Doesn’t Anyone Want to Be My Friend?

title: The Social Network (Columbia)
director: David Fincher
starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake
one sentence or less: This is me shrugging my shoulders with indifference. Continue reading

Mise-en-Whatnow?

So, while taking a break from the inestimably boring chore that is searching for employment I chanced upon a review for the new, ultra-minimalist Ryan Reynolds vehicle, “Buried,” over on the NPR website. The first sentence of the review reads as follows:  “Sure to become a staple in film-school classes titled “How to Make a Blockbuster With Only an Actor, a Box and a Blackberry,” Buried may be the first thriller where the sole stunt is the film’s mise-en-scene.”

A relatively obsequious opening line if ever there was one. Apparently not for NPR Community reader sfbornx3, who complains, “Okay, Jeannette, a film review is officially as pretentious as its subject when the reader is forced to look up a French film reference in the first sentence.” Continue reading

Alice Sounds Better When You Can’t Hear Her

title: Alice in Wonderland
director: Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow
cast: May Clark, Cecil Hepworth
one sentence or less: a story best suited for short adaptation

Do you have ten minutes to watch a movie? I’m sure you do. One of the free options at the Criterion Collection- sponsored MUBI is a rare gift from the BFI; a ten minute long silent adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” from 1903. This was the first ever adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s headrush of a tale, made 37 years after the story’s first appearance and a mere eight after the brothers Lumiere first filtered light through a piece of moving celluloid. It’s not the most interesting early film available to view, but it’s definitely worth the time needed to hunt it down.  Continue reading

Traveling

Just a quick update for those thirsting for one.  I will be MIA for the rest of the summer as I’m galavanting in Europe and will be without internet access for much of time there. But, rest assured, I am continuing to write, I just won’t be able to publish it here. Also, some thoughts for a few video essays are percolating for a later date. So, when I get back in September expect a flurry of activity. Until then, have a great summer and don’t get too sunburned!

Best,

Jason

Early Kubrick Kills

title: The Killing
director: Stanley Kubrick
cast: Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor
one sentence or less: In his second feature, Stanley Kubrick shows glimmers of his bright future as one of film’s greatest directors.

Stanley Kubrick stepped on the set of “The Killing” at the ripe old age of 28 with a single feature and several shorts under his belt. Armed with a B-Feature budget(approximately $320,000), a cast of aging film noir stars, and little studio support (United Artists relegated the finished film to the second half of a double feature), Kubrick spun Lionel White’s short novel “Clean Break” into a classic caper film. It might not be able to stand amongst the best of Kubrick’s films, but it is an entertaining little heist film with equal bits suspense and humor that showcases an emerging talent in director Kubrick.

Continue reading

Video: The Vertigo of Time

I made this video as an independent project while a junior Film and Media Culture major at Middlebury College. It was made, partly, in response to several interesting ideas proposed by my project advisor, Chris Keathley, that dealt with the disjunction of sound and image, as well as the video essay as a means of personal expression. The other inspiration came from Chris Marker’s “Sans Soleil” (the film’s title is derived from a line in that film), as well as the personal work of Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. It was slated to screen at an exhibition of independent film work at Middlebury, but I declined to show it for personal reasons. I now, however, feel comfortable showing it to whomever cares to view it.

This film is my own meditation on my family’s history, as well as my place within that history. I tried to make the audio mirror the images in the beginning of the film, but as it goes on the audio and image become more disjointed, forcing the viewer to question the relationship between the two. I hope you enjoy.

DVD Commentaries and the Video Essay

Here’s a link to an interesting and ongoing discussion over at Girish Shambu’s blog about DVD Commentaries and the up-and-coming format of the Video Essay. An article in FILMKRANT by scholar and critic Adrian Martin provided some of the fuel to this discussion fire.

It’s a great read and includes some fascinating comments (including one by my former professor Chris Keathley) that lead to exceptional articles. I’m going to refrain from distilling all the great links here because I want to encourage all to go and read the entire post and discussion thread. But, here’s a hint: Catherine Grant at Film Studies for Free (which is also linked to on the sidebar) is where most of those great links are coming from…Peruse at your leisure.

Also, while I’m here: I watched John Huston’s “Across the Pacific” a few night’s ago on TCM. It reunites “The Maltese Falcon” stars Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Sidney Greenstreet and tells of espionage in the United States during the nascent days of its involvement in World War II. Understanding that the film’s plot had to be shuffled as a result of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, a question still remains: if most of the film takes place in Panama, why is it called “Across the Pacific?” The setting can be changed, why not the title?

Steve McQueen-a-palooza: Sam Peckinpah vs. Steve McQueen, and The Winner Is…?

title: The Getaway
director: Sam Peckinpah
cast: Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickins
one sentence or less: Peckinpah def. McQueen

It is a great credit to Steve McQueen’s star power that his character, unlikeable though he may be, gets through to the end of Sam Peckinpah‘s “The Getaway” with the audience still on his side. The second of two films McQueen and Peckinpah did together, “The Getaway” drew the derision of critics and an enormous audience at the time of its 1972 release. Its $26 million box office take made it one of the biggest hits of McQueen’s career (as well as Peckinpah’s, for that matter), and it also marked the first time in which McQueen’s alpha male persona was subordinated to the style of his director. The results are mixed at times, but in spite of a character that shoots cops, murders politicians, beats his wife, and is in a foul mood for most of the film’s running time, McQueen’s star is so firmly fixed in Hollywood’s celestial body of “good guys” that we can’t help but root for him. It was very smart casting by Peckinpah and a major coup for the always beguiling McQueen.   Continue reading

Revenge, Cranky Old British Man Style

title: Harry Brown (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
director: Daniel Barber
cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Liam Cunningham, Charlie Creed-Miles
one sentence or less: They just don’t make ’em like they used to…

Man, “Harry Brown” starts off really promising. The latest English revenge thriller (calling something bereft of thrills a thriller seems a bit disingenuous…but I’ll play along) starts off showing a gang initiation shot on what we later learn is a shaky cell phone camera. Guns are handed out, crack is smoked, gang stereotypes are exploited. The film then smashes into quick cutting and very precise sound design that place us into the driver’s seat of a dirt bike as it zips around the courtyard of  a London housing project. The dirt bike driver and his companion on the back shoot at and kill a woman with a baby carriage before driving off. The bike enters the road recklessly and is creamed by a speeding truck. It’s actually a very exciting introduction to the world of this grimy, dark little film, that the rest of the picture  just can’t live up to. Continue reading

Revenge, Gloriously Post-Modern Style

title: Inglourious Basterds  (Universal)
director: Quentin Tarantino
starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbinder, Melanie Laurent
one sentence or less: “this might just be my masterpiece”

My appreciation of Quentin Tarantino comes in waves. When “Inglourious Basterds” dropped into theaters at the end of last summer my feelings could be described as lukewarm at best, and I knew that seeing “Inglourious Basterds” was not a good idea. I let the hype, criticisms, DVD release, and Award season pass by before I finally felt ready to sit down for a viewing. In the interim my esteem for Tarantino, while not necessarily reaching the fever pitch it started at, had grown. But, even with the award nominations and praise of friends still rattling around in my head, I was still unprepared for the filmmaking mastery and intellectual power on display in “Inglourious Basterds.” Continue reading