Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Century 21: Abstract Movie or Digital Painting or Something

For several days I'd been wondering what happened to avant-garde film making in the United States after the nineteen-eighties. And then today I stumbled upon an abstract movie called 'Century 21' by Jeremy Blake, an artist who apparently commited suicide about a year ago. It was made in 2004 and combines many layers of imagery from photos, 8 mm film, digital painting, movie star pictures, cartoons and even what appears to be cloth. The soundtrack is full of subtle wind, footsteps, squeals, and gunshots.

I think this video is probably one of the best short movies I have ever seen. I can think of no avant-garde film that is better. I haven't seen a huge number, but I have seen enough to recognize this thing for what it is. It is gorgeous, mysterious, evocative, surreal, frightening and just simply from another world. This guy was some kind of fantastic genius and this piece of work is absolutely masterful.

Century 21 is the third part of something the artist called The Winchester Trilogy. I have not seen the first two parts because I don't think they are available on the web. I think the movies are meant to be shown as continuous loops. The link to the video that I provide is to a long version of the work that appears to be looped several times. I mean holy dumbfounding shit, what a find!

Go watch Century 21

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Film Critic's Book About Film Critics

So it sounds like an interesting book. Exile Cinema: Filmmakers at Work Beyond Hollywood. It's by former Village Voice film critic, Michael Atkinson. Here's the article about the book. Mr. Atkinson apparently writes about the decline of the status of film critics who work in print. Many of them are losing their positions with newspapers and magazines. Many of them are going online to write for blogs. So the book is about the slowly disappearing art of film criticism and how important the critical dialog really is to the art of film. I completely agree with this point of view. There have been film critics like the young Francois Truffaut writing for Cahiers du Cinema who could tell you things about movies that you would never ever have thought of. Good critics make you want to leap out of your chair and make a movie yourself. They imbue film with a sense of magic and history that excites minds and draws new talent into the art. Without these people and their writing you are left with fat-assed Jack Nicholson watching Lakers games and making stupid movies about being old. Good critics exist partly to tell short fat men to for god's sake get the hell off the fucking basketball court!

We need good critics. But we don't need theaters and candy concessions. Film is not a communal experience. Never has been. If it were, you would see Johnny Depp standing up near the front row dressed as a pirate to act out his part and you would clap every time he took a bow. And this would be called 'theatre.' Film is a solitary art form best enjoyed with a very sharp widescreen television or projected from a 16mm projector. Theaters show films on expensive dirty torn smudged screens. They project with dim bulbs in order to save money. They earn most of their profits by selling candy and hot dogs out in the lobby. Movie theaters as an industry don't really exist. They are candy stores that happen to show films in order to keep your ass in there instead of going home to read a book. Look this up if you don't believe me. Theaters do not make profits on the films. They make it on the candy. This should tell you something. It should tell you not to go to the theater. Stay home and watch movies on a well-calibrated widescreen television. This is the best way ever invented to see a movie. Nothing else comes close.

Once you do this, you will then be able to run wild through the great library of films available on DVD. You will be able to enjoy films without the presence of 2,000 nitwits eating their candy, farting, and checking their email. Don't believe any critic or filmmaker who tells you that you should experience a movie in the presence of an audience. That person is trying to sell you some candy and thinks that we all need to be told when to laugh.

By the way, one of my favorite critics online is a guy named Walter Chaw from Film Freak Central. He gets it and he says it and he's absolutely merciless. Look here at his review of Iron man. And here's his review of the well-trained university theatre actor Edward Norton doing his turn as The Incredible Hulk. And here is his rave for There Will be Blood.

So I'm not so sure I'd do a hell of a lot of worrying about print media critics dying off. I think the online writing's better. Frankly, when I read the critics in the Los Angeles Times newspaper I immediately get an image of them all slithering around in an orgy at Jack's house. They're such film lovers!

Film Poem: Lunch Glasses

This is a little poetry form that requires you to make a short film. It should probably be an everyday sort of subject, shot simply, without effects. You can edit the film, add titles, and manipulate the sound track. But it should remain simple on the surface. Its complexities should exist beneath the surface in its meaning or its potential.

This film poem was shot on Saturday, June 21, 2008 in Los Angeles.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Poem: Unanticipated Natural Array

Buried amphora
Hairline cracks
Black and shiny in patches
Dulled in others
Dirt gently brushed away
Diagrams revealing
The rage of Achilles
Drunk in love on the beach
Stomping away
To sit
To brood
He’s the hero aggrieved
Let the motherfuckers die
I don’t give a shit
He hisses
Sitting in his tent
Staring at the sand
Digging with his heel
His bloody selfish useless jealous murderous hideous rage
Is all we need remember
Picking at it
Scraping through it
Take your vase and clean it
Put it on a stand of wood
Black lacquer
Lacy coppery embellishments
Remember the wall
Of pitted tiles
Enamels wearing thin
Showing through their colors
Your empty heroic vase hollowed with
Ancient air breathed in a tomb
Now pick some flowers
A wild bursting bunch of untamed color
Leafy stalked and bent
Gather them
With an eye toward an arrangement
Shifting them and tugging them
Into a shape that pleases
Cut off the stems
Thrust them into the vase
So they spread out
In an unanticipated natural array
And turn the vase
Then look at your colors
And your history
And think of this
Thuggish brawling clansman
And how he would
Have driven his foot
Through your vase
Exploding flowers
Against the wall
To drop
And whither on the sand
And would have kicked
Shards of clay aside
Like corpses
Into a ditch

cimail (June 7, 2008)