Friday, June 23, 2006

THE SLIFR WEEKEND READING LIST



I’m in awe on a daily basis over just how much good writing about film and all its related cultural tributaries there is available to me, to us all. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Green Cine Daily, the one-stop lifeline for everything that’s important (and a whole lot that isn’t, but is still a lot of fun), goes so far beyond invaluable every single day that settling for descriptions like “indispensable” or “exhaustive” is to absurdly underrate its true value, which approaches the immeasurable. I applaud the work turned in every day by David Hudson, Craig Phillips and all the contributors at Green Cine Daily. Not only do they connect readers from all over the world with vital, timely, passionate writing on film, but they’ve created a sense of community among those readers that is unique. And not only that, they even throw the spotlight on this blog every once in a while, which I appreciate immensely, not only for the increased traffic that inevitably results, but for the sense that some very smart people have taken note of what’s going on here, which makes me think that every once in a while I do something at least in the realm of right. So, when a weekend like this one approaches, at the tail end of an exhausting work week, a week in which I’ve discovered, through Green Cine Daily and my own adventures in Web surfing, so much good stuff to read, I’m inclined to pay tribute to GCD by aping their source-gathering acumen and pointing the way toward my own list of stuff that I think deserves your attention. So if you want some interesting stuff to read this weekend and beyond, look no further than the following links, click and print. You’ll be glad you did.

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Right off the bat, here’s a link to a brand-new blog written by Jami Bernard, who was, until recently, the resident film critic for the New York Daily News. Jami’s site, entitled The Incredible Shrinking Critic, will be a place for her to continue writing about film, and also to continuing exploring her adventures in weight loss (hence the “shrinking” part—she lost 75 lbs.), which she chronicled in a popular series of columns for the paper as well. She’s a smart, snappy writer, and she’s already on the SLIFR sidebar, so I hope she’ll become a good friend of the site and all of you as well. Check it out—her very first post is still up, and I’ll bet she’d love to hear for you in the comments column. (By the way, her book, The Incredible Shrinking Critic : 75 Pounds and Counting- My Excellent Adventure in Weight Loss will be out in September. Sounds like she’s got some good advice for a “husky” gentleman such as myself. Hopefully, with Jami’s advice in hand, shedding those extra 50 will be a lot easier. It’s sure to be a lot more entertaining…)

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Brian Darr, proprietor extraordinaire of Hell on Frisco Bay, anticipates a forthcoming post on SLIFR with his excellent piece ”Fear of the Dark, highlighting some well-known and not so well-known exercises in cinematic horror that have caught his attention recently on the San Francisco festival and revival circuit. I’ll be linking to this piece again when I publish my own post. But why not have a look at it now and wish, along with me, that you were up in the Bay Area going to the movies with someone as knowledgeable and open to new filmic experiences as Brian?

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A few months ago I began to dip my toes into the work of Robert Bresson. And much more recently, Girish Shambu posted some fascinating thoughts on Bresson and the experience of watching his films:

“What I probably love best about Bresson is that for me, his films are projective surfaces. We don’t want a film to give us, all tied up with ribbons and bows, pre-digested and completely determined, an experience that does not include us or ask anything of us. An artwork should provide a place for the viewer to project herself into it, constructing meaning in a process of collaboration with the artist. (E.H. Gombrich in Art and Illusion calls this the “beholder’s share” of the aesthetic experience.) Bresson creates this projective surface, for one, by means of an aesthetic of withholding. He creates absences which draw us into the work; we find ourselves filling these absences for ourselves by projection.”

As always, with Girish’s posts, the insights don’t just stop with the post itself. He has a wonderful way of extending the thrust of his writing into the comments column, where a whole host of compelling writers from throughout the blogosphere tend to gather luxuriate in the glow of Girish’s welcoming spirit and offer potent, probing and insightful comments of their own. This column is no exception. Check it out, and then take the opportunity to discover all the other treasures Girish’s blog has to offer.

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On the subject of the current state of film criticism, one of the best sources for insight, as well as gathering further sources on the subject, has been Andy Horbal on his blog No More Marriages. And “(one) of the best regular movie critics in North America”, D.K. Holm, stays down on the farm and interviews himself in his terrific piece entitled ”Something New Under the Sun”, which originally appeared on GreenCine’s main Web page. Holm also provides a fascinating glimpse into a story which is continuing to unfold in Portland, Oregon:

”In the latest chapter of a long and evolving business tale that might make an interesting movie in itself, Nike co-founder (and current chairman of the board) Phil Knight announced on Wednesday that he plans to build an animation movie studio on a 30-acre "campus" in Tualatin, an upscale suburban area outside of Portland, Oregon. In his Oregonian story on the announcement, Mike Rogoway notes that the move underscores "the scale of Knight's filmmaking ambitions as Nike's founder tries to leverage the fortune he built in footwear into a movie studio that can hold its own against the established animation brands at Pixar and Dreamworks.”

You can read the entirety of Holm’s piece here and link to those Oregonian stories as well.

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Green Cine Daily recently provided pointers to two fascinating pieces on one of the most controversial movies ever made (a title somehow left out of Entertainment Weekly’s recent survey), both appearing in the latest issue of the online film journal Light Sleeper. According to Light Sleeper editor Saul Symonds:

“The first article is a roundtable between myself, David Ehrenstein, and Noel Vera. The second article, , was written a few months after this roundtable and picks up on several issues that were forming in my mind by the end of that discussion.
I initially submitted this article to
POSITIF whose editors’ replied, “We got to the conclusion that the subject of your text really doesn’t fit POSITIF tastes. Almost everyone here hates Salò, and not many are keen on Pasolini's last films in general.” I fully understand their position and their lack of fondness for Salò. I have to admit that I’m not particularly fond of it either.
But in the end, I believe that a critic has a responsibility to discuss films by directors’ of Pasolini’s stature, regardless of their personal misgivings or opinions as to the film’s ultimate value.”


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Also in the new issue of Light Sleeper is Aaron W. Graham’s review of Manoel de Oliveira’s A Talking Picture. Aaron is a good friend of SLIFR and one of its earliest regular readers and supporters, as well as heart and soul of his own blog, More Than Meets the Mogwai, and it’s my pleasure to lead you to a sample of his fine writing and observations about Oliviera’s newest film which, even at the director’s age (96), might not be his last. (Robert Altman, take note.)

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Speaking of friends of SLIFR, one of the best and brightest is That Little Roundheaded Boy who, on his eponymous site, has been on a bit of a creative tear of late. He’s already got a lengthy consideration of Tony Scott posted since I last checked in, which I haven’t had the chance to check out yet. But TLRHB has some greatstuff that I Have read which I just gotta let you know about. On the very day I bought the DVD, he posted thoughts on Jonathan Demme’s concert film Neil Young: Heart of Gold, which he calls “the most moving and surprising film experience I've had so far this year.” And when TLRHB says it, I tend to believe it. Also near and dear to my heart is a recent post of his on the cult film extraordinaire Two-Lane Blacktop, in which he makes a sobering observation that really hit home for me:

“Why is this movie so good, yet so limited in its appeal? On the surface, it cer
tainly fits J. Hoberman's summation of it as a film constricted by "aching landscapes and inert characters." I wouldn't argue with that, but I think it plays to the type of viewer who enjoys the challenge of filling in a filmmaker's intentionally blank spaces. And one who enjoys the feel and texture of '70s genre romanticism, a time when the audience for the drive-in and the art house were practically interchangeable. The movie is clearly an attempt to rip off
Easy Rider with cars instead of bikes, and to capitalize on the "alienated youth" market (A side note: I was thunderstruck again by the difference in what youth film culture meant then as opposed to today. Today, the youth market is practically infantile in its enthusiasms, while youth then was assumed to be much more nuanced and sophisticated.)”

(On another side note, to add to TLRHB’s typically fine consideration of Monte Hellman’s movie, here’s a reprint of an article I remember reading in a free magazine I picked up in a theater in 1971 that talked about Two-Lane Blacktop in some detail.. This was the first time I’d ever heard of the film. It would be years between reading this and my actually seeing the movie, a period of time during which the movie attained a sort of mythology in my mind that, because it was the kind of movie is was, did not necessarily deflate when I finally encounter the actual thing.)

And that’s not at all. That Little Roundheaded Boy also recently posted a thoughtful appreciation of the forgotten Raider of the Lost Ark, actress Karen Allen, that will snap into focus all those fuzzy, half-remembered reasons why you loved her in Raiders of the Lost Ark and National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Wanderers, and will get you wondering all over again why she never became a big star.

I think That Little Roundheaded Boy has got one of the best movie and pop culture blogs going right now, and I have a feeling he’s just hitting his stride. Stop waiting for articles like these from me to get over and find out what he’s got cooking. Just click him, bookmark him, and drink deep on a regular basis. It’ll be good for you. Trust me.

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And finally, for those interested in the Chatsworth School of Filmmaking, writer Rodger Jacobs, who once made his living penning screenplays in the none-too-cozy world of hard-core cinema, offers a suitably raunchy and jaw-dropping take on a day in the life of shooting a porn film in his short piece entitled (and it’s called this for a very good reason) ”She’s Not Clean.” (Seriously, if you lack a taste and/or tolerance for graphic imagery, you might want to think twice about clicking on this link. But then think again three times, because Rodger is a really good writer and the story is agonizing, pretty damn funny, and full of the kind of observational nuance that can only be provided by somebody who’s been there and has the eyes and the ears to tell it the way it should be told.)

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So goes this edition of the SLIFR Weekend Reading List. I hope your printer has lots of paper ready to go. Have a grand weekend. Lots of good stuff on the horizon for these pages—hopefully a goodly portion of it will go from distant silhouette to sharp, bright relief next week! Stay tuned!

7 comments:

David Hudson said...

Heavens, many thanks for all those kind words, Dennis!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

They are sincerely offered, David. I'm in awe of the work you guys do, and I'm very grateful to have it there for me every day. You've helped to open my eyes to a lot of great writers and writing that I might not ever have discovered otherwise. Cheers! And have a great weekend!

Brian said...

Dennis, I'm honored to be be highlighted in such an illustrious round-up. And I can't wait to read your forthcoming horror piece when it eventually arrives!

aaron w graham said...

Dennis,

Thanks so much for the kind words regarding the Light Sleeper piece, I'm always honored to be amongst your selected links.

I'm currently working on transferring a video that'll surely catch your eye, although it may be too big to put up at my blog, so I may have to youtube it. Hint: it involves your favorite film critic!

girish said...

Dennis, you're such a large-hearted, generous, and convivial spirit!

(I bet you host the rockingest parties--I mean "real" ones; I already know you do that with the "virtual" ones!)

Thank you for your oh-so-kind words.

I'm so happy to see all the marvelous, richly-deserved praise pouring in for your site and your writing from all over the blogiverse!

Maya said...

So do we get a weekend reading list every week now? That would be cool.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I'll see what I can do! :) Depends on how many good Godard stills I can come up with (gotta get me a DVD-ROM so I can do frame grabs!)