc, which features Katz's debut, Dance Party USA. A portrait of teenage misogyny (and its redemption) Dance Party USA is one of my favorite DIY movies from the last few years. This two-fer is the second release from upstart distributor Benten Films and, like their first release, this package does not disappoint with extras.

Five Best 10 Bests (and then some)

My favorite part of the year-end (or year-beginning) "Best Of" lists is how these lists serve as a kind of aggregator for the movies that I should give my time to in the coming year. Let's face it, if you live in the USA and you don't live in New York or L.A. (I don't), and/or you didn't make it to the Toronto Film Festival or Cannes last year (nope), and/or you're not a member of the press with access to advance screenings (ditto), you might have had the chance to see only three of, say, J. Hoberman's picks for the ten best. That's what region-free DVD players and video projectors are for. So, without further ado, here are my five favorite Top 10 (or more) lists of 2007.

indieWire Critics Poll Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll Two polls that are virtually identical in their results... because they poll virtually the same group of people. Don't ask me why there are two polls.

IndieWire 2007 Critics Poll: Best Undistributed Film Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll: Best Undistributed Film Same as above.

Michael Atkinson's Straight Outta Digi: The Best Non-Theatrical Debuts of '07

DVD Beaver's Best DVD Releases of the Year

Jonathan Rosenbaum's Top Movies of the Year


Oh, and the best film I saw last for the first time last year? The restoration of The Whole Shootin' Match at SXSW. Over twenty-five years since it was produced, it's still not available on DVD.

HD-DVD Burning with an "SD" Mac

This may be old news to some of you, but it was news to me: You can burn HD-DVDs (not Blu-Ray) on a Mac using a standard DVD burner, Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and DVD Studio Pro. I tried it last night. It works. The limitations?

- Standard single-layer DVD media storage limits mean that you're limited to burning shorter projects (under 60 min). - The article states you can't play these on an HD-DVD player. I don't have an HD-DVD player, so I haven't verified this. You can, however, play them on a Mac.

Hooking up my MacBook Pro to a television and screening the DVD played flawlessly. And it looked a lot better than a standard definition DVD.

The trade-off? As anyone who's done it before can tell you, encoding a project to H.264 takes a long, long time.

Review: Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher

Note: Though it's clumsy phrasing throughout this review I refer to the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher by its full name because Primera makes a similarly named unit, the Bravo SE AutoPrinter. The AutoPrinter model prints, but does not burn, DVDs. It's a critical distinction, and one that you want to make sure you're aware of if you decide to purchase either unit!


Though the days of online distribution are upon us, DVDs still remain a (if not the) most effective way of sharing work seriously with an audience.

Obviously, one way of producing DVDs of one's work is to burn discs individually on your computer. After burning, you can label them by hand or, if you have a printer that accepts DVDs, use a printer. This method works fine if you've just got a handful to burn. Sometimes these printers can be fussy, though. Don't get me started on my experiences with my Epson R200 printer.

Another way of producing DVDs is to have them produced by a professional duplication house (e.g., DiscMakers). This is the way to go if you need hundreds for festival submissions, online or in-person sales.

But what about if you need somewhere between a dozen and a thousand? What if you find yourself needing to burn and print a moderate number discs, particularly projects that need to be updated intermittently (like, say, a demo reel)?

The Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher aims for this market. A combination laser jet printer, DVD burner, and robotic arm, it automates the burning and printing up to 20 DVDs at a time. I have been testing one for the past couple of months, and here are my findings:


Once set up, it does the job without hassle. Setting up the Primera Bravo SE Disc Publisher with a Windows-based computer was fairly hassle free. And once it was set up the unit performed like a charm. Readers of this site may be doing a double-take -- Did Paul just say Windows machine? Yup. I first tried setting up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher using an older "sunflower" iMac. That unit simply didn't have enough RAM and processor speed to do the job. Worse, though, was the fact that, regardless of the Mac computer I used, the included software was buggy and the features were limited. On a Windows-based machine the Bravo SE Disc Publisher has worked flawlessly and the included burning and label design software is easy to use.

Automation is a beautiful thing. The Bravo SE Disc Publisher will do runs of 20 discs. In my tests, the unit only stopped mid-run because of an error once, and that error was an operator error. (The "finished disc" tray should be extended when printing one disc, but pushed in when printing two or morel I left it out once when I should have pushed it in.) After a number of runs I grew confident that the unit didn't need "nursing." I felt confident leaving it alone and concentrating on other work.

It's pretty speedy. The time it takes to burn and print a run of 20 is dependent on a lot of factors -- the length of the program, the design of the label, your computer's processor speed and RAM. With my set-up the Bravo SE Disc Publisher was able to burn 20 DVDs of a short program (30 minutes or so) with a basic text label in about an hour. I was satisfied with those results.

Results have been reliable. The DVDs I've burned work, and they look consistently good. 'Nuff said.


Not so hot on Macintosh. Though, admittedly, I tried using an iMac that didn't have enough oomph to get the job done, the design/burning software included for Mac was not as feature rich.

Ultimately, whether this unit is for you depends on your DVD burning needs. The results are more immediate than sending the DVDs off for replication, and the thing is far speedier than burning and printing with your computer and a printer that requires you loading discs one-by-one. However, for the cost of a Bravo SE Disc Publisher (about $1500 online) you could do two 300 disc runs (including cases and full-color sleeves) at DiscMakers. And remember, you'll need to purchase blank DVDs, blank cases, print inserts, etc. if using a Primera.

You'll have to do your own cost-benefit analysis to determine what's most cost effective for the work you do, but for what it sets out to do, the Bravo SE Disc Publisher is a success.

DVD Round-up: August 28, 2007

This edition of DVD round-up features five very different DIY features. Stranger Than Paradise / Permanent Vacation Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise (1984) is generally considered one of the key films of the American independent film movement of the 1980s, occupying the same rarefied historical space as The Return of the Secaucus Seven (1980) and She's Gotta Have It (1986). Unlike those films, however, this was not Jarmusch's debut (though it is often erroneously attributed as such). That film, Permanent Vacation, is finally being released on DVD in this deluxe Criterion Collection release.

Inland Empire David Lynch abandoned studio filmmaking to write, shoot, direct, and edit a three-hour DIY feature with a Sony PD-150. The plot? Lynch's tagline says it concerns "a woman in trouble." Let's leave it at that. To promote the movie, which he self-distributed (in partnership with 518 Media and Rhino), Lynch sat out on a street corner in Hollywood with star Laura Dern and a Cow. No word on whether footage of this is included on this 2-disc edition.

Four Eyed Monsters Arin Crumly & Susan Buice's Four Eyed Monsters has gained as much, if not more, attention for the filmmakers' promotional efforts and DIY theatrical distribution campaign as it has for the film itself. I finally caught up with it after its release on DVD a few weeks ago. Buice and Crumly have produced a work that is impressive for its inventive marriage of cinematography and digital effects -- it feels at once hand-made and digital. Story-wise, I was less interested -- for me Buice and Crumly fall prey to indulging in the very narcissistic tendencies that they criticize in so many other self-obsessed couples. See for yourself, though. MySpacers identify with it, which makes me wonder if I'm just too old to fully appreciate it. Available from B-Side or via the filmmakers themselves.

LOL What a difference a year and a half makes. In April 06 I was interviewing Joe Swanberg, Kevin Bewersdorf, and Chris Wells about LOL, which I had just seen at the Philadelphia Film Festival. At the end of the evening, Joe handed me a self-burned, Sharpie-labeled copy of the DVD. Now, sixteen months later, I hold in my hands a deluxe DVD release of LOL, the first from the new DVD label Benten Films. It's a beautifully put together release -- lots of special features and my favorite DVD cover image of the year. I've avoided writing much lately about Joe Swanberg and the other filmmakers featured in IFC Center's New Talkies series. I think Anthony Kaufman has a point when he writes that much hype could hurt movies intimate and small-scale as, say, LOL. (Indeed, hype can kill our ability to appreciate any movie or any other work of art.) Still, this is a quality release worth mentioning and, good as it is, it suggests even bigger and better things to come from both Swanberg and the Benten Films label.

Hooray for Nollywood!

Intrepid reader Ben Hartman alerted me to a fine, if all too short, article in Wired about the third largest film industry in the world. Where is that, you ask? Nigeria. The article is really a tease -- and an effective one at that -- for two recent US-produced documentaries, Welcome to Nollywood and This is Nollywood.

Until I can get my hands on those documentaries, and some actual Nollywood movies, here are some articles that I enjoyed reading today as I educated myself about the Nigerian film industry.

Cinema of Nigeria page on Wikipedia.

Welcome to Nollywood. An extensive article from The Guardian.

Nollywood drought at Fespaco. BBC article discusses allegations of snoobery at Africa's most prestigious film festival towards Nollywood pix.

Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood. NYT article from 2002(!).

The Nollywood Phenomenom. Article found on the World Intellectual Property Association website (WIPO's website tells me that it is a "specialized agency of the United Nations").

Rest in Peace, Edward Yang

Via the Filmmaker Magazine blog, I've just learned that writer-director Edward Yang has died of complications from colon cancer. He was 59 years old. In 2006 I started to catch up with Yang's films. The first one I saw was 1991's A Brighter Summer Day. The film is not available commercially anywhere in the world, but I had managed to secure a 2-DVD bootleg of the 237 minute epic. I was laid up in bed, sick, with nothing else to do, so I figured a four-hour movie would be a good way to pass the time.

It's a stunning film, but when it was over -- well before it was over, actually -- the devastating impact the film had on me was buoyed by my thrill at discovering a filmmaker so in control of the medium.

Still, even that film did not prepare me for Yi Yi, which I caught up with late last year after Criterion released it on DVD. As I mentioned in my year-end posting, the experience of watching Yi Yi at home last winter was the best moviegoing experience I had all last year.

One of the reasons I would never want to be a full-time movie reviewer or critic is my inability to put into words experiences like seeing Yi Yi. Peter Bowen's post over at Filmmaker quotes A.O. Scott's review of it in the Times, and that gives a hint of what I myself felt:

As I watched the final credits of Yi Yi through bleary eyes, I struggled to identify the overpowering feeling that was making me tear up. Was it grief? Joy? Mirth? Yes, I decided, it was all of these. But mostly, it was gratitude.

There's something so exciting about discovering the work of a new artist whose work you hold close to your heart: There's the thrill of going through the back-catalog, hoping that there are more treasures to discover. And, if that artist is still alive, still working, there's the eager anticipation of looking forward to their new work, which is a kind of joy in its own right.

Today, when I heard the news of Yang's death on June 29th, I -- and all of his fans -- lost the chance to feel that latter kind of joy. All that's left for us is the chance to appreciate the work Yang created while he was here.

It may take years before I can see all of his films -- none besides Yi Yi are available on DVD -- but however long it takes, I'll be thankful they remain to be seen. Yes, "gratitude" is the right word.

Thank you, Edward Yang. Rest in peace.


If, like me, you're coming late to Edward Yang's work here are some ways to learn more:

Online Resources:

    Edward Yang: IMDB entry

    Edward Yang: Senses of Cinema biography -- this includes several links to interviews, essays, etc.

    Edward Yang: Wikipedia entry

    Edward Yang: AP Obituary

    Added 7.3.07:

    Edward Yang: NYT Obituary [Manohla Dargis]

    Edward Yang reflections on GreenCine

    Jonathan Rosenbaum reviews of Edward Yang films


    Edward Yang


    Yi Yi is the only film of Yang's to be commercially released on DVD, either in the USA or (to the best of my knowledge) abroad. Bootleg DVDs for at least some of Yang's other films are known to be available on the internet.

Head Trauma Re-Mix in Philly

Yo, Philly readers: Here's a screening that would make William Castle's head spin: Lance Weiler's Head Trauma will screen with a live soundtrack, featuring performances by Bardo Pond, members of Espers, Fern Knight and DJ Chief Wreck'em. Some theatrics are being thrown in for good measure and there will also be some interactivity. Bring your cell phone.

Details can be found at I-House (the venue) and on the Head Trauma website. Or check out the flyer here.

I'm not a connoisseur of horror and suspense films, but I enjoyed the film when I caught it on DVD last fall. I certainly I wish I could be there for the extravaganza on Saturday. Hopefully Lance will discuss the process of setting the show up, as well as the results, on his great Workbook Project site.

Killer of Sheep

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep in my rave of Eagle Pennell's The Whole Shootin' Match. Funny timing: Yesterday, Dave Kehr had an all-too-short article in the NYT about the process of bringing to home video this legendary film that, in Burnett's words, "was never meant to be shown in public." I had known the film was going to be released to DVD at some point -- it's been rumoured for at least a few years (held up, as Kehr notes, by music licensing issues) -- so it's nice to know we won't have to wait much longer.

What I didn't know was that the film is getting a release at the IFC Center starting on Friday. It will also be playing in select cities throughout the summer. If you're anywhere near a screening, this is something you're not going to want to miss.

To learn more about the film, check out the new Killer of Sheep website that Milestone Films has launched. If you're a Burnett fan, make sure you click on the "Buy the DVD" tab -- it reveals some very exciting news.

Review: 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100

Call Box's 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100 is a new instructional DVD that features Noah Kadner, one of the early adopters of the DVX100, talking about different workflows and best practices when using those two eponymous (and ubiquitous) tools of independent filmmaking. The DVD runs 90 minutes, and it's divided into several small episodes in which Kadner discusses lots of basics (e.g., what's a slate and how to use it, recommended tape stock) and some intermediate techniques (e.g., why and how to use CinemaTools, exporting projects for Color Correction at a post house, etc.). While some of the topics that Kadner covers seem pretty basic for anyone familiar with the discussion boards, my suspicion is that this DVD grew out issues that Kadner has seen over and over in his consulting gigs. Sometimes the biggest problems that consultants solve stem from very simple things that were overlooked at the beginning of a project.

The video is well-shot on a bare-bones set, which puts the focus on Kadner, who is an engaging teacher. The DVD presentation is professional; it can be watched in one sitting, or chapter-by-chapter, which is useful if there's one topic you particularly want to revisit. I do wish that it was a DVD-Rom, perhaps to include some quicktime files to practice with, but I suppose Kadner assumes we wouldn't be watching if we didn't already have these tools ourselves.

Do note that this DVD focuses almost entirely on circumventing workflow problems using the DVX100 and FCP. This is NOT a "how-to-edit" in Final Cut Pro DVD, nor is it a manual on how to get the most of the DVX100's sophisticated imaging settings. (For an instructional guide on how to use FCP, I recommend Larry Jordan's Final Cur Pro 5 Essential Editing, Beyond the Basics, and Essential Effects DVDs. For a guide on making the most of the DVX100's image options, check out Barry Green's The DVX Book, which sometimes ships with new DVX100s.)

If you've shot and completed a few projects without any hitches using 24pAdvanced footage, 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100 probably isn't for you. But beginning to intermediate users venturing into 24p production would do well to spend 90 minutes with this disc before racing into production. Some might hesitate at the $75 pricetag but, as Kadner points out on the DVD, he gets paid $75 an hour to solve other filmmakers' problems. I guess you could think of this as preventive medicine (at 2/3 of the cost).

More information can be found at Call Box.

Favorites: 2006

The year's officially over, so I thought I would share my "Top Tens" and "Best Of" lists. Of course, since I live outside of New York and L.A., I've not had a chance to see several movies that were on so many critics' year-end lists. Instead, I've made multiple lists -- some short, some long -- of my favorites from 2006. After all, how can we call something "Best Of" when we haven't surveyed all there is out there?

Ten Favorite Independent Films - Features and Shorts Contest - Sunrise Tippeconnie, Dance Party USA - Aaron Katz, Five More Minutes - Dena DeCola and Karin E. Wandner, I Am A Sex Addict - Caveh Zahedi, Iraq in Fragments - James Longley, LOL - Joe Swanberg, Mutual Appreciation - Andrew Bujalski, The Puffy Chair - The Duplass Brothers, Some Analog Lines - David Lowery, War - Jake Mahaffy

Favorite Studio Film: A Scanner Darkly - Richard Linklater

Favorite Foreign Film: L'Enfant - The Dardenne Brothers, Pan's Labrinth - Guillermo Del Toro

Other Honorable Mentions: An Inconvenient Truth, Half Nelson, Brothers of the Head, A Family Finds Entertainment, Head Trauma

Three Noteworthy Disappointments The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, A Prairie Home Companion

An Incomplete List of 2006 Films I'm Eager To See Borat, Children of Men, Inland Empire, Kurt Cobain: About a Son, Letters from Iwo Jima, Old Joy, Pan's Labyrinth, Three Times

Favorite Non-Contemporary DVD Releases: Jackal of Nahueltoro - Miguel Littin - Terra Entertainment Punishment Park - Peter Watkins - New Yorker Seven Samurai (remaster) - Akira Kurasawa - Criterion Six Moral Tales Box Set - Eric Rohmer - Criterion Star Spangled to Death - Ken Jacobs Wanda - Barbara Loden - Parlour Pictures Yi Yi - Edward Yang - Criterion

Most exciting development in DVD for 2007: Criterion's Eclipse label

Best Moviegoing Experience I Had in 2006: Seeing Yi Yi for the first time.

Self-Reliant Film Store

I get a fair number of emails asking me to recommend this or that book, or asking what films constitute a "Self-Reliant Film canon" and so on. So I thought that I'd add a modest Amazon store so that I can simply point people towards books I recommend, movies I like (or want to see), and so on. You can access the store by clicking the link below and, after this post loses prominence, you can always access the store by clicking on the SRF Store in the menu bar at the top of the site, just under the banner.

Purchasing through the store will help offset the costs of server space, etc. so if you do purchase something, thanks a bunch!

Finally, if this feels crassly commercial, please note that the header of the SRF store says "Stuff to Buy or Borrow." Knowing what you need and don't need to buy are good principles of self-reliance. If you got some of these things from your local library or a friend I'm sure Thoreau and Emerson would be proud.

Click here to enter the SRF Store.

I'll be doing holiday stuff over the next week. When I return I'll be doing some posts related to a new film project of mine. Happy Thanksgiving!

DVD Round-Up: 5.24.06

Judging from the uptick in visitors and from the comments it received, my post about my watching 14 hours of student films was apparently of interest to a lot of people. So, in the interests of giving the people what they want, here's a special short film edition of DVD round-up. Cinema 16. Produced in Great Britain, Cinema 16 (not to be confused with first film society in the USA) is a new series of short film compilations on DVD. There are three editions (so far), and alongside more recent festival favorites, each DVD features early short films by contemporary masters. Please note: These are Region 2 PAL discs; you'll need a region-free player to watch them in America.

Cinema 16: European Short Films, for example, features early shorts -- in some cases the very first films -- by Lars von Trier, Jean-Luc Godard, Tom Tykwer, Nanni Moretti, Lukas Moodysson, and Jan Svankmajer. Godard's entry, "All The Boys Are Called Patrick" (written by Eric Rohmer) is found commonly found elsewhere, but I can't think of any other place to find many of these films.

Cinema 16: American Short Films. The American edition similarly collects some noteworthy works. The two that have me most curious are D.A. Pennebaker's "Daybreak Express" and Gus Van Sant's "The Discipline of D.E." If this doesn't interest you there are also student films by Tim Burton, Todd Solondz, Alexander Payne, and George Lucas, among others.

Cinema 16: British Short Films. With the British edition you get a strong lineup headlined by Ridley Scott (directing his brother Tony Scott), Peter Greenaway, Christopher Nolan, Lynne Ramsay, and Mike Leigh. The only downside here is that the shorts by Greenaway ("Dear Phone"), Ramsay ("Gasman") and Leigh "The Short and Curlies") have all been released elsewhere -- the latter two on Criterion editions of Ratcatcher and Naked, while the Greenaway is on the compliations mentioned below.

Their First Films. Another treasure trove of early films is Their First Films, a Korean DVD (Region 3 -- like the ones above, you'll need a region-free player). The films found here are not always, as the title suggests, the first films by the included directors, but if you can look past the inaccuracy of its title, this is worthwhile viewing. Indeed, if you're a fan of the French New Wave, this disc is probably a must-have. Included are early works by: Maurice Pialat, Jean-Luc Godard (here, it's "Charlotte et son Jules" from 1958), Jacques Rivette, Francois Truffaut & Jean-Luc Godard ("Histoire d'eau"), Patrice Leconte, Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, and Jean-Pieree Melville's "24 Hours in the Life of a Clown" from 1946. The best of the bunch is Alain Resnais's "Le Chant du Styrene", a comissioned film about polystyrene shot in color cinemascope. Jonathan Rosenbaum has rightfully called it "easily the most beautiful 'industrial' ever made." To the best of my knowledge it's not available on any other compilation. Their First Films can be found at various Asian DVD retailers around the net like this one and this one.

Greenaway - Early Films Box Set. I saw Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover in the theater, and I remember being mesmerized by the whole thing. It was as strange as anything my seventeen year-old eyes had ever seen up until that point in a movie theater. Later Greenaway films, like Prospero's Books, interested me less -- I always ended up respecting them more than I actually appreciated them. Still, I'm very curious about these short films, which are available for the first time on DVD here in the US. It's a two-disc set. Disc one collects the shorts "A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist", "H is for House", "Windows", "Dear Phone", "Water Wrackets", and "Intervals." The centerpiece of disc two is The Falls. If you're not interested in the box set, the two dvds are available separately, though purchasing them together brings a bit of a discount. Region 1.

The Journal of Short Film. Recently named by Library Journal as one of the Best Magazines of 2005, The Journal of Short Film aims to collect some of the better shorts circulating at festivals (and elsewhere) four times a year. The Journal's website promotes the fact that it is "peer-reviewed by filmmakers and scholars of film theory", as well as "non-corporate", "ad-free" and has an "open and free submission process." Good things, indeed. Volume 3, which was just released (and which I have viewed), is a grab bag of narratives, documentaries, animations and things in-between. Among the highlights are Cindy Stillwell's "High Plains Winter", an experimental documentary, which captures the isolation and adventure that winter in Montana can inspire, and Josh Hyde's neo-realist inflected "Chicle." Volume 3 also featured a few too many of those clever, over-produced "calling card" films for my tastes, but variety is the spice of life, I suppose. Some other viewers, no doubt, will warm to the very films I wasn't fond of and vice-versa. One way or another, The JSF is worth investigating, and libraries, especially those of universities with film programs, would be smart to add it to their collections. (Filmmakers interested in submitting to The Journal of Short Film should read the information on submissions The JSF's website.)