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July 24, 2009

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Matthias Galvin

I hope that Michael Bay's winery-set art film features a critical cameo by Armond himself.

Max

Has anyone noticed that the story of the Film School Rejects staff being arrested is almost EXACTLY the same as an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip?

Dan Coyle

Homer: "Kids, would you step outside for a second?"

(deep breath)

"FFFFF---"

Flanders: "Wow, that's the LOUDEST profanity I've ever heard!"

JF

I don't know about you all, but I know I'm eagerly awaiting the next Bay film, MASCULINE/MASCULINE/MASCULINE.

Griff

Y'know, for the record, Nanette Newman is rather charming in Forbes' best movie, THE WRONG BOX.

JC

Bay will follow MASCULINE/MASCULINE/MASCULINE with CONTEMPT FOR HUMANITY.

Ed Howard

Michael Bay is currently planning a "sequel" to WEEKEND. It's just gonna be a two-hour tracking shot along a row of cars, as they blow up and spontaneously go flying through the air.

JF

BAND OF EXPLODERS; LITERALLY BREATHLESS; THE BIGGEST SOLDIER, LIKE, EVER; LA CHINOISE STEREOTYPE; A WOMAN IS A CAR IS A GUN IS A CHOPPER IS AMERICA, etc.

The Siren

I'm howling. This is the funniest thread at Glenn's place ever. I think Ed Howard wins so far but the night is young ...

Adam R.

YOUR LIFE FOR ME TO END; LETTER TO ARMOND; EVERY ROBOT FOR HIMSELF; AMERICAN SOUNDS..

I like MASCULINE/MASCULINE/MASCULINE a lot, but only if it's given its full title:

MASCULINE/MASCULINE/MASCULINE: 15 PRECISE FACTS ABOUT THE CHILDREN OF BUSH AND TWITTER

Glenn Kenny

OK, I'll give it a shot:

"Two Or Three Hundred Thousand Dollars I Blew On That Hooker I Inherited From Don Simpson"

"Made In USA, Fuck Yeah!"

"Tout Va AWESOME"

Adam R.

OK, I'm bored and at work on a Sunday...

For Ever Linkin Park

Alas For You Snooty Cinephile

Histoire du Cinema: A Bunch of Names and Movie Titles Spielberg Mentioned That One Time We Had Lunch. (feel free to translate that into French)

Tom Russell

King Leer. For Ever & Ever & Ever & Ever & Ever & Oh God It Still Has a Half-Hour Left Mozart.

Allen Belz

Back around the time of Pearl Harbor I had a friend who said that Michael Bay's bid for respectability would be The Seventh Seal II..."Death taking away all those people at the end of the first one - that was just wrong, man. In this one we go into the afterworld and get those people BACK."

JF

AUTOVILLE: THE FUCKING HOT CARWASHING ADVENTURE OF MEGAN FOX; UN CATASTROPHE, AS PREVENTED BY ASTRONAUT DRILLERS; THE POWER OF 'SPLOSIONS; A MOVIE LIKE ANY OTHER, BUT WITH BLACKFACE ROBOTS THIS TIME.

Arthur S.

How about this...Alphaville - Un Etrange Aventure de Lemmy Caution becomes

The Alphaville Adventure - In Search of Caution.

papa zita

Band of Outsider Mutant Earth-Destroying Machines
A Woman Is A Homicidal Killer
Le Petit Supernova

Brian

Love the Bay-as-Godard jokes, but I'm even more interested in Glenn's point about how technical competence/visual style seems to be becoming a dirty concept in critical circles. I've sometimes noticed that fetishizing of a DIY aesthetic among my students, and it's an interesting, very problematic thing to grapple with-- the notion that a Minnelli tracking shot is somehow too much of a "flourish" to be "authentic". And who can't love at least parts of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS? It's no BAND WAGON or SOME CAME RUNNING or THE CLOCK, but it definitely has its moments.

Jason M.

Well, one thing's for sure: Pierrot Le Fou would have used a hell of a lot more dynamite.

Irving Thalberg

@ Brian-- I vociferously agree with your concern. Does it make me a snot to wonder why some of the current crop of "indie" filmmakers are making films at all when, as far as the technical side of the craft goes, there's either little-to-no understanding of composition and editing or just a blatant disregard for the same? Imagine if a literary movement similarly eschewed fluid prose in favor of low-fi amateur hour material that's more-or-less an unreadable eyesore filled with disjointed syntax and questionable word choices. (Oh, wait. That's Dan Brown.) Point being that while verisimilitude in narrative is certainly worthy of our attention, to what degree do these films deserve celebration if the fundamentals of the craft are committed at such a sub-competent level? The Swanbergs of the world have chosen not simply to work in a narrative medium, but a visual narrative medium. I guess my question at the end of the day is, if you're going to throw the visual element out the window, why is this still your medium of choice?

Glenn Kenny

@ Brian and Irving T.: The questions you bring up are certainly interesting, but I doubt I can answer them as well as the would-be canon knee-cappers could—not that I think they necessarily care to. As I said, I was more interested in stemming the tide of a potential trend than in identifying an actual one. Still—if over the next week or so, you see one or more New-York-based film blogger referring to Ray's "Johnny Guitar" as "the first mumblecore Western" or some such, then it's time to start digging the trenches, and digging them deep.

The Siren

Dying. Laughing so hard I can't even defend Minnelli. And that means something.

Tom Russell

Mr. Thalberg (good job destroying GREED, by the way!),

I personally agree that the "fetishizing-DIYness-at-expense-of-formal-mastery" thing is a concern that's worth discussing, even as I think a lot of these current filmmakers do have a greater understanding of composition and editing than a lot of people seem willing to give them credit for.

Not to be a "snot" myself, but I will say that I am getting tired of the "film is a visual medium" attack because that's the most obvious and easily the shallowest understanding of cinema. Much much more-so than visuals, film is about Time. The raw materials of narrative cinema (as opposed to experimental) are Time and People.

To my mind, Mr. Swanberg has demonstrated an interest in people, faces, emotions, and personalities. Now, we all might differ as to the worth of what he makes of those raw materials-- even with some reservations that I've cataloged here and elsewhere, I am myself fairly staunchly in the pro-Swanberg camp-- but since people wanting to make art out of people-plus-time generally have two options, cinema and theater, and since the former is the only one that leaves a record of itself, I don't think in the end that it's such a puzzling question, is it?

Irving Thalberg

Dear Mr. Russell,

Not sure how you got from my comment to a desecration of Mr. von Stroheim, but good for you.

I frankly find it curious to hear standing up for the visual element of the filmmaking process as "shallow." Your definition w/r/t film's raw materials (Time and People) seems to me to be a better working definition of all narrative. Aren't time and people the fundamental ingredients of theater, of fiction, of a lot of non-fiction, of radio drama, etc, etc? So how do we differentiate film from those media? The answer, of course, is that in film, the time & people in questions are photographed (usually in a sequence of multiple shots), and these individual shots are then constructed into a temporal sequence by editing. This is not shallow or reductionist. This is what puts a particular spin on the exploration of time and people in this medium. This is what defines this medium.

And when I call for higher visual standards in the current crop of indie filmmaking I'm not expecting everything to look like it was shot by an Ophuls or Minnelli. I'm just asking to see an engagement by the director and DP in terms of how they visually approach their material, since they are (to your mind at least) choosing to photograph it so as to have a record for posterity. I want to see a choice made about how to present their exploration of Time and People and best represent it on screen. Since we're bringing up divisive filmmakers, I might float Cassavetes' FACES as a movie composed mostly of tight shots of people that ranks as a favorite of mine because, to my mind, not only does it contain a beautiful exploration of loneliness, the dissolution of relationships, etc, but Cassavetes made a strong choice that a particular style of high-contrast B&W coverage was the best way to explore the pain at hand in his narrative. A lot of current indie filmmakers seem to make no choice at all, other than to have their camera in the same general vicinity as their actors.

And yeah, I find it disappointing when a filmmaker fails to make that kind of choice because no matter how engaging their narrative (their sequence of Time & People) is, when a film treats its cinematography and editing as afterthoughts (or just as simple means to achieve posterity), it's akin to a novelist failing to enrich his/her material via establishing a particular linguistic style or a dramatist failing to enrich his/her work but making absolutely no choices w/r/t staging, lighting, etc. How can that kind of disengagement--one might say laziness or ignorance if one were feeling spiteful--be considered a truly successful and full use of one's medium?

Tom Russell

Mr. Thalberg--

Well said. (My GREED comment wasn't in reference to your comments, but a joke directed at your namesake, which I presumed an alias. Am I wrong?)

But, yes, well said. I guess my thing is, when people chastise a given filmmaker for being insufficiently visual, they're often thinking of the standards codified in the Hollywood cinema. Now, that's not what you're talking about here-- your points about how they approach they material and the choices they make towards it are well taken.

But at the same time, I have to say that I disagree with your assertion that the current crop of DIY filmmakers are failing to make those decisions or that they're disengaged from that process.

I think that choosing to go without a tripod and shaking the camera up somebody's nostril, documentary-style, IS a meaningful choice. Is it a choice that I, as a filmmaker, would make? No. Hell no. Is it a choice that I, as a filmgoer, am particularly a fan of? No. Do I think it makes it more real? No.

But it is certainly engaging with the material. The camera operator (in the case of Swanberg, often it is the director himself) chooses who to follow, when to zoom in, where to focus. This approach doesn't require the director to think everything out beforehand; it requires him to engage with the actors in the moment. It takes as much if not more from the director, not less.

To me, "laziness" and being disengaged would be either shooting traditional coverage (and cutting it like traditional coverage) or just slapping a camera anywhere and turning it on, MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE style.

I don't know; maybe I'm overly kind to these films and filmmakers because they're using the medium to make a personal statement, camera-stylo. Which is what Minnelli did with a tracking shot, what Powell did with an explosion of Cardiff-colour, what Shakespeare did with the English language. As the bard once said, "All is true".

Another bard, Stan Brakhage, once said (paraphrasing) that there's no such thing as a proper exposure or white balance. All methods are valid. All is true.

For me, the shaky-cam approach isn't ignoring the visual element or approaching it incompetently anymore than the non-shaky-cam approach are mere "flourishes" (whoever said that, go slap them for me). Both traditions are in fact in their own way inherently virtuosic, drawing attention to themselves in a way that the more subdued long-takes wide-frame deadpan cinema doesn't. And that, despite its lack of razzle-dazzle, is in itself the result of a meaningful choice. (It's also one that engages with time-and-space-and-people more directly.)

Zach

What's funny is, immediately after I read the statement "film is about Time" I thought of Tarkovsky. Then I realized this was going to be about Swanberg et al., and I suddenly had an attack of the vapors and had to breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes.

Irving Thalberg

Mr. Russell--

Happy to have found some common ground to share. And no, Irving Thalberg isn't my real name; shame on me for not picking up on the reference (which truly bewildered me at the time).

Tom Russell

@Zach: Granted, as I've said in my own Swanberg essay, I'm not sure if the films I've seen of his evoke the best sense of time/place-- he's definitely more about the and-people than the time-- but, yes, Tarkovsky is the one who was responsible for rewiring my brain. Not that my own work has anything to do with that venerated Master's-- we're in two completely different styles/modes/etc.-- but "sculpting in time" has become the thought at the forefront of my mind. If it wasn't our aim, my wife and I wouldn't have begun our film SON OF A SEAHORSE now available on DVD from Amazon.com for $15 with special features! with a 22-minute phone conversation about a utility bill.

@Irving: Sorry for bewildering you. Always glad to find common ground, which, I think, is modus operandi for SOME CAME RUNNING. That's what I like about Glenn's neck of the internet-- I might not always agree with everything said (especially regarding Joe Swanberg!) but the conversation is intelligent, spirited, and amicable. People listen to each other and respond in kind.

Tom Russell

That "now available on DVD... with special features!" was posted with fake HTML tags w/ "shamelessness" written inside them. Unfortunately, the site thought they were real HTML tags, which kind of kills the joke and makes the shamelessness fairly unforgivable.

Ah well.

Irving Thalberg

Mr. Russell--

Very glad to have found some common ground after all. And no, Irving Thalberg is not my real name; shame on me for not getting your reference!

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