Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas, etc.

I. A QUICK UPDATE: I haven't been keeping up with my blog this month as much as I would have liked. I keep struggling with trying to find the right balance between the real and virtual world. As for my "best of the decade list", it won't be coming anytime soon. Sometime next year, but I don't know when. I decided to not limit myself with an arbitrary deadline, so I'll get to it once I see everything I want (read: am able) to see. It'll take some time.

* * *

II. CHRISTMAS: Last year I told my family I was finished with celebrating Christmas... They reacted by getting annoyed and blamed me for ruining all of their fun. To prevent them from thinking I was doing it out of selfishness (or whatever possible reasons might be conjured up), I decided to get everyone presents as per usual, while asking for nothing in return (stating point blank that I didn't want anything). It didn't exactly work, but I did get less than ever before. This year I said the same thing; however, I also cut out buying presents for everyone else. I'll see how it goes.

What follows is something I found that sums up a few of the many reasons I've been slowly opting out of Christmas over the past two years and also sums up much of my current state of mind and mood.


the revilement by unbelievers Tim Kreider

* * *

"...What gets me down is a sense that events and feelings are spiraling out of control in the world in ways that I am ultimately unable to affect – ways that these postings, whatever their other value, are irrelevant to. The feeling was brought home to me, acutely, last night, when a friend suggested we go into a major metropolitan shopping Mall, which, given the season, was draped in holiday decorations, bathed with uplifting music, and filled to overflowing with Christmas shoppers.

I'm sure my senses and feelings were heightened because of the unusualness of the experience for me personally. I don't frequent Malls. Ever. At any time of the year. Last night was the first time in more than a decade I'd even set foot in such a place. And, of course, around Christmas it can be a surreal experience even for those who are habitués of such settings. But, whatever the reason, I was deeply moved by the experience.

I know I wasn't supposed to, but I kept thinking about everything going on outside that enormous, artificial stage set, everything that has been going on for years: the trashing of the earth's environment, the corruption of the American political system, including the ways business and special interests have used it systematically to betray the public interest, the squalor and poverty of the undeveloped world (many of whose inhabitants had sewn the clothing or glued together the products people were gawking at or eagerly purchasing), the coming catastrophic shifts in the earth's climate (first fire then ice, as Robert Frost put it), the calculated horrors of American foreign policy, including the war in Iraq and America's support of Israel's hateful treatment of the Palestinians. I studied the faces, gestures, voices, and body language of the people around me, and what I saw was discouraging. I looked for passion, for conviction, for thought, for presence of mind, but all I saw was distraction, unawareness, unconsciousness, inattentiveness, inadvertence.

I know, I know. It's people shopping in a friggin' Mall, for gosh sake. What in the world did I expect them to be doing or thinking? They can't picket or they’d be thrown out. They can't get on their knees and pray or they’d be asked to leave. They can't organize protest marches or make speeches or the police would be called in. I realized that, but as I studied their faces I became convinced that being at the Mall was not what was stopping them from doing these sorts of things. The people whose eyes I looked into didn't rally and picket anywhere about anything. They didn''t agitate for social or political change under any circumstances. They didn't throw themselves on their knees and pray to God to save their souls even on Sundays.

Don’t get me wrong: I don't mean that they don’t have strong feelings. They do; but they save the expression of them for other parts of their lives. They yell at their boss or their wife; they get irritated when their children spill something on the sofa; they get excited going shopping the day after Thanksgiving; they get lathered up at sporting events; they honk their horns at drivers in front of them when the light changes – but they didn’t get really worked up about the other kind of issues. They are certainly never bothered by them enough to do something that might inconvenience them or cost them money. I guess they feel that if something doesn’t directly affect them, it doesn’t really matter. But the fallacy, of course, is that these things do affect them, and will, in the future, affect them even more than they do right now. But they can't see it. They just can't. Somehow their imaginations have failed. As my mother would say, they can’t see past the ends of their noses.

I have to admit I especially studied the faces of the young people. They are our hope, after all. We know that the older generations – my own generation and older – have conspired with the systems that have created the problems we now face.

We know that the older generation's passive assent to the way things are has created the way things are. It would be unrealistic to look to them for change. The young are our last, best hope. So I studied the faces of twenty–something boyfriends and girlfriends with their arms wrapped around each other, of young husbands and wives pushing strollers, of the noisy, roving bands of giggling high school girls. I searched for a flicker of awareness of the problems that surrounded them – and that they would inherit from their elders – but I saw nothing. Just nothing. To tell the truth, in their eyes, if possible, I saw even less interest in the problems of the world than I saw in their parents' eyes.

When I returned home, I looked up a passage I remembered reading in Curtis White's The Middle Mind: Why Americans Don't Think for Themselves: "In the Grundrisse Karl Marx argued that one of the most conspicuous products of capitalism is stupidity. And there is no shortage of stupidity around us at present.... Still Paul Virilio's idea in Pure War that we're unconscious has more explanatory power.... Unconscious in what sense? North Americans are not speaking to their culture; they're being spoken by it.... It is the unconsciousness of the pure and passive 'spectator,' to borrow from the vocabulary of Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle. The spectator sees all but takes responsibility for nothing. Both our political leaders and the leaders who control the major media outlets are equally mouthpieces for accepting 'the way things are' – foreclosing on all deviant perspectives, constantly reaffirming the orthodox rubbish we think we already know."

But the faces I had looked at told me that White's critique didn’t go far enough. It's always convenient to blame someone else – our "leaders," the "media," the "system." But the truth is that the problems were not created by someone else; they were created by us and by people like us. And they are re-created every day of our lives, as long as we continue to allow others to define who we are and what we want. We can't blame the media or the politicians. It's like blaming movie producers and television executives for our films and TV shows. We get the movies we patronize. (edit: Yes, and No. See the Robert McChesney video I posted in Exiled: The Best Films of the Decade, and Johnathan Rosenbaum's excellent book Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Movies We Can See.) They make the television we agree to watch. Similarly, we get the politicians we vote for. Election after election, Americans vote for politicians who tell them what they want to hear. It's a fallacy to think that the people in the Mall want to hear the truth. They don’t want to be waked out of their slumber of unreality. They prefer to sleepwalk – even to the point of death. I think of the amazing scene in Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice when, for the best reasons in the world, the father has the doctor give a sedative to his wife because he does not want her screaming about the end of the world to wake her little boy who is upstairs sleeping in his crib. Better that she and he sleep through to the end – and beyond.

Is this what we have come to? (Though there will be no sleeping through our end, of course.) When I stared into those eyes at the Mall, I kept thinking of the artists trying to wake us up, of the shamans and teachers trying to deepen and enrich our souls, of the holy men and women trying to move our hearts to awareness. But I also thought of how few real artists, teachers, and shamans there are in our culture. I thought of how marginalized, outnumbered, and out-gunned the real ones are by the cheap imitations, and of how the quiet, spiritual voices are drowned out by the incessant scream of the mass media for peoples’ attention. I thought of how many aspects of our culture are devoted to persuading people to sit back, forget their troubles, and enjoy themselves, and of how much of our culture is organized to induce states of distraction and unawareness just like the carols, decorations, sale banners, and crowds in the Mall.

What can be done? Can anything be done? Or is it too late?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Peace on Earth. Good will toward men."

(To read a few responses to the above message, go HERE.)

* * *


andrei rublev crucifiction jesus

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sincerity

Rachel Uchitel
tiger woods nude girlfriend

Tiger Woods: "I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves."


Kalika Moquin
tiger woods girlfriend naked

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness."


Jamie Jungers
jamie jungers nude

"As the final round of the Chevron World Challenge begins, I would like to extend my heartfelt thank you to everyone affiliated with the event, especially our amazing title sponsor, Chevron."


Modesta Briones
tiger woods girlfriend naked                                                           in her house near Parahuaco oil well #2.
                                                           Doctors amputated her lower leg because
                                                           of a cancerous tumor



"I am so grateful to [Chevron] for their efforts, and I am sincerely sorry I was unable to fulfill my duties as host and player in this important event."


Pamela Ramirez
tiger woods girls                                                           born blind in her right eye, the likely
                                                           result of water contamination



"I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period... I would like to ask everyone, including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding."


Flor Valarezo
tiger woods naked                                                            with her daughter Liliana Cecilia, 4,
                                                           shows the skin cancer on her leg at her
                                                           home in Sacha



"What's most important now is that my family has the time, privacy, and safe haven we will need for personal healing."


(The bottom three photographs are some of the many people affected by Chevron-Texaco's activities in Ecuador — the dumping of over 18 billion gallons of toxic waste into the rainforest which has resulted in abnormally high cancer rates, miscarriages, and birth defects. The case — consisting of thirty-thousand Ecuadorians vs. Chevron-Texaco — is still ongoing. Tiger Woods entered into an extensive five-year partnership with Chevron Corporation in 2008. He is aware of their horrible reputation1).


* * * * * * * *


Tiger Woods is a symbol of America, a symbol projected and recognized throughout the world. In this sense he represents my country well: a multiracial man adorned in clothing made in Malaysian sweatshops, traveling the world to speak on behalf of the corporations that own him2, all of it hidden behind the veneer of a shiny smile and backed with a bag of clubs. And he's out to cover the world in golf courses wherever there is profit to be made!

In 1998 Tiger Woods was in Hacienda Looc, one of the Philippines beautiful seaside communities, on behalf of sponsors looking to promote golf and build new courses in the region. The plan was to destroy the farms and the "low impact and low level-commercial agriculture that sustains more than 7,000 peasants who populate Hacienda Looc's four villages"3, and replace it with a tourist center and golf course called Harbortown.4 Like the corporations he represents, it's clear that Tiger doesn't care where he gets his fill as long as it gets it. He takes what he wants wherever he goes, consequences be damned — which is why his extra-marital conquests are more or less a given and should be shocking to no one except those who allow themselves to see only the well-crafted facade. All of this makes him another symbol: capitalism personified.

If only Woods was being scrutinized for partnering with Chevron or helping boost the sales of Nike, notorious for their sweatshops, or for building a golf course in Dubai, etc. But this will never happen, of course, because many of Tiger's sponsors own the mainstream media by making them wear the very same logos. It's also not an exciting story to tell as it's very complicated and filled with many "boring details."

All of this "news" has been constantly bombarding us. Meanwhile I've heard only a sound bite about this recent New York Times article: "Since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people [in America] has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage." Sadly, this isn't shocking to me.

"Lakes around the U.S. have been permanently damaged by negligent dumping of nitrate-laden runoff from golf courses, and their construction in hot and arid regions create severe depletion of water resources. [...] Some developers use waste water from residential developments in an effort to avoid depletion of local water resources. This has often resulted in the contamination of local streams. Here, in Austin, the three 18-hole courses located on the Barton Creek watershed use up to 300,000 gallons of waste water a day, leading to contamination of the creek with phosphorus, nitrogen and fecal coliform bacteria." (Lush Green, Muddy Waters)

Golf course displaces farmers, taints water. "In addition to the lack of jobs, the biggest challenge facing Lam Son residents is the pollution of Rong Tam Spring, the sole source of water in the area. The spring, currently part of Phuong Hoang Golf Course, has been tainted by chemicals such as insecticide, which is used to clean and keep grass green."

Clubbing Southeast Asia - The Impacts of Golf Course Development. "The dangers of the high pesticide and fertilizer use at golf courses was illustrated at the Sapporo Kokusai Country Club in Hiroshima township on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where managers had organic copper compounds spread on the grass to keep it from rotting under the winter snow. When it rained, the chemical was washed into the water system, killing over 90,000 fish in a nearby aquaculture project."


* * * * * * * *


"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf. I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person."


obama tiger woods

1The Nation, When Tiger Met Chevron: "Ka Hsaw Wa, co-founder and executive director of EarthRights International, wrote in an open letter to Woods, "I myself have spoken to victims of forced labor, rape, and torture on Chevron's pipeline--if you heard what they said to me, you too would understand how their tragic stories stand in stark contrast to Chevron's rhetoric about helping communities." ERI's request to meet with Woods or someone from the foundation has been met with silence."
2 Other sponsors include: Tatweer: The Tiger Woods Dubai. (See: Johann Hari, The Dark Side of Dubai. Dubai also refused to allow a Jewish tennis player a visa to play in the Dubai Tennis Championships). AT&T: "AT&T was one of the telecommunications companies that assisted with the government's warrantless wire-tapping program on calls between foreign and domestic sources." And of course Nike.
3 C.L. Cole, The Place of Golf in US Imperialism. See also The Golf War.
4 I haven't been able to find out how this story turned out (ie, if the resort/course was ever built) but the fact that Woods was there to promote it is the entire point. If it was stopped it was stopped by the residents.


tiger woods golf nude scandal military afghanistan obama

Sunday, December 13, 2009

the trap


"It is possible to get out of a trap. However, in order to break out of a prison, one first must confess to being in a prison. The trap is man's emotional structure, his character structure. There is little use in devising systems of thought about the nature of the trap if the only thing to do in order to get out of the trap is to know the trap and to find the exit. Everything else is utterly useless: Singing hymns about the suffering in the trap, as the enslaved Negro does; or making poems about the beauty of freedom outside of the trap, dreamed of within the trap; or promising a life outside the trap after death, as Catholicism promises its congregations; or confessing a semper ignorabimus as do the resigned philosophers; or building a philosophic system around the despair of life within the trap, as did Schopenhauer; or dreaming up a superman who would be so much different from the man in the trap, as Nietzsche did, until, trapped in a lunatic asylum, he wrote, finally, the full truth about himself — too late...

The first thing to do is to find the exit out of the trap.

The nature of the trap has no interest whatsoever beyond this one crucial point: WHERE IS THE EXIT OUT OF THE TRAP?

One can decorate a trap to make life more comfortable in it. This is done by the Michelangelos and the Shakespeares and the Goethes. One can invent makeshift contraptions to secure longer life in the trap. This is done by the great scientists and physicians, the Meyers and the Pasteurs and the Flemings. One can devise great art in healing broken bones when one falls into the trap.

The crucial point still is and remains: to find the exit out of the trap. WHERE IS THE EXIT INTO THE ENDLESS OPEN SPACE?

The exit remains hidden. It is the greatest riddle of all. The most ridiculous as well as tragic thing is this:

THE EXIT IS CLEARLY VISIBLE TO ALL TRAPPED IN THE HOLE. YET NOBODY SEEMS TO SEE IT. EVERYBODY KNOWS WHERE THE EXIT IS. YET NOBODY SEEMS TO MAKE A MOVE TOWARD IT. MORE: WHOEVER MOVES TOWARD THE EXIT, OR WHOEVER POINTS TOWARD IT IS DECLARED CRAZY OR A CRIMINAL OR A SINNER TO BURN IN HELL.

It turns out that the trouble is not with the trap or even with finding the exit. The trouble is WITHIN THE TRAPPED ONES.

All this is, seen from outside the trap, incomprehensible to a simple mind. It is even somehow insane. Why don't they see and move toward the clearly visible exit? As soon as they get close to the exit they start screaming and run away from it. As soon as anyone among them tries to get out, they kill him. Only a very few slip out of the trap in the dark night when everybody is asleep."

—Wilhelm Reich

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Jello, Penny & John


I.

JELLO BIAFRA: One thing that's lost on many people who play this kind of music now is that our band itself was started as a prank, especially on people who would come to early punk shows seeking singles bar action. In particular I was attracted to the early Negative Trend, where Rozz would leave the stage and get into altercations with the audience. It got to a point where it was hard for them or Flipper to get any gigs at all, because of the anxiety surrounding their very existence. The same thing with The Germs — they definitely explored the idea of breaking down the bullshit barrier between "artist" and "audience."

[...]

Our band's sound, lyrics, packaging of records (which has gotten us in trouble now) and just plain attitude of the band itself I saw as one great big prank against the entertainment industry. In 1980 we were approached by the CBSs and Warner Bros of the world to whom we said, "What we want is artistic control." They said, "Fine! We'll give you all the artistic control you want if you just change your name!" Since then we've been putting out our records ourselves.


In 1980, The Dead Kennedys were invited to the Bay Area Music Awards to play one of their most popular and musically palatable songs, California Über Alles. About 15 seconds into the song, Biafra, the lead singer, yelled out "Hold it!" and the music screeched to a halt. He continued: "We gotta prove we're adults now. We aren't a punk rock band, we're a new wave band." The four members — all wearing dress shirts with an "S" painted on front — flipped their neckties from behind their backs, forming a dollar sign.

dead kennedys pull my strings
They then began to play Pull My Strings — a song written specifically for the occasion. They took the #1 Billboard Top Pop Single of 1979 — The Knack's My Sharona — and spoofed the refrain to launch an attack on the music industry and the values of those who'll do anything in an attempt to make it big. The song was recorded live, performed only once.


pull my strings


BIAFRA: I think we've been a long-term thorn in the sides of big record companies because we didn't disappear in six months — perhaps that's why we've been singled out for prosecution instead of entertainment industry creatures like Ozzy Osbourne or Slayer or AC-DC.

INTERVIEWER: It's funny that families of victims of the "Nightstalker" never sued AC-DC, whose songs supposedly inspired his murder sprees.

BIAFRA: Yeah, but judging AC-DC and their fans by a guy like the Nightstalker is like judging all born-again Christians by Mark Chapman, who reportedly killed John Lennon as "a favor to the Lord." I mean, who encourages more kids to wind up dead: Ozzy Osbourne, or U.S. armed forces recruiting ads?


II.

BIAFRA: I heard two pranks about the band Crass in England. They negotiated with a teenage bride magazine, Loving, because they wanted to reach sixteen-year-olds hung up on the whole soap opera. Then they recorded a song, "Our Wedding," totally attacking that idea but camouflaged by schmaltzy music. It was sung by Joy de Vivre from Creative Recording and Sound Services (CRASS). The publishers actually went ahead and included it as a flexi-disc insert without deciphering the lyrics beforehand! After the issue hit the stands, they had to recall the copies. As a result, Crass gained access to the straight media and were able to voice a lot of criticism not only about the wedding syndrome, but about society in general.

Then they "leaked" to the press a cassette tape of an alleged phone conversation between Reagan and Margaret Thatcher on the feasibility of launching a winnable nuclear war! This caused quite an uproar. Oddly enough, Reagan and Thatcher didn't even deny the conversation — they just said, "It must be a KGB plant." Apparently it was very deftly spliced together from radio and TV news statements.


In 1963, a UK pop music show called Ready Steady Go! hosted a contest where people were asked to send in their portraits of The Beatles. The winner got to meet the Fab Four on national television and received two albums of their choice. Jeremy Ratter (later "Penny Rimbaud" — member of the legendary anarcho-punk band Crass) heard about the competition and decided to enter. He took a friend's guitar and cut it down the middle, mounting each half on the end of a board painted with Beatles graffiti. On top of the graffiti he painted the four Beatles, portraying them, as he would later describe in his autobiography Shibboleth: My Revolting Life, as "street-wise desperadoes." Finally he took a mannequin arm and placed it so that it was reaching out of one of the guitar halves. He called the piece "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." It was all perfectly designed to win. A week later Ratter got a call inviting him to the studio. And it appears as though he did all of it just to play a small prank on The Beatles.




III.

The title of this post is a play on the #4 U.S. pop chart single of 1968 — Dion's Abraham, Martin & John. Bob Dylan performed a cover of the song during a 1981 tour, with the original "John" (John Kennedy) becoming a clear reference to John Lennon who was killed just a year before — 29 years ago today.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Forgotten Giants: Nancy Cunard (1896 - 1965)

Nancy Cunard
* * *

Anaïs Nin saw her printing Spanish Civil War pamphlets, remarked on her cadaverous state—olive green, her large-scale jewelry, her work on behalf of Negro rights.

Nancy traveled across the ocean to Harlem, where she lived. Olive green. An amethyst existence. A cadaverous state. Remarkable. Luxurious. No anthologies. Was it so terrible, or was she really so good? Myra Viveash. Lucy Tantamount. Irene? She shocked the world. Drunk and bull-like she emerged from a cafe with a cigarette inserted in each nostril, pelting dogs with tomatoes. Wasted. Decadent. Publisher (discovered Beckett), editor, journalist, anarchist, activist, befriender of blacks and artists and, they say, a poet. Where is her poetry? Slid into the ocean. In Valle de los Caídos. Frothed over.

Lying on a table, having energy therapy, he was speaking of how as an intellectual, his brain was stronger than his heart. "I use my brain more often than my heart," he said. Then, as Nancy was massaging his chest, he had the sensation an armored vest was being removed.

She was a muse.

* * *

She gave it up. Her home in Réanville. She wanted to own nothing. To be free. To see all the northern continents stretch out before her under winter sunsets. To look into the psychology of Iceland, and plumb the imaginations of strange people in faraway lands. If she were free. But someone, somewhere, was suffering.

The bombed-out of Barcelona. Red Russians raping in the basements of Berlin. The black boys of Scottsboro burned by Bill Callahan. And Nancy Cunard—declared insane. Found on the street, a mere 60 pounds. Destitute. Alone. A Buchenwald corpse. All that remained was a furious sense of indignation.

Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise, Paris. Urn 9016.

* * *

nancy cunard
"It's impossible to discuss the intellectual history of the early 20th century without discussing Nancy Cunard." —Louis Aragon

"One of the major phenomena of history." —William Carlos Williams

"Her body had wasted away in a long battle against injustice in the world. Her reward was a life that had become progressively lonelier, and a god forsaken death." —Pablo Neruda

Saturday, November 21, 2009

EXILED: Best films of the decade




The "best of the decade" lists are starting to arrive, and the ones I've seen so far from mainstream publications all tend to reinforce the idea that not only has everyone heard of the ten best films of the decade, but it's likely that every single one of them played at "a theater near you." This reminder, done intentionally or not, is the lists' main function: to allow the publications who print them to continue to review (and advertise, if there's a difference) all the big tent studio fare throughout the year while ignoring (or at least giving much less publicity to) many of the smaller, more important films. For the average person who keeps relatively up to date with cultural happenings (and takes pride in doing so), the lists will provide them with a nice means for patting themselves on the back. "Yes, you're up on things," the lists tell them, "You're hip." Thus the readership will feel as though the particular publication is doing a great job keeping them informed. Imagine if The New Yorker's David Denby put out a list which contained 4 or 5 films he never reviewed and which the majority of The New Yorker's reader base never even heard of?*

Another function of "best of" lists — probably their only practical function — is to provide new avenues for truly curious and open minded people to explore. But the lists are failing at that too. Some of the them seem to include a token foreign film (or two) that was a smash success (for a foreign film, at least), and therefore, it is assumed, hard to argue with. This pick gives the list an air of sophistication. Or instead (or in conjunction with), some of the websites/publications that consider themselves to be more hip and "with it" than their more mainstream counterparts select a somewhat lesser known, critically acclaimed art-house film to give their name some cachet. To me, this appears to be disingenuous and laughable when the selection appears alongside something like Lord of the Rings, especially when they choose a film that wasn't even made in the correct year! (Paste magazine selected Beau Travail for one of their top ten of the decade. A great choice — except the film was made in 1999.) Of course there are, and will be, exceptions. But not in the mainstream press, a press owned by the same companies that own the studios (or the studios themselves). Or at the very least, they're paid top dollar to promote studio films all year.

lord of the rings
one of the best films of the decade

According to The Times of London, nine of the top ten films of the decade were made by English speaking countries, two won Academy Awards for best picture (No Country for Old Men and Slumdog Millionaire), another (Queen) was nominated for Best Picture (and won best actress), another won Best Actor (Last King of Scotland), and another was nominated for a few technical awards (the Bourne films). But of course, this all makes perfect sense. Not selecting titles with these specific accolades would reveal the vacuousness of the institutions that award them and the giant publicity machines behind them (which includes The Times itself). The publications believe in these institutions (or are forced to by their owners), so their choices reflect this belief. Perhaps it is interesting to note that The Times number one selection, Michael Haneke's Caché, was ignored by the Academy and also got limited US theatrical distribution. Is this the listmakers way of thumbing their nose at the system, or is it just their token highly acclaimed foreign film, added for a splash of variety?

cache haneke
Cache(t)

There will be many similar Hollywood-centric and Anglocentric lists coming soon in many mainstream publications (this "decade defining" top ten is particularly ridiculous), but fortunately some more interesting and eclectic lists are already starting to emerge on various blogs.

bourne supremacy matt damon
two of the decade's finest: J. Bourne, J. Bond

Because of my annoyance with such lists, but mainly for fun, I've decided to make my own. I don't know when it will be complete... I've never compiled something like this before, and it's going to take me a while to catch up on some of the films I've missed, but I do have a pretty good idea of my top ten already. Hopefully I'll have it done before January.

There will be no Pedro Costa on my list as I have yet to see any of his applicable films and won't be able to in time (Criterion is supposed to be putting out a box set next year), and the same goes for Götz Spielmann's Revanche and Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours (both coming to DVD next year compliments of Criterion). And I don't know if I'll be able to see many (or any) of the highly acclaimed films available on DVD in the UK that still aren't available here in the United States (films like Roy Andersson's You, the Living (2007); Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg (2007); Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata (2008); Bela Tarr's The Man from London (2007); Ulrich Seidl's Import/Export (2007), etc.)

Looking over James Quandt's list of the best films of 2008, I see that many of them still have yet to make their way to DVD: Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso); Tony Manero (Pablo Larrain); Straub-Huillet's Itinéraire de Jean Bricard and Le Genou d'Artémide; United Red Army (Koji Wakamatsu). Lucretia Martel's The Headless Woman is coming to DVD in December and Jia Zhang-ke's 24 City is coming to DVD January 12th. Other films by major directors yet to show up on DVD include Naomi Kawase's The Mourning Forest (2007), Hong Sangsoo's Tale of Cinema (2005) and Night and Day (2008), Lee Chang-dong's Secret Sunshine (2007), and Albert Serra's Birdsong (2008), to name just a few.

Over at Screenville Harry Tuttle made this post the other day:

Manhola Dargis (NYT, 18 Nov 2009) : "First shown at the Berlin Film Festival four years ago, “The Sun” [Aleksandr Sokurov's Solntse] is finally receiving its welcome American theatrical release, which means that one of the best movies of 2005 is now also one of the best of 2009"


Why does it take almost 5 years (Berlinale 2005 première: 17 Feb 2005) before a major film d'auteur gets distributed on the American market? A film featuring a (glorifying) moment of American history (not the nasty part of WW2), with General MacArthur in a positive, self-aggrandising light... And it opens on a single screen in NYC (Film Forum)?

The New York Times at least acknowledges this gap, but doesn't even bother pondering on the causes of this delay. Is it not worth investigating for the NYT? I understand that a boring foreign art film will never be released worldwide within a week, like your typical Hollywood blockbuster... that's a privilege of the universal mainstream entertainment. But 4 years before someone finds an available slot in the release schedule to show this great film on commercial screens is a lot of time in the film industry cycle. 1 year is a normal waiting period after its festival première. 2 years is already quite long for the major markets. Usually the smaller countries have to wait the longest to get access to films and have to watch them after everyone else. Now, why would America want to be ranked at the bottom of the release list, like if they didn't have the money to buy the rights, or the screens to show it, like it is often the issue in tiny countries? It's as if on the cultural level, the USA is an underdeveloped country, before industrialisation, before globalisation, before the instantness of the internet; while it is supposed to be the frontrunner technologically and culturally wise, a model to look up to, a leading force to show the rest of the world how to grasp the future... How can the leading economical empire on the planet be so backward, a-critical, self-indulgent, isolationistic culturally?

The access to American culture is a long tough road. And Americans are happy the way it is. So it's not going to change anytime soon.

(Ed Howard was quick to point out in the comments section: "Melville's Army of Shadows got a theatrical release in the US just... 37 years later!")

Yesterday I watched Kent MacKenzie's film The Exiles, a film I briefly mentioned last August that was distributed theatrically last summer by Milestone... 47 years after it was made! (It was just released on (region 1) DVD this week.) The film gives an idea of the experiences shared by a group of young American Indians as they make their way from their reservation into Los Angeles (specifically Bunker Hill, written about so beautifully by John Fante, and now covered in sky-scrapers). The film itself is part fiction, part documentary, crafted from interviews MacKenzie gave to a group of Native Americans he befriended, as well as the time he spent hanging out with them. (They all play themselves in the film, and the narration is taken directly from the interviews.) MacKenzie films everyone reenacting various scenes from their daily lives, and he gives an impression of their existence through many great black and white images that are set to the low rumble of cars, bars, aimless conversation and a rock n' roll score.

the exiles mackenziethe exiles mackenziethe exiles
The same year The Exiles was ignored, Hollywood had the presence of mind to nominate Breakfast at Tiffany's for Best Picture, a film in which Mickey Rooney was cast to portray an Asian character.

mickey rooney yellowface
And Best Picture winner that year was West Side Story, with Natalie Wood cast as Maria, a Puerto Rican.

Had The Exiles been distributed, it would have likely been an influential part of the American wave of independent cinema (it was made around the same time as Cassavetes' Shadows). Who knows, MacKenzie might have gone on to become a major director. Instead, it premiered at the Venice film festival to acclaim from many critics, then vanished. (Thom Andersen, with his documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, is credited with its rediscovery.)


* * *

"I just want to make a point, maybe it's more idealistic. Ultimately, the more the audience has seen these films, they more they want to see other films like them. And then what happens is the audience changes. Which means that movies that are being made around the world could change, cause there is an audience for special movies, for new movies, for a different way to look at the world." --Martin Scorsese (Chairman of World Cinema Foundation)







*Lists of this sort are often mocked as being elitist or pretentious by people who consider themselves well informed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Songs from another planet: "Abba Zaba" (Captain Beefheart)

In the late 1950s, Don Van Vliet was selling Hoover vacuum cleaners door to door in California. One day, the story goes, he walked up to a house and knocked, and when the the door opened the man who greeted him looked very familiar. Within moments Vliet realized it was Aldous Huxley. Feeling suddenly out of place and embarrassed, Vliet, instead of going into his usual spiel regarding the vacuum cleaner, simply pointed down at the product and said: "Sir, this sucks!" Vliet, later known by the name Captain Beefheart, went on to become one of the greatest and most original musicians of the 20th century.

The song "Abba Zaba" from his debut album Safe as Milk (1967) has a zany, nonsensical, and cartoon quality to it, mixed together with a kind of jungle menace. If a mysterious spaceship were to land on Earth, I imagine Abba Zaba would be the song howling its way out of the vessel when the doors finally open and the alien prince steps out to greet us. His face would be adorned with an ancient mask, reminiscent of something African, and he'd be wearing a top hat and a fake mustache. Bongos would be hanging from his neck.


For people who have listened to Beefheart's more famous album, Trout Mask Replica, and didn't like it, Safe as Milk is a good way to open the door to appreciating some of his more challenging work (as is THIS one hour documentary).

Here is another song from Safe as Milk, followed by pictures I found by searching for images using phrases from the lyrics.


* * *

"You wanna do what? You wanna do what?"

"I told you what, I told you what"

"Go to school, go to school"

"Just cake, just cake"

"Dropout, dropout"

"Can't get a job, can't get a job"

"Don't know what it, don't know what it"

"What it's all about, what it's all about"

"You told her you love her"

"So bring her to mother"

"You love her adapt her, you love her adapt her"

"Adapt her, adapt her"

"Then what about after that? What about after that?"

"Support her, support her"

"You gotta support her"

"Get a job, get a job"

Friday, November 06, 2009

QuoteS V

"Happiness is a hound dog in the sun. We are not here to be happy but to experience great and wonderful things." —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." —Eleanor Roosevelt

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." —J.K. Galbraith

"Strive not to be a man of success, but a man of value." —Albert Einstein

* * *

"What happens in Western Cinema, they say: "Look at this. You're so stupid you don't know what we're trying to tell you. Let me tell you something." And we say: "Hey, discover this." —Christopher Doyle, cinematographer.

"When I watch French television today, I think I know exactly how the French resistance felt during the German occupation."
—Jean-Luc Godard

"Jeanne Dielman was considered a feminist film, but that was not my goal when I made it. My goal at the time was to show someone who organizes her life so that there is no hole in her time, because when there is a hole, there is also anxiety." —Chantal Akerman

"Courses may be pointless and uninteresting. The data may go through you like mineral oil. But at least it is some kind of challenge. And while you're involved in all this, time is off your hands and rests in theirs--the authorities'. Should you not be attending school, you may feel that you're pissing away time--days and weeks; you may begin to feel very uncomfortable. On your own, you have to face the responsibility for how you spend time. But in school you don't. What they make you do may obviously be a waste but at least the responsibility isn't charged to your account. School in this respect is, once again, like the army or jail. Once you're in, you may have all kinds of problems but freedom isn't one of them.

After you leave school and get a job, you'll find you need the job just as you learned to need school. You'll remain an existential minor who needs trustees to spend his time for him.

The schools we have are a cop-out. Why not face the responsibility for what we do with our time? And if we need structures to inform our time, why not find more congenial, more human ones." —Jerry Farber

"When you go to school, you're doing society a favor. And when you say "no," you withhold much more than your attendance. You deny continuity to the dying society; you put the future on strike." —Jerry Farber

* * *

"There is a real possibility that the primary victim of the ongoing crisis will not be capitalism but the left itself, insofar as its inability to offer a viable global alternative was again made visible to everyone. It was the left that was effectively caught out, as if recent events were staged with a calculated risk in order to demonstrate that, even at a time of shattering crisis, there is no viable alternative to capitalism. Immanuel Kant countered the conservative motto “Don’t think, obey!” not with the injunction “Don’t obey, think!” but rather “Obey, but think!” When we are transfixed by something like the bailout, we should bear in mind that since it is actually a form of blackmail, we must resist the populist temptation to act out our anger and thus wound ourselves. Instead of such impotent acting-out, we should control our fury and transform it into an icy determination to think—to think things through in a really radical way, and to ask what kind of a society renders such blackmail possible." —Žižek, to each according to his greed

"There are some people who would never have fallen in love if they had not heard there was such a thing." —La Rochefoucauld

"The last three decades of this century have witnessed the ignition of the most significant internal conflict ever to engage the human species. It is not the struggle between capitalism and communism or between any other set of 'isms'. It is the conflict between those who possess the means and will to exploit the living world to destruction, and those who are banding together in a desperate and last-ditch attempt to prevent the New Juggernaut from trashing our small planet." —Farley Mowat

"If nuclear war breaks out, the average citizen of a Western democracy will be better informed about Brittny Spears than the causes of their death." —Roger Ebert

"Life consists in what a man is thinking of all day." —Emerson

* * *

"The whole world understands that the real question is the following: Why do the politics of the Western powers, of NATO, of Europe and the USA, appear completely unjust to two out of three inhabitants of the planet? Why are five thousand American deaths considered a cause for war, while five hundred thousand dead in Rwanda and a projected ten million dead from AIDS in Africa do not, in our opinion, merit outrage? Why is the bombardment of civilians in the US Evil, while the bombardment of Baghdad or Belgrade today, or that of Hanoi or Panama in the past, is Good? The ethic of Truths that I propose proceeds from concrete situations, rather than from an abstract right, or a spectacular Evil. The whole world understands these situations, and the whole world can act in a disinterested fashion prompted by the injustice of these situations. Evil in politics is easy to see: It's absolute inequality with respect to life, wealth, power. Good is equality. How long can we accept the fact that what is needed for running water, schools, hospitals, and food enough for all humanity is a sum that corresponds to the amount spent by wealthy Western countries on perfume in a year? This is not a question of human rights and morality. It is a question of the fundamental battle for equality of all people, against the law of profit, whether personal or national." —Alain Badiou

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." —Krishnamurti

"Insanity: a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world." —R.D. Laing

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." —Thoreau

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." —Voltaire

* * *

"Democracy is at its best when citizens debate among themselves, working out their differences through a process of reasoned argument and compromise. Democracy, in this sense, requires a mutual respect, across political differences. It requires us to grant, if only for the sake of our shared national life, that those who disagree have spent as much time in reflecting on their positions as we have.

A book matches perfectly the ideal of reflection. The tougher the text, the more reflective we must be in absorbing it. This suggests the importance of reading books that are difficult. Long books. Hard books. Books with which we have to struggle. The hard work of serious reading mirrors the hard work of serious governing—and, in a democracy, governing is a responsibility all citizens share. And if we are willing to work our way through difficult texts, we are far more likely to be willing to work our way through our opponents’ difficult ideas. An important lesson of serious reading is that ideas need not be correct to be important." —Stephen L. Carter, Where's the Bailout for Publishing?

"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle." —Orwell

* * *

"Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new and they will hate you for it." —George Monbiot [a variation on "If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you. If you make them really think, they’ll hate you." —Don Marquis]

"If you are going to tell people the truth, you had better make them laugh. Otherwise they'll kill you." —George Bernard Shaw (disputed)

"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything." —Nietzsche

* * *

"When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

And who is left when that you dies? You are left. Animal you. Naked you. Vulnerable (and invulnerable) you. Mortal you. Survivor you. The you who thinks not what the culture taught you to think but what you think. The you who feels not what the culture taught you to feel but what you feel. The you who is not who the culture taught you to be but who you are. The you who can say yes, the you who can say no. The you who is a part of the land where you live. The you who will fight (or not) to defend your family. The you who will fight (or not) to defend those you love. The you who will fight (or not) to defend the land upon which your life and the lives of those you love depends. The you whose morality is not based on what you have been taught by the culture that is killing the planet, killing you, but on your own animal feelings of love and connection to your family, your friends, your landbase—not to your family as self-identified civilized beings but as animals who require a landbase, animals who are being killed by chemicals, animals who have been formed and deformed to fit the needs of the culture." —Derrick Jensen, Beyond Hope

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

from James Joyce to Nora Barnacle

December 8th, 1909. Dublin.

My sweet little whorish Nora I did as you told me, you dirty little girl, and pulled myself off twice when I read your letter. I am delighted to see that you do like being fucked arseways. Yes, now I can remember that night when I fucked you for so long backwards. It was the dirtiest fucking I ever gave you, darling. My prick was stuck in you for hours, fucking in and out under your upturned rump. I felt your fat sweaty buttocks under my belly and saw your flushed face and mad eyes. At every fuck I gave you your shameless tongue came bursting out through your lips and if a gave you a bigger stronger fuck than usual, fat dirty farts came spluttering out of your backside. You had an arse full of farts that night, darling, and I fucked them out of you, big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties ending in a long gush from your hole. It is wonderful to fuck a farting woman when every fuck drives one out of her. I think I would know Nora's fart anywhere. I think I could pick hers out in a roomful of farting women. It is a rather girlish noise not like the wet windy fart which I imagine fat wives have. It is sudden and dry and dirty like what a bold girl would let off in fun in a school dormitory at night. I hope Nora will let off no end of her farts in my face so that I may know their smell also.

You say when I go back you will suck me off and you want me to lick your cunt, you little depraved blackguard. I hope you will surprise me some time when I am asleep dressed, steal over to me with a whore's glow in your slumberous eyes, gently undo button after button in the fly of my trousers and gently take out your lover's fat mickey, lap it up in your moist mouth and suck away at it till it gets fatter and stiffer and comes off in your mouth. Sometimes too I shall surprise you asleep, lift up your skirts and open your drawers gently, then lie down gently by you and begin to lick lazily round your bush. You will begin to stir uneasily then I will lick the lips of my darling's cunt. You will begin to groan and grunt and sigh and fart with lust in your sleep. Then I will lick up faster and faster like a ravenous dog until your cunt is a mass of slime and your body wriggling wildly.

Goodnight, my little farting Nora, my dirty little fuckbird! There is one lovely word, darling, you have underlined to make me pull myself off better. Write me more about that and yourself, sweetly, dirtier, dirtier.

JIM


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

A song to listen to while imagining the following strange and macabre tale...


* * *

murderous mary elephant

"Mary was the biggest elephant in the Sparks World Famous Shows circus, weighing in at about five tons. On September 12, 1916, the circus played the town of Kingsport, Tennessee. Walter ‘Red’ Eldridge was hired just the day before to work for the circus as an elephant handler, even though he had no experience with the animals.

On September 12th, Eldridge was riding Mary to a water hole so that she could drink. There are varying stories, but the most common version of what happened that day started with Mary veering off path to eat a piece of watermelon lying in the road. When Eldridge prodded the side of her head in an attempt to make her stay on course, she used her trunk to snatch him off her back. Then, she forcefully threw him into a wooden drink stand, walked over to his battered and bruised body, and proceeded to crush his skull with her enormous foot. Bystanders watched in horror as Eldridge’s blood and brains oozed onto the street.

The townspeople demanded that Mary be killed. Other towns the circus had scheduled to perform in said the circus was not welcome as long as Mary was in the show.

Debates on how to kill Mary ensued. It was determined that no gun existed big enough to take her down. Electrocution and canons were other proposed methods. Finally, it was decided that Mary would be hung from a rail yard crane in the nearby town of Erwin, Tennessee. The execution was heavily advertised, and the following day a crowd of more than 2,500 people, including children, gathered to witness her death.

Mary’s leg was tied to the crane so she could not escape, and a chain was put around her neck. On first attempt, the chain around her neck snapped. She fell to the ground and broke her hip. Reports say that the sound of her bones breaking was heard by the thousands of onlookers. A larger chain was placed around her neck and she was hoisted up again. This time, the hanging was a success. Mary was dead. They let her hang for a half an hour, then her huge body was buried in the rail yard.

The people of Erwin say they would like to forget that the town ever played a part in the hanging of Mary."


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

F R O W N L A N D


Dear XXXXXXX

i cant believe you havent seen batman begins! i watch it every morning from 8-10. i cant get enough! when i watch it i pretend that i'm a super cool hero whom people both love and fear, and then i smile realizing that in fact that's who i am! it's invigorating. but you would do yourself good to keep away from such poor films. they will stifle your mind, your creativity, your self image, your perception of the world... they will do real harm. every bad movie or book that someone experiences is like a hammer blow to the head. look around - you'll see that i'm right. so many bashed, unrepairable skulls. have they no self respect? and i know that you sometimes watch garbage films with an eye towards irony, but i don't approve of that either. why put yourself above something? that's always been my motto. there are too many great films and books for us to waste our time on garbage. it might be too late for me xxxxxxx, but you can still save yourself.

before i forget, i wanted to recommend you something. last night i was bored so i sat down to watch a movie, david lynch's cartoon series dumbland. i soon realized it was not dumbland, but frownland. being the adventurous sort to whom rules do not apply, i pressed "play" just the same. well, this movie, frownland, is like a hammer blow to the head, but in a good way. a great way, in fact. it helped me drain out some refuse. my self image as a batman like super-cool-hero was annihilated. watching this film is like being zapped by a shrink ray and then flushed down the toilet. (since your imagination is not very powerful i will translate: it's akin to being spit on by so many people that you almost drown -- please forgive me if i've brought up painful memories!) it feels like a found artifact. "underground" in the sense that it was buried under miles of dirt, made for (and by) the mole people. you shouldn't be allowed to buy or rent this film. the director, ronald bronstein, should have burned copies to DVD and thrown them into dumpsters for the right people to find. and i do mean "the right people." this movie is not for everyone. richard hell once called bresson's le diable probablement the most punk rock movie ever made. i can see where he was coming from but i would now have to bestow that honor to frownland. i watched it twice. the second time i found it to be quite humorous and a very different experience from my first encounter. are you starting to get an idea xxxxxxx? the only films i can compare it to would be lodge kerrigan's keane or clean shaven, or maybe mike leigh's naked. or perhaps it would be helpful to say that it contains some of the best qualities of george romero's martin, though i don't care much for that film. amy taubin compared it to eraserhead. it also reminded me of taxi driver somewhat, but in terms of films about alienation, taxi driver cannot compete - it's far too safe. (not that either film can be boiled down to a single word.) anyway, none of this will give you a good idea because frownland is wholly its own thing. it is so unique, so singular in its vision that i wanted to make sure you knew to see it since i have long suspected that you are one of the mole people. oh, and i forgot to mention dore mann. it's worth seeing for his performance alone. amazing. by the time the movie was over i could see some of myself in the inarticulate, rambling keith, in particular during an argument with his roommate where i felt as if i was reliving an argument i had with one of my articulate (and demented) friends. (no, not you.) it's strange and beautiful how the movie manages to work like this, exposing the troll under our skin. anyway, that's all for now. thanks for taking the time to read this. i really appreciate it.

best,
XXXXXX
* * *

frownland Ronald Bronstein
frownland dore mann
* * *

From an interview with Ronald Bronstein:

JK: Frownland was excruciating for me to sit through at first, especially during that first 20 minutes. I was having a really tough time—and I can tolerate a lot. I can watch the slowest Iranian film where almost nothing seems to happen. I wouldn’t have bothered watching the rest if my editor hadn’t advised me to stick with it, and ultimately I’m glad I made the commitment. But plugging into Frownland is a huge challenge.

RB: It’s funny that you bring up Iranian cinema, or even the more modern equivalent of what is coming out of Asia right now, where it’s this sort of conceptualization of the quotidian. You’re watching somebody move through their apartment, making eggs in real time. But there’s something about those movies where they telegraph their intentions as art from the moment the movie begins. In a way, you feel in very safe hands. If you define yourself as an art enthusiast, you can relax into that because it is all framed under this conceptual veneer, for better or worse. I read this quote from Picasso on the back of a magazine that said good taste is the enemy of art, and feel like orientation is the enemy of art. It can help to be thrown out of your comfort zone a bit, and when a film telegraphs its intentions in a way that can be related to other movies, you can feel like you’re being enriched while at the same time being lulled into a very safe zone.

I was excited by the idea of tossing people into an experience that did not have those kinds of semaphores. Where you ask, “Was this good? Was this bad? Is this inept? Is this intentional? Is this a comedy? Is this a drama?” You’re forced to fend for yourself, in the hopes that it would make the film a more impacting experience.

Most movies that focus on outsiders, losers or misfits tend to romanticize the character in a way that coddles the sensibilities of the audience, and makes them feel more tolerant of the character than they would be in real life. They appeal to the loser in everyone, and can give little tricks to the character to make them seem sympathetic. I was actively trying to avoid that. You run across people in life who seem off. The reaction this instills in you is almost Darwinian. Anyone who has ever worked retail knows exactly what I’m talking about. The kind of person who would stop you on the street and ask for directions, before you know it, before you’ve even thought about it, you instinctively find yourself saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t live around here,” even though you know exactly where they need to go. You want to get that person out of your territorial bubble. In life you can dismiss someone like that so easily, go about your business, and not really address whether that rejection was justified. By making the viewer spend time with someone like Keith, I hoped they would find grounds for sympathy, but not coerce someone into a sympathetic point of view. I mean, this guy is totally unable to read social cues, which isn’t a saintly quality by any means. But he isn’t a bad guy. He’s more of a lost soul.

* * *

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING:

"Whoever put this movie out should be ashamed of themselves. A stinky pile of rotting waste materials covered in rabid hairless rodents with a putrid liquid oozing from all orafices." -Netflix reviewer

"For viewers who like to know exactly where they stand with their characters, Frownland will be a discomfiting experience. For those who find exhilaration in work that challenges convention and reflects the sloppiness of real life, it will come as an electrocuting revelation. [...] Bronstein’s decision to embrace this aesthetic—a seemingly anachronistic decision for the digitally driven early 21st Century—results in a truly freakish tone. Combined with Paul Grimstad’s synthesized score and an absence of up-to-the-minute pop culture references, Frownland feels like a 1983 filmmaker’s vision of a rundown, futuristic New York City." -Michael Tully

"The movie's energy is so peculiar, its vision of socially maladjusted loners so scathingly funny and its creative choices so uncompromising that the result is not just memorable, but haunting... It's a horror film about everyday life in which characters who fail to recognize their own freakish aspects behave monstrously toward others." -Matt Zoller Seitz

"One of the most unusual and audacious American independent films ever made." -Richard Brody, The New Yorker

"This is personal cinema at its most uncompromising and fierce."
- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“When US independent film has become so drab, marching on Sundance to better reach Hollywood, it is high time it regained the essence it lost twenty years ago...This is the reason why Frownland is so important.” – Cahiers Du Cinema.

“There is some kind of demented brilliance at work here.”
- Scott Foundas, The Village Voice


dore mann frownland
frownland grimstad charles

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Doors and Windows

max ernst doors paul eluard
Max Ernst, 1923.
Painted doors from Paul Éluard's house in Eaubonne

* * *

window sliding board slideA siege tower was a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The user, typically a child, climbed the ladder to the top, sat down, and then slid to the bottom. Those trapped inside the fortification would witness this act and long to participate. The siege tower would then drop a gangplank between it and the wall, ensuring an easy slide. Professional siege towers were covered or enclosed by a sheath of plastic. This allowed slide participants to have more privacy and security when sliding.