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Showing posts from February, 2018

#InformedImages: "The Sacrifice," "No Country for Old Men," "Vertigo" and "Blade Runner 2049"

#InformedImages is a Free Cinema Now series that studies and brings to light influential films and other examples of moving images that informed and inspired specific visuals in later works.

Roger Deakins may very well win his first Oscar this Sunday March 4th at the 90th Academy Awards ceremony for Best Cinematography for his work in Blade Runner 2049. Deakins has never won an Academy Award before -- even though he's been nominated fourteen times -- and industry insiders are predicting that he'll finally get his due this year. (Not that he needs a statuette anyways, since his body of work is staggering and exceptional.)

So, for this installment of #InformedImages, I took Deakins' photographic work in Blade Runner 2049 and studied its images closely, to see where its DNA came from. The early scenes definitely evoke Tarkovsky and in specific, his final film The Sacrifice -- which is interesting when you consider how much that film's protagonist Alexander (Erland Josephso…

Watch Sarah Etkin's Video Essay on "Rear Window"

Alfred Hitchcocks' 1954 classic Rear Window has been dissected and rigorously studied in just about every way. There was even a video essay on how Hitchcock employed symmetry in select instances. While certain video essays spell their ideas out, not to mention written essays that like to argue through primary sources (a la footnotes), sometimes the best way to have a fresh approach to the material, is to literally cut it up and see its fragmentation coalesce into something enlightening.

That's precisely the approach Sarah Etkin went with in her video essay on Rear Window. As you watch it, you'll see how its effective clashing of intercuts versus repetition begins to form a new narrative language. It's like an anvil fell on the film's reel and condensed it to fragmentary clues that only add to its aura of mystery and trancelike obsession.

Review: "November"

The protagonist of Estonian filmmaker Rainer Sarnet's Where Souls Go (from 2007), a fifteen-year-old girl named Ann, sets the plot in motion when she visits a satanist's website and says a prayer (in an effort to seek solutions) that inadvertently gives her newborn stepbrother a heart disease. Ann also has a poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King on her bedroom wall, prominent in many shots of the film. This image is a strong representation of Sarnet's interests: to acknowledge how fantasy (with its mythical creatures and wish-granting powers) shares an overlap with hell (and its evil incarnates). Considering this, it's no wonder that Sarnet chose to adapt Andrus Kivirähk's novel "Rehepapp," which focuses on 19th-century Estonian village peasants and the dead souls that lurk in the forest, for his latest film November.

How can I best describe November? Well, it's as if Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon was re-constructed by Salv…

Watch: Race and Class are under critique in Ephraim Asili's film "MOVIE TOTE"

Some of the more striking works in the (what I like to call) "new cinema" -- moving image art pieces that radically challenge traditional narrative structures -- have emerged from the cinematic movement focusing on the African diaspora. Filmmakers like Amir George (Shades of Shadows) and Terence Nance (Swimming in Your Skin Again) have been prolific with moving image works expounding on the idea of Afrofuturism, and thus heightening the arts dialogue on what it means to be an African American today.

Which brings me to Ephraim Asili, a filmmaker whose impressive body of work over the years not only focuses on the African diaspora, but also carries on the renegade visual language of pioneering avant-garde titans like Jonas Mekas. Asili's work ranges from documentary to montage to appropriation art, but the vision is always consistent; a vision that aims to make a clearer sense of the ubiquitous images we take for granted (e.g. the quilted images of Obama in FORGED WAYS). …

Video: The 50 Best Films of 2017

At the close of every year, film critics and cinephiles tend to label it as a "good" or "bad" year for movies. Personally, I'm at the point in my life where I think every year is a good year for film. Some years might have more masterpieces in them, sure, but aren't we always discovering new ideas, images and icons when all is said and done? To help make this point, I expanded my best of the year video to include 50 films (in the past, I've done as many as 30 films).

You'll notice that certain awards-darlings like Dunkirk and Darkest Hour -- among others -- aren't on my list. They just didn't do it for me, plain and simple. And as opposed to including a shortlist of the year's worst films, like Tulip Fever and Transformers: The Last Knight, I'd rather put a spotlight on the year's most disappointing film: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I think a film like Three Billboards can do more harm than a forgetful Michael Bay…

Watch the Wandering Odyssey in "Dream Walking: Eyes Wide Shut"

In regards to the moving image essay, Stanley Kubrick's final masterpiece Eyes Wide Shut has been studied, broken down, built back up and labored over in almost every way. I myself have even tied images of the film to Kanye West in the past. But in addition to Eyes Wide Shut's haunting portraits of sex and its embedded labyrinth of Kubrick's own personal secrets, I don't believe there's been a video essay on how important the act of "walking" is in the film.

Until now.

Fabian Broeker's "Dream Walking: Eyes Wide Shut" makes a good case for paying closer attention to the film's pedometer. It's also nicely edited to symphony music, alternating back and forth from full frames to split screens, giving the whole thing an easy-viewing experience too.

Broeker: "Characters retrace their steps, mirror each other and wander aimlessly through imposing, hollow interiors, decorated with bright pinpricks of light. This is Kubrick’s nightmare o…

Watch the Summed Frames of "Post Tenebras Lux" Create Video Art

Carlos Reygadas won the Best Director prize for his visually striking Post Tenebras Lux at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. The images in Reygarads' film looked like they emerged from a dream; there was a soft focus around the edges of the frame, giving its characters the cinematic equivalent of a screen halo. Now those indelible visuals from Post TenebrasLux are challenged and intensified in a captivating video art piece by Kevin L. Ferguson.

Using progressive summed frames, Ferguson creates a unique side-by-side cine-essay ruminating on two ideas: what we see and how much of it we see in total. On the left side of the screen, Ferguson presents a still from every ten seconds of the first five minutes of Post Tenebras Lux and on the right side of the screen he sums those progressive frames into ten-second intervals.

The result is an arresting piece of moving image impressionism. See for yourself.

Trailer Alert: "Ready Player One" - 'Come With Me' features King Kong, Halo and "Jurassic Park"

The latest trailer for Steven Spielberg's upcoming futuristic epic Ready Player One (based on the popular sci-fi novel by Ernest Cline) gets the Willy Wonka treatment with an updated cover of the song "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate FactoryIMDb provides a synopsis for Spielberg's film:

"When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune. Wade Watts finds the first clue and starts a race for the Egg."

Tye Sheridan (The Tree of Life) stars as Wade Watts, along with a cast that includes Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom) and Lena Waithe (Master of None). Previous teasers for Ready Player One showed us popular screen characters like The Iron Giant, The Joker and Freddy Krueger. This latest trailer gives us exciting glimpses of King Kong, the Spartans from Halo and the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. Check out…

Review: "Black Panther"

Two words: Hype kills. Although Marvel's Black Panther is already estimated to pull in gargantuan numbers at the box office this opening weekend, I'm afraid the overblown hype surrounding the film will outshine any of the film's actual achievements. It's better than Marvel's last outing, Thor: Ragnarok -- but that's not really saying much. Still, Ryan Coogler's (Fruitvale StationBlack Panther offers an agreeable serving of impressive special effects, beautiful art direction and most importantly, a sense of optimism. And these days, we need that more than ever.

Chadwick Boseman reprises his role as T'Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther), Prince of Wakanda, a fictional country in Africa as envisioned by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We first met Black Panther in 2016's Captain America: Civil War, where we also witnessed the death of his father King T'Chaka (John Kani) after a bombing of an international conference in Vienna. The opening passages of Co…

Watch: "Reading // Binging // Benning" by Chloé Galibert-Laîné and Kevin B. Lee

“Making videos becomes a way for someone to make sense of what they experience.”

That line, as said by Kevin B. Lee in his new collaborative video essay with Chloé Galibert-Laîné, pretty much sums up the motivation behind every Video Essayist. It's the spur behind every idea for a montage, mashup or academic act of image prodding that results in a video essay.

In Lee and Galibert-Laîné's new video essay "Reading // Binging // Benning" (commissioned by the International Film Festival Rotterdam), the pair employ the desktop documentary genre that Lee made popular with his sensational Transformers: The Premaketo make a case on how to present a film neither of them have seen -- Readers by James Benning -- to a crowd of people (i.e. an audience at IFFR).

Watch their illuminating and perfectly paced video essay below.
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Watch "Phantom Thread" as a 1980s VHS Commercial

Paul Thomas Anderson's Phantom Thread has transformed into the damnedest of a work. While I found much to admire in it, I don't consider it to be a bonafide masterpiece. And yet, I find myself drawn back to certain elements that it celebrates, like the cinematic influences it wearson its sleeve (shit, is that a pun?). Maybe I revisit Phantom Thread in my head time and time again because I'm trying to make it something else?

Perhaps.

Regardless, I got this idea stuck in my brain this morning while making coffee on how I would sell what the movie really is -- a dark romantic comedy -- to a mainstream audience in the 1980s. You know, where you didn't have the luxury of clicking "disc menu" on your Blu-ray remote and had to either hit fast forward on your VCR or actually watch the coming attractions. Then I got the twisted idea of making the movie look like the kind of rom-com Julia Roberts might even have starred in back in the day.

So here it is, with VHS auto-…

Review: "A Fantastic Woman"

The opening sections to Sebastián Lelio's A Fantastic Woman provide the key to understanding its power and urgency. During the opening credits we see beautiful waterfalls later described by a character in the film as being one of the wonders of the world. Then we're introduced to Orlando (Francisco Reyes) a fifty-something divorcée and business owner. Orlando is treating himself to a morning at the spa. Next, we see him tend to some matters at his work desk. On the surface, it looks like another agreeable day in the life of an accomplished man living in modern Santiago, Chile. Then we see Orlando walk into a cocktail lounge with live musical accompaniment. The camera suddenly lingers on the musical band's singer. This is Marina (Daniela Vega), a trans woman -- and the film's real protagonist. The filmmaking strategy here is clear: Marina is not only forced to exist in the background of her society, but she's also nudged to back at the outset of her own movie. And …

Mashup Trailer: #TheVenomDrop

When it was announced that Tom Hardy would play the villainous Venom (from the Spider-Man universe) in an upcoming spinoff, it was like a match made in heaven. Hardy, the brooding and physically imposing screen actor who brought Bane to life in The Dark Knight Rises, just starred in last year's summer blockbuster Dunkirk and before that was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting turn in The Revenant.

For months fans online were speculating how Hardy's incarnation of Venom would look like and then it was announced that the teaser trailer for Venom would premiere earlier today. So you can imagine how disappointed a lot of people were when the teaser failed to show a single frame of Hardy as Venom. In fact, if you didn't know anything about the Venom character before watching the teaser, it would hardly make an impression. Twitter user @IntergalacticQ said it best, "That Venom trailer looks like the trailer for a movie about a man [who's] really anxious about get…

Trailer Alert: "Deadpool, Meet Cable" -- New Trailer for "Deadpool 2"!!!

Josh Brolin is certainly the "Marvel Man of May." On May 4, 2018 Brolin once again hits the screen as the super villain Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Then, two weeks later he'll command the screen as the X-Force hero from the future Cable in Deadpool 2. It's crazy. Brolin should give his agent an early Christmas gift.

This morning 20th Century Fox dropped the latest trailer for Deadpool 2 and it gives us our first real taste of what to expect from Brolin's Cable. Of course, because Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) always has tricks and jokes up his sleeve, it's best to just stop reading this and watch the trailer below.

Watch: "Call Me By Your Fruit"

Food was used in pretty startling ways on the big screen in 2017. Tea was in those hypnotic cups that sent black people to the Sunken Place in Get Out. Poisonous mushrooms plagued the characters of Phantom Thread and The Beguiled. Not to mention, A Ghost Story made us watch Rooney Mara eat half a pie in a single take that lasted almost five minutes.

Yet, the most memorable -- and outrageous -- use of food in the cinema of 2017 was...sexual. Yes, sexual. And not just in one movie, but two movies! Tiffany Haddish demonstrated oral sex on a banana (that was being gripped by a cut open grapefruit) in Girls Trip, while Timothée Chalamet climaxed into a peach in Call Me By Your Name. If only Jason Biggs knew he would be a trailblazer for fucking an apple pie back in 1999's American Pie.

Enjoy the NSFW (or not safe for lunch?) video below. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "food porn."

Trailer Alert: "Solo: A Star Wars Story"

During last night's Super Bowl broadcast a forty-five second TV spot for the new Star Wars film Solo: A Star Wars Story debuted. At the end of the TV spot, it said the full length teaser trailer would drop on Monday.

And, here it is.

Oscar winner Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) took over directing duties after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) were fired from the film. If you consider that dramatic change in creative vision, coupled with the recent backlash over Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, it's safe to say that a lot will be riding on how audiences respond to this new film. I personally think the previous Star Wars Story spinoff Rogue One is the best of the last decade, so I'm optimistic about this new installment.

Watch the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story below and let us know what you think!

Watch: "Possessed Processed"

The International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018 is in full swing and one of the films that's getting the most amount of buzz and academic analyzing is Metahaven and Rob Schröder's Possessed (watch the trailer), an essay film that explores the idea of "self" in the age of social media. Screen Daily did a really insightful interview with the filmmaking team behind Possessed but something really interesting just happened with a group of video essayists, in regards to the film, that can articulate what the film means in a way that's more powerful than a standard question and answer format.
The programme Critics' Choice commissioned a group of essayists (including Catherine Grant, Scout Tafoya and Irina Trocan, among others, all going by the name of Team Metaprocessed)to dive into Possessed and assess what their impressions were, figure out what Possessed aimed to achieve and then render that into their own responsive essay film. The result is "Possessed Proc…

Trailer Alert: "24 Frames"

For those cinephiles living in New York, the must-see film this weekend is the late Abbas Kiarostami's 24 Frames, which will playing exclusively at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Kiarostami, a celebrated Iranian filmmaker, passed away in 2016. His best film, Taste of Cherry, won the coveted Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Now, the theatrical exhibition of his final film 24 Frames -- which Kiarostami made during the last three years of his life -- is made possible by Janus Films.

24 Frames is mostly comprised of a series of vignettes (roughly four minutes in length apiece), that each bring to life a still image created by Kiarostami himself. As you can see in the trailer below, the results are hypnotic and gorgeous.

Martin Scorsese said, "Kiarostami represents the highest level of artistry in the cinema."

See for yourself.