Category:movies

I can't believe it. New Yorker Films is closing after 43 years in the independent and foreign film distribution business. In the business? They were the business for decades.

When I was working the projection booth at International Cinema at BYU, it was New Yorker's library I was soaking in. When I moved to New York, it was Dan Talbot's Lincoln Plaza Theater [and the Angelika, which I discovered on its inaugural weekend during a senior year road trip] where I saw most everything since.

New Yorker was sold to Madstone Films in 2002, and that company pledged New Yorker's library as collateral and then defaulted on the loan. The creditor, which may be Technicolor, initiated foreclosure proceedings last week. For the sake of the 500+ classic title library, at least, I hope it'll get acquired by someone who knows Ozu from Oshima. For the sake of Dan Talbot and his colleagues, I can only hope for a soft landing and many thanks.

End of the Road for New Yorker Films [indiewire]

The first time I finally dared go into Kim's video, I thought I was ready, so I asked why Blade Runner wasn't in the Ridley Scott section. [Yes, son, back when I was a boy, we had to go all the way to St Marks to rent Blade Runner. Uptown both ways.] Anyway, the clerk scoffed, "Because it's in the Douglas Trumbull section."

Now the Times has an awesome story about how it came to pass that Kim's entire collection of 50,000 films, passionately collected from around the world, will become the centerpiece of an art town being organized in an abandoned hilltop village in Sicily.

I count this as a huge win. I will go to Kim's Salemi ten times before I ever even think of heading to the Village to rent a VHS tape.

La Dolce Video [nyt]

star_wars_warner_music.jpg

Why is Corey Vidal's YouTube account suspended? The guy who did the lip synch video for Moosebutter's "Star Wars A Capella" which was seen by over 3 million people, and which was nominated for a People's Choice Award [it lost to Barack Roll] has had his entire YouTube account suspended. The notices say there was a terms of service violation. The Star Wars A Capella video itself was removed "due to a copyright claim by WARNER MUSIC GROUP."

On Moosebutter's blog yesterday, they posted this message:


Star Wars video, how we miss you...

moosebutter has finally gotten attention from a major music company!

Unfortunately, it came in the form of pre-emptive legal action.

Corey Vidal and our Star Wars videos were taken down by Warner Music Company, or Warner Brothers, or Warner INC ... all we know is, Warner has gotten picky about 'their' content on youtube, and even though there are a dozen other videos on youtube with our Star Wars song, and hundreds of videos that illegally rip footage from Harry Potter DVDs, and fake Batman trailers and etc etc etc Warner has been kind enough to target our stuff.

This means one thing: we've finally hit the big time! Maybe.

So, we apologize about the videos being gone, but the youtube powers are looking into it, so we hear.

We also believe that the music will still be sold from our web site, since we think we've done everything legally... but we thought the youtube videos were legal, too. So, buy the mp3 now before it gets taken down! Hooray!

Vidal's video brought a massive new audience to Moosebutter's song--and recording--after YouTube featured it on their front page, but the song itself is almost ten years old, and Moosebutter have been recording and performing it since at least 2000.

And it's more than a bit confusing what their actual claim is. One of the six John Williams soundtrack melodies in the composition, Superman, is from a Warner Brothers movie, though Warner Music is making the claim, so maybe they distributed this or some of the other soundtracks. But "Star Wars A Capella" seems like a classic example of transformative, not derivative use, exactly the kind of thing that should be allowed under fair use as a parody.

If the sampling industry's current practice is applied, however, Moosebutter's use of the core melodies of each song--the whole point/genius of their Williams tribute composition is that the sources are all instantly recognizable to moviegoers--the song is an infringement from beginning to end. Only they didn't use recordings, but compositions [and dialogue, which almost all comes from Star Wars episodes.]

Whatever the claim, this court finds Warner to have made a dickheaded move.

From Vincent Canby's April 22, 1969 review in the New York Times:

Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Teorema," which opened yesterday at the Coronet, is the kind of movie that should be seen at least twice, but I'm afraid that a lot of people will have difficulty sitting through it even once. At least there were some who had that problem Friday night when the film was given an unannounced preview at the Coronet, supplementing the regular program, headed by "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."

It was a disastrous combination. "Baby Love" is a straightforward, skin-deep narrative movie that elicits conventional responses to familiar stimuli. "Teorema" (theorem) is a parable, a movie of realistic images photographed and arranged with a mathematical precision that drains them of comforting emotional meaning. For the moviegoer whose sensibilities have been preset to receive "Baby Love"--or just about any other movie now in first run here--"Teorema" is likely to be a calamitous and ridiculous experience.

...

There is very little dialogue in the movie--923 words, say the ads (but I'm not sure whether this refers to the Italian dialogue or the English subtitles). Even though Pasolini is a talented novelist and poet, the film is almost completely visual. The actors don't act, but simply exist to be photographed. The movie itself is the message, a series of cool, beautiful, often enigmatic scenes that flow one into another with the rhythm of blank verse.

This rhythm--one of the legacies of the silent film, especially of silent film comedy--was impossible for the Coronet audience to accept. The seductions are ticked off one after the other with absolutely no thought of emotional continuity. So are the individual defeats, which are punctuated by recurring shots of a desolate, volcanic landscape swept by sulphurous mists.

There is also a kind of rhythm within the images. Someone seen in right profile is immediately repeated in left profile. An action that proceeds to the left across the screen may be switched 90 degrees, directly away from the camera, or into the camera. Early scenes are in black and white. Later scenes are so muted they almost look like the old Cinecolor process, only to go monochromatic again at the end.

Can you imagine a theater today showing an unannounced preview after the feature? Or showing Pasolini at all? I still have a raincheck ticket in my wallet from the Coronet [aka the Baronet Coronet, aka the Coronet I & II, which was demolished to make way for an Urban Outfitters] to go back and see Dancer In The Dark. I went to a noon showing, only to realize I was crazy and had a call at like 2pm, so I left before the trailers ended. Oh wait, I just pulled it out. The ticket was from the Cinema 1,2,3,4 up the street. Never mind. The Pasolini thing's still crazy, though.

Theorem (1968) The Screen: A Parable by Pasolini: Teorema' in Premiere at the Coronet Terence Stamp in Role of a Visiting God [nyt, via sal mineo's ghost, thanks ready for the house]

vader_toaster.jpg

I know there's really no other way for Lucas & co to justify the existence of a Darth Vader Toaster than to just embrace the idiocy and hang on for dear life, but still. Holy smokes:

If there's something every Sith Lord knows how to do it's make a balanced breakfast. While the Jedi have to live off of Jawa juice and fried nerfsteak, the Dark Lord of the Sith prefers to have a reminder of his fiery Mustafar defeat at his breakfast table. Every morning he burns that moment into a slice of bread with the Darth Vader Toaster. This black, ominous kitchen appliance easily leaves the mark of Vader's helmet in every yummy piece of toast. Slather some Bantha butter on top, or make two pieces for an extra-Sithy BLT. Force power not required to operate toaster.
I imagine the $48/toaster gross margin helps ease the conscience as well.

Darth Vader Toaster, $54.99, pre-order for Jan. 2009 delivery [starwars.com via c-monster]

Two essays, each interesting and thoughtful on its own, crossed my desk this morning. I think they're inter-related.

First from the always spatially aware Geoff Managh on the seemingly irrational landscapes of presidential campaigning:

...President Bush had stopped off this morning to speak about the credit crisis "with consumers and business people at Olmos Pharmacy, an old-fashioned soda shop and lunch counter" [1] in San Antonio, Texas.

gwb_olmos_getty-afp.jpg

The idea here - the spatial implication - is that Bush has somehow stopped off in a landscape of down-home American democracy. This is everyday life, we're meant to believe - a geographic stand-in for the true heart and center of the United States.
But it increasingly feels to me that presidential politics now deliberately take place in a landscape that the modern world has left behind. It's a landscape of nostalgia, the golden age in landscape form: Joe Biden visits Pam's Pancakes outside Pittsburgh, Bush visits a soda shop, Sarah Palin watches ice hockey in a town that doesn't have cell phone coverage, Obama goes to a tractor pull.
It's as if presidential campaigns and their pursuing tagcloud of media pundits are actually a kind of landscape detection society - a rival Center for Land Use Interpretation - seeking out obsolete spatial versions of the United States, outdated geographies most of us no longer live within or encounter.

...

All along they pretend that these landscapes are politically relevant.

Then there was Matthew Dessem's perceptive and awesome explication of The Criterion Collection's seemingly inexplicable inclusion if Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay's 1998 oil-drillers [!] turned-astronauts-save-the-world disaster epic, Armageddon--which quotes the much-missed David Foster Wallace:
Critics who thought Armageddon was a sort of terminal end point for filmmaking (which is to say, all of them except David Edelstein, as far as I can tell) missed the point. Janet Maslin, for example, wrote, "Armageddon tries to tell a coherent story of guts, young love and space travel." But I don't think it does try; it's not really interested. You wouldn't criticize Star Tours or Batman: The Ride for shoddy characterization or wooden acting, and it doesn't seem fair to me to treat movies like Armageddon as though their writers and directors had the same goals as, say, Tarkovsky. David Foster Wallace put it best (in "David Lynch Keeps His Head"):
Art film is essentially teleological; it tries in various ways to "wake the audience up" or render us more "conscious." (This kind of agenda can easily degenerate into pretentiousness and self-righteousness and condescending horsetwaddle, but the agenda itself is large-hearted and fine.) Commercial film doesn't seem like it cares much about the audience's instruction or enlightenment. Commercial film's goal is to "entertain," which usually means enabling various fantasies that allow the moviegoer to pretend he's somebody else and that life is somehow bigger and more coherent and more compelling and attractive and in general just way more entertaining than a moviegoer's life really is...
...

The level of personal wish fulfilment in Armageddon is pretty easy to pick out; it's worth noting that Michael Bay also sells a kind of national wish fulfilment. Armageddon has a serious hard-on for the early days of the space program, specifically for the sense of national purpose it gave the country. In fact, the movie suggests that that America, that national conception of ourselves, is still pretty much what we are, as you can see below.

armageddon_criterion.jpg

armmageddon-jfk.jpg

In case you miss it, this shot is immediately followed by one of the astronauts saying "Kennedy, we see you. And you never looked so good!" Of course, he's talking about the Kennedy Space Center...or is he? The point is, these sections are shamelessly manipulative and there's nothing delicate about them. Nevertheless, they have an elegiac tone that's more moving than anything else in the movie. And they seem motivated by a genuine longing for a national purpose, and national heroes, for a more innocent version of America. Of course, that America never really existed, and Armageddon offers Bruce Willis as just the sort of national hero we're looking for, but hey, you take your pleasures where you find them...

Which makes me think that complaining about the irrelevance of political space is like critiquing the incoherence and narrative of Armageddon. The landscapes of the American political blockbuster are designed to provide wish fulfillment and a sense--however fictional or misguided--of "national purpose"--and ultimately, of a "national hero."

As this remarkable montage of the US president [2] addressing the world shows, the common landscape of Armageddon's politics is the flat, square--and as Dessem points out, time zone-free--space of the television screen:

Minor Landscapes and the Geography of American Political Campaigns [bldgblog via city of sound]
#40: Armageddon [criterioncollection via goldenfiddle]

[1] as the photo shows and a bldgblog commenter points out, Olmos Pharmacy has actually been reinvented as Olmos Bharmacy, "a combination soda fountain counter and wine bar."
[2] For a second I was worried, but then I realized that it was the other 1998 space-object-destroys-the-earth movie, Deep Impact that had the black president.

Awesome. a Lego Mini-Fig interpretation of the first scene of Beckett's "Endgame." The grandparents are just hilarious. [youtube via choire]

Wes Anderson and Jason Schwartzman, "Live at 01"

"Recorded entirely on location at
Borders Store 01
Ann Arbor, Michigan"

I was almost too busy rolling my eyes at these two smug knuckleheads doing a promotional prowl of the CD and DVD aisle to notice the real eyeroller: the corporate reverence for "01" as if a giant, shitty, homogenized bookstore can somehow be unique because it's the one they've cloned everywhere else. [via fimoculous]

postman_julia.jpg

Alright, so last night I made some wisecrack about a scene from Kevin Costner's 1997 film The Postman, where a mutant general pacifies his slave army by showing The Sound of Music on a floating theater on a lake at the bottom of an open-pit mine, might be a mashup of a couple of Robert Smithson's unrealized installations. Little did I know.

I rewatched the scene just now, and it's positively Smithsonian. I remembered some things incorrectly. [I hadn't seen the movie since Christmas Night, 1997, when I had a private screening--on what turned out to be opening night, whoops--at a desolate multiplex in Salt Lake City.] Like I'd forgotten how spectacular it is, really well-crafted and poetic, even, for what amounts to a single note in the film [hats off to cinematographer Stephen Windon and the wonderfully named production designer Ida Random].

And the slave soldier army isn't floating around, watching; they're perched on the tiers of the open pit mine; I got that mixed up with the harborside cinema scene in Cinema Paradiso: in The Postman, only the projectionist is floating, in his little booth that looks like the offspring of Smithson's Floating Island and his Partially Collapsed Shed.

I'd also forgotten completely about Dolph Lundgren. As the scene opens, and the ersatz movie theater is revealed, the screen first fills with explosions, the opening credits of Dolph Lundgren's Universal Soldier. But--unexpectedly!--the crowd of soldiers revolts and starts raining rocks down on the poor projectionist in his floating booth. He quickly changes the movie [beat] to The Sound of Music, and the mob is subdued.

In his Cinema Cavern, Smithson wanted to show only one film, Film On The Making [of] Cinema Cavern. But after a long day of killing in the mines, the "ultimate film-goers" in The Postman reject their own "making of" film, preferring instead the escapist fantasy of Julie Andrews, the singing, Nazi-thwarting nun.

Anyway, there are a bunch of tasty screencaps on flickr and after the jump. Enjoy.

previously: "truly 'underground' cinema"

smithson_cinema_cavern.jpg

I loved Cabinet before I wrote for them, and I love them after. In the latest issue, #30 The Underground, Colby Chamberlain looks at an awesome 1971 drawing by Robert Smithson titled, Toward the development of a Cinema Cavern or the movie goer as spelunker. [Colby's piece is not online, but Smithson's complete drawing is at the Estate site.]

According to a contemporaneous Artforum essay titled "A Cinematic Atopia," Smithson described the project:

What I would like to do is build a cinema in a cave or an abandoned mine, and film the process of its construction. That film would be the only film shown in the cave. The projection booth would be made out of crude timbers, the screen carved out of a rock wall and painted white, the seats could be boulders. It would be a truly "underground" cinema....
Smithson's interest in cinema was phenomenological: the idea that you sit there, motionless in the dark, experiencing a continuous stream of light and sound patterns. The Cinema Cavern's closed, self-referential loop devolves into an abstract, multi-colored blur, with the "sluggish," sloth-like movie goer none the wiser.

Colby puts Smithson's cinema into context with the Underground-brand cinema of the day, as embodied by Stan VanDerBeek, Jonas Mekas, and friends. Which is fine and all; meanwhile, I've added the Cinema Cavern to the list of sketchy Smithson ideas I'd love to see realized here and now.

Part of me--the part who, admittedly, has not delved into the Smithson archives, and thus doesn't know more than the single sketches--sees the Cavern Cinema as just as fully developed and thus, valid for realization, as, say, Floating Island. And part of me is still smarting for not getting to Les Arennes de Chaillot, the subterranean theater and couscous boite built in Paris by la Mexicaine de Perforation, a group of explorateurs urbains. [read my 2004 LMDP interview here.] And

smithson_bingham_copper.jpg

Also on the list: the 1973 Bingham Copper Mining Pit - Utah Reclamation Project. Smithson called for a giant, revolving viewing platform at the bottom of Kennecott Copper's mountain-sized hole on the western side of Salt Lake Valley, all the better "to survey nature's gradual and inevitable reclamation of man's invasive enterprise" with, my dear.

[Every time I fly into Salt Lake, I'm reminded of this drawing/collage, which I rather impulsively bid on--and lost--when it came up for auction in 1993. I later met and became friends with the winning bidder, but I suspect I lost my chance at the drawing; its next stop will most likely be a museum.]

But what if Smithson's visions already have been realized, and I just didn't realize it? What if the Cinema Cavern and the Bingham Copper Mining Pit were combined and installed in the post-civilizational, entropic future, offering a front-row seat to nature's reclamation?

I don't know if it's in David Brin's original mid-80's sci-fi novel, but in the 1997 film version of The Postman, the dopey title character, played by Kevin Costner, has a showdown with a "hypersurvivalist militia leader named General Bethlehem [played by Will Patton.] In one of the funniest scenes in the unintentionally hilarious fiasco, Bethlehem pacifies his troops--scraggly, murderous slaves who float around on rafts and inner tubes in a giant, water-filled, open-pit mine--with movies. As the battered projector whirs to life, the a battleworn print of The Sound of Music

PDF of "A Cinematic Atopia" in portuguese and english [sescsp.org.br]
Cinema Cavern, 1971 - Robert Smithson Estate - Drawings [robertsmithson.com]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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about this archive

Category: movies

recent projects, &c.


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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

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Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

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Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

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eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

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Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99

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