Monday, December 17, 2007

Andrew Blackwood's SLAP

Well, here we have it, a first for Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, the world premiere of a new film! It's by budding filmmaker, blogger and SLIFR O.G. Andrew Blackwood, it's entitled Slap, and I haven't the first idea what it's about or whether it's any good or not. (I do hope it's violent!) All I know is that it's four minutes long. And with that revealed, now we can go into this adventure together fresh as cow's milk. At Andrew's request, I'd like to invite all of you readers, lurkers as well as known entities, to watch the movie and then take a few moments to let Andrew know what you think of the project. He's open to all kinds of criticism, suggestions, praise and commentary. The only thing I ask it that the tone remain civil (however, in the odd event that there's something inflammatory in the movie, fire away!) and in the spirit of genuine interest in the movie. Hopefully it'll turn into a mini blog-a-thon, and perhaps Andrew himself will join in the conversation later in the day.

And now, without further ado, the world premiere of Andrew Blackwood's latest short film, Slap.

Uploaded by adrianbetamax

Well, that was interesting...



Anonymous said...

I love it. Are these two playing a game compared to the staring game? Instead of "Who will blink the first" it becomes "Who will start crying the first". I love how Andrew plays with the editing rules, especially the crossing the line one. It creates an amazing and interesting visual.

Anonymous said...

Stirring, Interesting, good acting, and minimalistic. That's a good recipe.

I like it very much, Andrew.

Was any harm done to an actor in this movie. :)


Anonymous said...

I love the idea and the actors have very compelling faces, however, I have a few small suggestions.

The background behind the girl kept changing, and it was distracting. I wondered if that was part of the concept or not. Also, the colors could be tweaked a bit to have the two look like they were in the same environment. It was visually jarring how the guy was under the shadow of a tree, but the woman was in the sunlight.

Also, what if the "flash" of black (that occurs when the person is getting slapped) was white instead? When we get smacked in the face (or even close our eyes momentarily), we see a white burst or a field that's a shade of gray approaching white.

It's just some nitpicky stuff. Great short, though!

Greg said...

as well as known entities A direct call out to Bill.

First, I just have to get this joke out of my system - Who wrote the dialogue? Okay, sorry.

I love short films of all kinds (this film reminds me of what Bill and I have been doing today on my own blog - hopefully the friendship will not end). Not that we've been slapping each other but in the film the two are smiling until the fisticuffs begin. It shows how two people can be on the same page until a perceived wrong occurs and a small slap can escalate into something more divisive and brutal. Although Bill and I backed off, at Bill's civil urging - he's a good egg.

Andrew - Have you ever watched Norman McLaren's Neighbors, his short film from I believe 1952. It's readily available on YouTube. If you haven't seen it give it a look. I felt the two of you were approaching the same idea from slightly different angles.

I remember going to short film festivals in the eighties and noticing by the early nineties that short films had started to become mini-movies, with plots, setups, 1st, 2nd and 3rd acts, etc. I like the old school of short film, like in Neighbors or here with Slap where the shortness of the length allows the filmmaker to be entirely experimental with his concept.

Great job Andrew.

And Dennis - Does this mean I can now start sending you my short films for world premieres? If so I promise: No home movies. And Bill better give me a good review.

Anonymous said...

"Slap" is sort of like Neil Labute's career reduced to a few minutes.

Jonathan - Don't sweat it. We're good. In fact, we're so good that if more people were like us, there would be no more wars. And people wouldn't slap each other, either.

Anonymous said...

found it a bit disturbing and revealing. when she slaps him, it dignifies her. she smiles. growing up mexican novelera, I was often used to seeing women slapping men to put them in their place -so to speak. i thought, he probably deserved it. it's innocent and she got her anger out in an acceptable way. when he slapped her the situation was different. usually a man who slaps a woman is seen as less of a man, and he better have a very good reason. seems like he slapped her as a reaction, as a response and not as a statement. we dont' see men hitting women especially on television -even action movies involving men and women fighting usually involve a female hero who ends up winning (the blows she get are more painful to the viewer and not highlighted). This film presents them as equals and yet it brings out that they are not.

Anonymous said...

Those are very interesting points, Rocio.

Anonymous said...

Please slap me for wasting my time watching that.

Anonymous said...

Who'd like to have the honor?

Greg said...

Why can't everyone be like us Bill?

Anyway, I'm just bursting with "short film" jokes that I never have the opportunity to use:

Is there a director's cut?

Okay, no more. But Andrew, are you going to chime in? I really enjoy short works like this (even if anonymous doesn't - is this the same anonymous always going off about Pauline Kael and pirates?) and I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on why you decided to make it and what inspired the idea.

And I'd like to thank Dennis for conveniently ignoring my question about SLIFR becoming the new home for Jonathan Lapper movie premieres. I promise I'd submit no more than five a week.

Anonymous said...

It was ... I like... the part... when he... when she...

Oh hell, it's more than I've managed to do, except for the drive-in clip mind you.

Interesting feel in how it made me wonder what it was that they were thinking. I wasn't sure if she was laughing or crying and that freaked me a little. The dude was obviously pissed at her violent outbursts towards him so his emotions were black & white.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Jonathan, you're far too sensitive! I've only just now been able to stop down from work to look in on what's happening here. But I'd sure love to see your films if you're willing to share. And that's not an easy thing to do, putting yourself out there like that-- even knowing that you're probably going to get some good constructive comments, you're also opening yourself up to the level of discourse "Anonymous" has offered us here today.

That said, I'd be interested in what Andrew has to say too... but only after I've had a chance to see the film myself. Gotta drive the family home from the office-- I'll see it tonight from the luxury of my own home.

Drive-in Dude: To which clip do you refer?

Greg said...

You mean you don't ignore your job to comment on your blog? You have willpower my friend.

If I had anything new I would gladly submit it. Give me six months and maybe I'll send something your way. I'll even throw in several unauthorized Kael quotes to make anonymous happy. And of course Bill will have to make a cameo.

Bob Westal said...

I thought it was an interesting exercise in violent minimalism, and worked as such, importantly the length was about right. (These kinds of films often have a way of going on and on. This stopped about when it needed to.) I will say that I could have done without the slo-mo..assuming that was Andrew's film and not my internet connection.

And Dennis got his violence!

Anonymous said...

Dennis... I meant all of the clips.

Realistically, from concept to shooting it is a deeply personal revealing prospect as far as a film project is concerned. Even more so when someone is learning how to use film to tell a story.

I made light of the issue when I said I only had made drive-in clips but the truth of the matter is I've worked on everything from a 3 minute PSA to a 19 minute 65mm project as a spec idea for Imax.

None of it was easy. I will admit some are easier than others and Andrew is rightly commended for his SLAP project. It's easy to be critical without knowing the cost of what was entailed to make a creative statement, if statement is the right description for Andrew's film.

As your beloved Pauline Kael said, great films are not always perfect, and by all means SLAP is not anyway close to being perfect. But it is a step that should be celebrated and reviewed, all at the same time.

Anonymous said...

For me, it's a rather tantalizing, rather maddening film--I thought the actors were both really good, and I liked the way the slaps were created visually (and was it just my computer, or did the sound drop out entirely partway through?). I have a hard time with the slapped face: I think it's such a final kind of gesture, in real life, and unless I really, really deserved it, I think my own reaction to being slapped in the kisser would be to hate and shun the slapper forever or take some other drastic action. All in all, after this and Andrew's last film, I want to see more of what he can do!

Anonymous said...

This is the filmmaker.
I had some questions I should have asked earlier.

(First, if you could, say things you liked about it, even if just small parts or elements.)

1) Does it feel too long?
2) What is the theme (if one)? Or what did you get out of it?
3) Is the lack of sound other than slaps uncomfortable or okay?
4) Better with music?
5) Do you sympathize with one of the characters more?
6) Any opinions on the ending? Or interpretations?

Some people already started to do this, but what questions do you have about it or for me?

Criticisms and overall opinions also welcome! (I have no problem with lack of civility. Anonymous's comment was also useful to me.)

- The Mysterious A) B|eta)m[ax (this is my pseudonym on Dennis's Web site.)

Anonymous said...

Not sure what Andrew was trying to say or accomplish. I was holding out for a "happy ending" or reconciliation, but didn't find either. Perhaps Andrew can reveal the answer.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of different emotions
going on there. The actors are incredible.
Their faces reflect it all. And we have a "condensé" of how fast things can degenerate. How violence can easily explode. In a very short time, Andrew shows us a variety of feelings that have been no doubt experienced by all human genre, even in dreams!
Bravo, Laurence

Anonymous said...

I really liked this film. It feels like an on-screen metaphor of a degeneration of a relationship. I think it captures all the stages of a failed relationship. From strangers to wanting to get to know each other, to mutual understanding, then conflict, escalating to the slaps, (the slow motion slaps kind of "The Matrix" style was comedic) then to unresolved issues and finally back to being strangers. It's very realistic to me but not in the literal sense.

For future purposes, I guess, for comic relief, I have to see this after I get dumped or after I dump someone. So I can have light of the situation in a comedic sense.

Good job, Andrew!

Anonymous said...

Andrew Blackwood has done it again with "Slap," his delicious take on contemporary gender wars and the orgiastic self-indulgent sadomasochism which underly them.

As with his "Elements," a stylistic homage to "Backdraft," Andrew again channels his inner Howard and gives us something with a sexual frisson that was so salient in "Far and Away." With each slap, we feel the anger, confusion and desire which are inherent in contemporary male-female relations. Are these slaps due to challenges in the workplace, the home, or just simple fetishistic hunger? Perhaps there's no one right answer. When the camera angles up towards the woman, are we being forced to confront femininity in a new and different way? Who knows? It's all positively "Da Vinci Code" in it's cinematic riddles.

Kudos to Andrew Blackwood! You've done it again!

Alex Jackson said...

I have no idea what everybody is talking about.

I thought it was positively dreadful. "Minimalism"? "Neil LaBute"? Are you serious?

The whole thing struck me as primitive and fatalistic in a very callow way. A relationship disintigrating into a slapping fight. Very enlightening! Very deep! I'm reluctant to truck out the M word (misogyny), as there is no way to really avoid it when depicting a man and a woman slapping each other (if he struck first and then she went at it, I would inevitably call it for being overly reactive misandrist). But it struck me as the work of a teenage boy who just broke up with his girlfriend.

I hated the use of sound. Only using the slaps came off as smart-ass to me, the death knell for the amateur filmmaker. It's cute.

I'm not quite sure why this is. To be fair, it does work into the film's ridiculous overly simplistic worldview-- the slap is ultimately the only thing that matters and the only thing we'll ever hear. Pain is the universal language.

Maybe LaBute is an apt comparison and it's only because he properly dramatizes his superficial fashionably nihilistic ideas that we don't see as much how limited his scope is. When a director like Blackwood limits himself to only a few elements his stupidity is more fully exposed.

I think he might have actually been serious, but it sure doesn't come out that way. The idea that he's treating this as all a joke might be my way of compensating for how intellectually and emotionally bankrupt the entire excercise is.

It's really a terrible terrible piece of work. Go back to the drawing board.

Anonymous said...

In a word, this is truth...truth in a bombasticaaly derivative package. Generally, when a message is delivered with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, I cringe. But if I am not mistaken, that is the whole point with this contemporary take on "I Love You Alice B. Toklas." Framed within that gestalt, it works, and it works well. My hat's off (and hand's off) to Mr. Blackwood, a guy who seems to know his way around a pillbox hat (thank you, Mr. Zimmerman).

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see we have Mr. Jackson, who is far from the first or the last young writer who discovers he can write, and decides that the best use of it is to be the nastiest critic he can.

Anonymous said...

I thought being the nastiest critic possible was the whole point of Film Freak Central.

Greg said...

Well, Alex, to be fair just because a movie does not have an extensive plot, dialogue or complicated editing doesn't make it bad. I understand the frustration of being a filmmaker and viewing other people's work and thinking, "That's so simple, mine is better." But except in cases of something working towards harmful or hateful propaganda I don't believe we should be so dismissive of other's work.

I viewed your film on your website and saw some good and some bad. I'm at work so I can't really take the time to view it again and give you a full review but I know from making short films the frustration of having an idea and not having the technology to get it accomplished. We resign ourselves to bad sound, bad dubbing, limited editing choices and poor lighting that never is used in any artistic way beyond illuminating the scene. That said, I think Slap is well shot and cleverly done. Yes, it's simplistic and I would not mention it alongside great short works I have seen, but for what it is it works.

In fact, it is so consise and minimal in its construction that there is little else to say about it beyond what most of us have written. As such I would like to hear from Andrew at this point a little about the background: What inspired this, what was his intention, what were the artistic choices and what had to be done due to limited resources, etc.

And I'll give your film another look as well later and give you feedback on your on page.

Greg said...

Make that last part - "own page"

Andrew Bemis said...

That there have been so many requests to hear about things that should be self-evident in the film reveals its limitations. That said, I got the same criticisms with my first short, so I can commiserate. So yeah, it doesn't really work for me, but don't give up.

Anonymous said...

Here's my take on Adrian's film.

Films, whether short or long, I believe are a representation of real life. No matter how clear the answer is or how evident the director makes the film with or without dialogues. As a viewer, I would often find myself curious about one part of the story, the actions, the expressions...It's human nature to be curious, to not be satisfied with what the visual perceives. It's the imagination that takes us to a different realm and forces us to confront the questions that boggles the mind.

It also should be taken in consideration, that most of the time, real life has no closures. There are no possible reconciliations...and unfortunately, no happy endings.

I see the film for what it is...a relationship that has reached the end of the line. Perhaps, the slap signifies a certain finality. An end, maybe it was too harsh....but it also represents the dialogue...of words exchanged in the past...of pain...and finally being able to unleash the anger on both sides.

As you know, I have limited experience with short films but as a complete outsider I loved it but of course, I loved elements more..:)

You're on the right track kiddo. My debt is now paid. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's the Kuleshov experiment with two faces. The only dialog (the only recorded sound!) is the device of the slap. We don't have to know the specific words that the slap represents. We get the gist. Good faces, too. A clever comment on those arguments that may or may not permanently end a relationship -- on the power of words, and on violence in the cinema!

Alex Jackson said...

Have to mention, this minimalist student film is much better than either my or Andrew's shorts. Also check out her music video Magic Position, a work I'm dying to talk about through the prism of The Diary of Anne Frank and Sofia Coppola, but am not quite sure how.

But generally, yes, because I have made a short myself I often see these minimalist filmmakers as simply not trying hard enough. They're not necessarilly any better than those that attempt to stuff in every visual effect and camera trick they know into the work.

Well, I do look forward to your review Jonathan. Show me no mercy.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm the filmmaker whose shorts are graciously recommended in Alex's previous comment.

First: for what it’s worth, I’m less bothered by Alex’s remarks than by the comments of several others, who lavish such praise as to corrupt the critical faculties of the artist. Better to get your teeth kicked in than to be spoiled, or else to be paralyzed by expectation.

Regarding the short, I don’t think it works. Simply, slapping must be the thing successfully described, or it must be used to successfully describe something else.

There is nothing in this short that captures the experience of being slapped. Slapping is about confrontation, damage, and social transgression. Yet the two characters never appear in the same frame to confront each other, nor are we, the audience, confronted: neither character looks into the camera, nor is there anything aggressive about the visuals or the audio that would make us feel as if our space had been invaded.

In the same vein, there isn’t any evocation of violence. (An egghead might say, the piece lacks any objective correlative.) If you don’t want the actors to actually slap each other, you have to find another way to describe the suffering. One—albeit, hacky— example would be to intercut her face with shots of a television being smashed with a crowbar. If you can successfully tie the idea of her slapped face with the idea of the smashed television—a real event documented—then that’s the beginning of an honest reaction in the viewer.

Finally, there is no attempt to evoke the response of society. What’s interesting about slapping is that it’s so crazy inappropriate. You don’t necessarily need the reaction shot of some stunned passerby; however, I feel like there needs to be a third party, SOME perspective, or else it’s just the sweet nothings of aliens.

If you don’t in fact want to describe the act of slapping, but to use slapping to describe something else... you would need to use real slapping. Again, an event must be captured, that’s what cameras are for.

Anonymous said...


Alex Jackson said...

Dammit Rachel, why do you have to make me love you so much?

Greg said...

I still say anonymous should write for Entertainment Weekly. Gotta be better than Owen Glieberman right?

Well Rachel probably gave the most useful review for Andrew so far. I agree as a filmmaker it is sometimes more helpful (though painful) to hear a straight story.

Alex, I really want to give your film another look and now Rachel's too. Just give me some time. I'm going through some busy year end stuff at work. Maybe if I ever get my stuff up, you could give mine a look. And anonymous could tell me it sucks. And then Bill could tell him to cram if full of walnuts.

Thom McGregor said...

MAB, I did like this short film. On par with Elements and your first one-shotter. I didn't get the tree one though. Anyway, I find slapping a very personal way of attacking someone. In other words, you only slap the ones you love. Or the ones you want to humiliate, which can be the same thing. If you really wanted to hurt a person or get some real steam out, you'd go to the knuckle sandwich or crowbar. Sometimes when I argue or discuss things with my loved ones, I have a compulsion to just devolve the whole thing and slap the other person. Whether they slap me back or not doesn't matter, though it seems only fair. I liked the actors' expressions, although the less close-up zoomy shots were kind of confusing to me. I maybe would have liked more bruises, a cut lip or something, tears, just to signify physical consequence, but that may have been above your budget. I like the no music, but loud slaps. And I would have liked a more emotional ending-- not hugging and making up, but showing the emotional consequence of when you take something between people who love/really like each other to that primal, physical level of assault-insult. It's never worth it, and nothing's ever the same again. Keep on keeping on, Andrew.

Anonymous said...

I liked the film. Expressions were great. Don't know if I'm comfortable with females getting slapped. Camera work was very good.

Anonymous said...

"Alex Jackson"-- If that is your real name. Outrageous! Your critique of Andrew Blackwood's marvelous oeuvre, "Slap," is beyond the pale!

I can see why you might have problems with it, judging from the twisted, occult sensibilities so pervasive in your "Hieronymous Bosh's Heck." The stick figure head which opens your piece (calling to mind the Masonic All-Seeing Eye) alerts the viewer to the Anton Lavey inspirations that simply litter your film. Note the use of the "Pig Man," an ancient symbol of the Prince of Darkness. Pig Man makes chairs disappear then kills without remorse. Blood splatters throughout the film, the sacred, sacrificial liquid of the Dark Realm. We later watch a woman commit ritual suicide, no doubt to sacrifice her immortal soul to the cloven-hoofed Bringer of Destruction. Finally, the piece ends with a dark-robed hand changing television channels. Clearly, it's Beelzebub showing us that he is the real power behind "Hieronymous." The film ends with the Fallen Angel finishing a bowl of cereal, which certainly represents the devouring of our souls.

Next Alex recommends "Roman: A Suitable Case for Treatment." Well, of course he does.

"Roman" is yet another demonic exercise, yet this time with overt sapphic currents. We see a lovely young lady, the very picture of innocence, recite from a book about the Manson Murders ("Helter Skelter"?), the very symbol of ritualistic madness. Off screen another woman begins to tempt her, whisper to her, battle her, till she succumbs to this sexual predator's aggression and ends as little more than a puppet of the other woman's demonic charms!

Shame on you, "Alex"! This isn't cinema, it's perversion! Where "Slap" invites us to use film as a tool of intellectual exploration, your two films simple tempt us to corrupt our souls and bodies in a cataclysm of dark and carnal mysticism!

Greg said...

This premiere now officially rivals the riotous premiere of The Rite of Spring.

Dennis, I applaud you.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

And I didn't even have to put out the "Free Beer" sign!

Jonathan, you get the prize for Best Individual Comment for this thread!

I've been following all this with some amusement and lots of interest, and I promise to check in later this evening with some thoughts.

Anonymous said...

That is such bullshit. The Best Individual Comment Awards are just another popularity contest.

Greg said...

Well Bill to be fair I started sending out the "For Your Consideration" reminders to Dennis after my first comment. You gotta know how to lobby in this town Bill.

And now I really want to see Rachel's film. Apparently, according to the Baron, she was born of a jackel and her film's content will burn my soul away and force me to speak in tongues. Cool. Nice plant work Alex or Rachel.

See Bill, they know how to lobby.

Anonymous said...

cool short film.

btw, has The Shamus' blog disappeared off the face of the interweb? did i miss something?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Slap seems the least interesting of the three movies Andrew has made that I have seen, and that may have more to do with my own tendency to respond more completely to the emotional content of The Young Mother or the Herzogian influence of tragic observation in Elements than to the more rigid experimentation of Slap. That said, I like the idea of sealing off such a definitive and devastating physical response from all context and examining it in close-up for what it is. The existence of the relationship is all the context Blackwood gives us, and it’s enough. (There has to be a relationship to another being, the giver and receiver of the hit, otherwise the definition of “slap” takes on onanistic shadings that obviously Andrew is not interested in here.) It’s an experimental film, which implies the testing of ideas (Jim’s evocation of Kuleshov was, I thought, particularly astute) as well as the learning curve of the filmmaker in terms of technical facility and orchestration of ideas.

Some of Andrew’s ideas work better than others—the shifting of emotions on the man’s face juxtaposed with the woman’s deadpan, almost eerie separation from the physical invasiveness of the slap is suggestive how differing personalities can process devastating events in a relationship; I prefer this strange interplay to the overwrought slow-motion effects near the end. But I’m at a loss to think of any student film, or amateur film, or however else you want to characterize it, that isn’t uneven—it’s the nature of learning, of not knowing it all, of striving to find a voice that isn’t merely a compendium of homages and references to other films.

It should come as no major revelation to anyone here to discover Andrew is a friend of mine. And to paraphrase Rachel, Andrew’s not looking for pats on the back, and anything less than honesty is of little use to him as he continues to figure out what he wants to do with film/video as an at form. Looking at them as objectively as I can, it seems to me that Andrew’s movies are as far from flawless as they are from being aesthetic crimes. I found Elements moving and beautiful and horrifying, and the essential humanity of The Young Mother grabbed me even as I sensed that it had nowhere to go. (Andrew found it amusing that my major criticism of the film, a one-shot film dependent on the choreography of its actors and placement of the camera, was one of editing—I thought it would have been better served by a cut to black rather than the sort of visual fizzle it ended up with.)

Slap is more detached, perhaps easier for some to dismiss, and I don’t think it has anything like the power of the other two movies. But it’s clearly not the act of a smart-ass; and its aestheticizing of the primacy of a particular form of human contact is, despite Rachel’s objections, nothing new. For me the movie is a clinical examination of whether it’s possible to evoke the dynamics of a relationship when the actors clearly don’t occupy the same space, when all we see is the end result of conflict, not the conflict itself. It makes for a better idea than it does a film, at least as Andrew has realized it, but it’s hardly dishonorable or wrongheaded or terrible.

To this point, Rachel clearly has trouble with the idea of the actors never appearing in the same frame, but she seems to never consider that the separation might have been part of Andrew’s approach to the subject. And here are some of her other objections:

“There isn’t any evocation of violence. (An egghead might say, the piece lacks any objective correlative.) If you don’t want the actors to actually slap each other, you have to find another way to describe the suffering. One—albeit, hacky— example would be to intercut her face with shots of a television being smashed with a crowbar. If you can successfully tie the idea of her slapped face with the idea of the smashed television—a real event documented—then that’s the beginning of an honest reaction in the viewer.

Finally, there is no attempt to evoke the response of society. What’s interesting about slapping is that it’s so crazy inappropriate. You don’t necessarily need the reaction shot of some stunned passerby; however, I feel like there needs to be a third party, SOME perspective, or else it’s just the sweet nothings of aliens.”

Maybe I’m confused, but Rachel seems to be reviewing not Andrew’s film here but instead letting us know how she would have made it. I absolutely agree that a cut to a crowbar smashing a television would have screamed Film Production 101, and surely Alex and others would have been quick to let us know they recognized this as a silly cliché. As for that third-party perspective, how else but to describe the camera itself here? And what other option would there be by the reaction shot of some stunned passer-by. Rachel, you’re asking Andrew to violate the visual terms of his movie in order to satisfy an intrusive concession to the viewer and avoid his movie coming across like “the sweet nothings of aliens,” whatever that means. Why is the response of society so important in a film that has been so obviously, intentionally distilled down to practically primordial, utterly personal responses? With my own reservations stated, I think Andrew’s experiment works better than you do, Rachel, but however much I may agree or disagree with your assessments, I appreciate the level of graciousness you brought to your comments.

I wish I could say the same for Alex:

” I hated the use of sound. Only using the slaps came off as smart-ass to me, the death knell for the amateur filmmaker. It's cute. I'm not quite sure why this is. To be fair, it does work into the film's ridiculous overly simplistic worldview-- the slap is ultimately the only thing that matters and the only thing we'll ever hear. Pain is the universal language.

Maybe LaBute is an apt comparison and it's only because he properly dramatizes his superficial fashionably nihilistic ideas that we don't see as much how limited his scope is. When a director like Blackwood limits himself to only a few elements his stupidity is more fully exposed. I think he might have actually been serious, but it sure doesn't come out that way. The idea that he's treating this as all a joke might be my way of compensating for how intellectually and emotionally bankrupt the entire excercise (sic) is.”

Alex, I got all this from your comments: Andrew’s movie is the work of a smart-ass and employs “cute” techniques that are “the death knell of the amateur filmmaker.” (Yet you’re not quite sure why this is.) The film’s worldview is ridiculous and overly simplistic—it remains unclear how much depth one should expect from a four-minute film, yet it is clear you prefer you prefer fashionably nihilistic ideas to be “properly dramatized.” Whereas Andrew is worthy of crucifixion just a sentence or two earlier for being simplistic, you then lambaste him for not being ambitious enough and thus more fully exposing his “stupidity.” Finally, the movie is “intellectually and emotionally bankrupt.”

Not to be presumptuous or anything, Alex, but I’m wondering what inspired all the vitriol. Your comments are very colorful, but they don’t connect to much about the film itself. It’s like Pete Hammond of Maxim saying “It’s a scorching, sizzling, emotional roller-coaster of a film!” That kind of comment tells us a lot about the writer’s love of using splashy phrases, and perhaps a little about how he likes to hear his own words jangle about in his head—or on a comments page—but it tells us precious little about your understanding of what did or didn't work in the film. This kind of scorched-earth approach to criticism is all about drawing attention to the critic at the expense of a relatively easy target. Except that the target is never so easy as it is to string together a bunch of loud, clever rants in the name of honest criticism. The irony is, Andrew invites serious dissection of his work, as any of us should, but that criticism is of far less value when it can’t be connected to specifics.

Your tone really strikes me as representative of what one can expect from Film Freak Central, a site headed by a very smart critic with a Rushmore-sized chip on his shoulder. Strange that one of his contributors should sound so much like him. One of the comments received on the link to your post about your own film, provided by yet another FFC sound-alike, sums up the level of name-calling, name-dropping discourse this all boils down to:

“...unlike that slapping thing which a monkey could've made (a primate that has seen Ozu and van Sant, probably even Bela Tarr, but a primate nonetheless). Its (sic) a BS art-film conceived in a vaccum (sic) of and as a reaction to an incestuous art world. Its (sic) not fucking real.”

I prefer Andrew Bemis’ take on the whole thing. I don’t think Blackwood’s movie entirely works. Neither does Bemis. However:

“Alex Jackson hated it so much that he posted his own film over at the Film Freak Central blog, though Hieronymous Bosch's HECK shares more spiritual DNA with Slap than Mr. Jackson would probably care to admit. But as for the question "Who's more pretentious?," the answer is me.”

Ah, modesty and self-deprecating humor. Like a tall glass of ice water, they go a long way.

Alex Jackson said...

Tell you what, Dennis. I'll come back tomorrow with a more thorough analysis of the film and full response to your allegations.

Don't have much time to do so right now.

Greg said...

I can't believe in a comment that long you didn't mention Bill or me once. I mean, shouldn't it just be expected?

Seriously though, nice comment. Now let's do another premiere. Bill, you got anything?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Anonmyous: Check the Shamus out under his given nom de plume at Welcome to L.A.

Alex: Thanks for coming back. I really would appreciate hearing anything further you have to say, and I'm sure Andrew would too. I'm thinking there's the seeds of another interesting post here, where three or four short films could be posted together and commented upon. Interested? Jonathan?

Jonathan: I was just gonna let you and Bill fight amongst yourselves. I already gave you "Best Of" props.

I'm tired. Should I really schlep all the way to Pasadena to see that new Sidney Lumet movie, or should I just go to bed?

Anonymous said...

Jonathan - I think Dennis is sick and tired of us hogging his comments with off-topic blather.

Dennis - I thought the Lumet film was a bit of a disappointment, but Hoffman is through-the-roof good. I shall make no comment regarding Ms. Tomei.

Anonymous said...

It would be better to hear from this Andrew dude than have other people defend him.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bill, Jonathan:

No comment re Ms. Tomei? Come on! You can't do that to me. Besides, I ended up not seeing the Lumet movie. I dragged my feet around here and went to see Sweeney Todd instead. For once, cultural ignorance pays off. I had no idea where the story was headed, the music was wonderful, Depp and Bonham Carter were superb and sung such difficult songs plenty well enough-- two of Burton's finest hours. Now I'd like to go back and hear recordings of Len Cariou, Angela Lansbury and others.

And don't worry about hogging my comments columns, boys. There's always enough room for cheerful chatter around here, especially after this week! I spent about four hours this evening compiling the Best of Mr. Shoop's Summer Quiz, and you both made quite a nice showing. Only about halfway done, and I gotta finish so I can post the new quiz tomorrow!

Oh, and re: Mr. Blackwood, I'd say, if he wants to chime in and say anything further he's more than welcome. I'd rather hear him talk about his intentions with the movie than, say, Eli Roth chat up his. But if he felt the topic had been exhausted I'd respect that as well. All in all, I think this has been a pretty constructive forum and an interesting exercise in what forms a critical look at a short film no one's ever heard of or seen before can take. Not that the thread is finished, but I would like to thank one and all for participating.

Anonymous said...

Dennis - in the interest of keeping your blog classy, and trying to bring your blog rating down to at least an R, I had to refrain from commenting on Marisa, but since you insist, here is what I've been telling everyone who asks, UNEDITED FOR CONTENT:

Holy hell, she sure is pretty. Her performance is hit and miss, but boy... I remember hearing her say once a long time ago that she was a no-nudity kind of actress. I would like to thank her for reconsidering.

Well, you asked for it, Dennis. Now your blog will probably get an NC-43.

Oh, and I'm seeing "Sweeney Todd" today. I'm pretty excited for this movie, and I hadn't expected to be.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

It was worth geting up early for that, Bill!

Anonymous said...

Well, I thought to myself, if Dennis gets up early this morning and checks his comments, he's going to want something top-notch, so I gave that one everything I had. I'm glad it paid off.

"Sweeney Todd" was excellent! Wow. Nice job, Tim Burton.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to everyone for commenting and especially for even watching it! As Dennis said in his comment, perhaps it is "rigid experimentation" and the "testing of ideas" so I should be even more thankful for people watching.

Gur, Blaaagh, Laurence, Thom, and Emerson all complimented the acting or the faces, and I should definitely thank Paul Tifford and Luz María Utrera for helping me make the film. They did a fantastic job, especially since they were not filmed at the same time and could not play off each other's expressions-- and what's more were not even made aware of the plot or the reasons behind what they were doing! So they were extremely good sports for doing this.

Lapper, I watched "Neighbors" (McLaren, 1952) on YouTube (click link to check it out!) and realized I had seen it around 10 years ago in a Super8 film class. It must have inspired me to do a stop-motion movie I did back then. It was too vague in my memory to have played any influence here, and his film's subject is broader, talking about bigger issues like war. I think mine just focuses on these two people's relationship.

Your analysis of it was right on (your own argument with Bill, the “perceived wrong” and escalation), as was Asha's (realistic but not in a literal sense), Bel's (no closures, slaps represent dialogue or pain) and Emerson's (slaps/dialogue, Kuleshov). (I’d like to hear “confused”s response about whether these helped or not, rather than answering directly.)

Bel also said no matter how short or long, a film is a representation of real life, and I've been reading Alexander Mackendrick's On Film-making, where he says any scene in a film should be a microcosm of all the main themes of the movie. He advocates being able to make short films first, because you can include all the themes of longer works. In other words, they’re both saying the film shouldn’t get a pass for being short, and that it can/should be analyzed just as fully as a longer work. Emerson’s Kuleshov reference was apt since the actors were filmed separately, and I think it’s especially the case in the early scenes in the film, where the different facial expressions were juxtaposed fairly sharply. Kuleshov’s other fascination was about how viewers would believe people to be in the same locations, even when shot miles away, merely through editing, and so I had that giddy filmmaker feeling of putting this together out of disparate elements (almost like blocks I assembled together), but indeed that is not anything that the viewer cares about—just Kuleshov! There’s another Kuleshov experiment mentioned in Mackendrick’s On Film-making [pg 205-6] where he filmed actors in different parts of Moscow and intercut a shot of the White House followed by one of them going up some steps and he was completely amazed that viewers bought that they went into the White House. Seems silly to us nowadays, but I had some of that feeling on this film, which is a very distracting feeling because the viewer couldn’t and shouldn’t care less about that.

I've already said more than I intended, because I think the film is the communication, and it was important for me to sit back and not comment to see how effectively I communicated by listening to your discussion. It seems I did communicate effectively, but for many they wanted more-- more elements, a grander theme, a better approach. When I look at it I see that there needs to be more than just the slapping. For instance, when it goes to slo-mo, that is supposed to be more visually interesting, but it’s dissatisfying because it doesn’t impart new information (in the story, plot, or a new idea). So, yes, it's too simplistic, too much of a working out of ideas.

This was made for a filmmaking class taught by Matt Harrison who did a fantastic job and was very inspiring. Some of his assignments were brilliant, especially the very first assignment he gave us, which was to do a single-shot film, black and white, no sound and you can’t move the camera in any way (I invite any aspiring filmmakers out there to go do this one right now and post the results online!). This kept it simple so that you got the sense of accomplishment of making a film very early on in the class, which is very important, and it obviously stripped out so many aspects of filmmaking and brought you down to an early Lumiere level, which is an extremely healthy limitation. For this latest film project (my “Slap” film), he randomly assigned each of us a title, and after that, anything goes. So I could have done a whole story with dialogue and a moving camera, etc., so if it’s too much rigid experimentation the blame is mine alone! I highly recommend that anyone interested in filmmaking sign up for Matt Harrison’s classes at UCLA Extension. He’ll have you making films in no time! The Mackendrick book was from his class, and it was a brilliant choice. I’ve just finished reading the rest of it after the class ended. (Also, in response to Lapper, nothing was eliminated due to limited resources, but instead I was engaging filmmaking using its most limited and basic elements. So there were no further ideas that were curtailed by funding, but I perhaps limited my scope in the initial idea.)

On a technical level, I got to try out some new things (for me) with big close-ups and staring directly into camera-- and whether the audience would view them as looking at each other (apparently it worked so well for Rachel that she said they weren't even looking into camera!) and whether it was believable that they were slapping each other. It seemed for most viewers that worked, or they at least went with it. I appreciate Matt Posey and Thom's and others' technical comments about the backgrounds, etc.

I also like Rocio's analysis earlier up in the comments which mentioned that they were represented as equals, but that this was not comfortable when they were slapping, and she further mentioned Hollywood action movies with females fighting (and usually winning) and the filmmakers downplaying the blows they receive. This was fascinating to me, and also many people have told me they didn't like the woman being slapped in mine. I view men and women as equals and didn't give any thought to this incongruity, but it's fascinating to me. I think, however, his first slap of her is more violent (the way my editing came out), so it may be that the film itself has manipulated the viewer to feel the slapping of the woman in this particular film is too violent. Anyway, I thought Rocio's comment was fascinating and I would have liked to hear more discussion of it. (Maybe it’s dependent on whether you view the slaps literally or not.)

A quick note about Alex Jackson. In re-reading his comments I noticed he actually did take some time to analyze the film, but this was overshadowed for me by the incendiary bombs he threw (usually working himself into an excited frenzy and then capping it with some gigantic explosion of vitriol at the end of a paragraph). I think your film writing would benefit from consideration of whether you need to throw those bombs or not. Your writing comes off as passionate enough without them, and they are indeed distracting from your more substantive comments.

I loved the "primate/Ozu/van Sant/Bela Tarr" quote over on Film Freak. That was awesome! I loved that someone could manage to divine an influence of such high-brow filmmakers in the work of a primate! (I do understand how that is indeed possible, so I’m not saying they’re wrong either).

Lastly, I want to thank Dennis for taking me up on this crazy idea to do a movie premiere! This was enormous fun, and it was beneficial for me, and it was great to see people who might be new to analyzing films put pen to paper for the first time. Keep it coming! Usually you just see small works like this on YouTube and pass on by, but here there was real discussion (despite how worthy or unworthy the film was of it), and I would be excited to see film bloggers from time to time engage short works that are debuted on YouTube or DailyMotion. I think there is a film workshop benefit for the filmmaker and there's a benefit to film critics, too, in going in depth on smaller things that could help with their bigger picture reviews (if Mackendrick is right about each scene in a good film being a microcosm of all its larger themes).

- The Mysterious A) B|eta)m[ax (Andrew Blackwood)

Alex Jackson said...

OK. So I viewed the film again. I still hate it. I'll try now to explain my feelings more fully. This time in Word first to appease Mr. “Sic” Happy over there. This is the my definitive review of Slap, but I don’t think I’ll be contradicting what I said earlier.

Now first, and I don't think that I'm stating the obvious exactly, I believe that the process of film criticism begins by first identifying the film’s subject (there will often be many) and then identifying the point of view toward the subject. It’s more simple than “What’s he trying to say”, it’s “how does he feel about this”.

With Slap, the only subject that I can identify is “romantic relationships between men and women“. I can’t really see the film being about anything else. So what is Blackwood saying about romantic relationships. What is his feeling about it? Well, that romantic relationships between men and women inevitably de-evolve into slapping fits basically. By rendering only the slaps in sound and not having any dialogue, he‘s essentially suggesting that this is the slapping is not merely the only relevant form of communication, it’s the only form of communication period.

Note also that he doesn’t develop either the man or the woman as characters. They haven’t any real identity outside of “the man” and “the woman”. He doesn’t even give them names. And so they come off as universal and archetypical. Meaning that Blackwood believes that ALL romantic relationships will inevitably devolve into bouts of emotional cruelty. This notion is offensively simplistic. The dynamics of interpersonal relationships are substantially more complicated than Blackwood gives them credit for. Nor does he suggest

I mentioned that it comes off as the work of a teenage boy who just broke up with his girlfriend. As I published that somebody even said that they would consider watching this after their next break-up. But films like Slap, with their profound, universal, nihilism actively work to retard personal growth. Watching it after a break-up means indulging in a fatalistic fantasy where no relationship ever works out thereby releasing the viewer of any culpability for the dissolution of the relationship. You think “It’s not my fault, this is just how it always happens” and do no work in examining why your relationship didn’t work out.

Furthermore, Blackwood states in a later comment that he sees men and women as equals. This is a ridiculous comment and willfully naïve. A comment of some sort is implied when he has the woman slap the man twice without provocation. First, in jest and then in earnest. I said there is no way to avoid something like this when making a film about a man and a woman slapping one another. But I don’t think that excuses it. By not giving his characters any personal dimensions he emphasizes the importance of their gender. And so when the woman slaps the man, it’s all women slapping all men everywhere. If there’s another message to Blackwood’s film it’s clearly that “Women are heartless cunts”.

I think the reason that the sound of the slaps seemed smart-ass to me is because, along with the exaggerated facial impressions of his cast, it reminded me of the old Batman series with Adam West. The film is called “slap” and the only sound effect is slapping. It seemed a little too on the nose for me, like he was making fun of the idea of high-concept minimalist student films.

How much depth do I expect from a four-minute film? The film didn’t need to be four minutes. Blackwood could have made it half an hour long, an hour long, two hours long if he thought the length would better articulate his perspective toward his subject matter. If he wasn’t able to convey his feelings in the four minute window with his available resources, he shouldn’t have made the film. That’s absolutely no excuse.

Anonymous said...

for Alex:

Although I don't really approve of harsh criticisms. I am amazed, however, at your ability to hit the bull's eye in this case.

It seems as if you know the director pretty well with your no-bs (forgive my language) analysis.

This line from your comment...

"Meaning that Blackwood believes that ALL romantic relationships will inevitably devolve into bouts of emotional cruelty. This notion is offensively simplistic. The dynamics of interpersonal relationships are substantially more complicated than Blackwood gives them credit for." so disturbingly real. It makes me wonder if this is a reflection of how the director's mind works. I had a totally different take on the short film but seeing it from your perspective makes a lot of sense.

Was this made based from a totally fictional sense? Or was it taken from a personal experience?

Another quote is...

"I mentioned that it comes off as the work of a teenage boy who just broke up with his girlfriend."

If this is true (I'm hoping not!)...then poor woman. To have such a short film identified with her is highly insulting and morally degrading.

And when you added...

"Watching it after a break-up means indulging in a fatalistic fantasy where no relationship ever works out thereby releasing the viewer of any culpability for the dissolution of the relationship. You think “It’s not my fault, this is just how it always happens” and do no work in examining why your relationship didn’t work out."

This is how inexperienced people deal with relationships in order to force themselves to move on. In time, they do grow up and realize it's not the way the cookie crumbles.


"If there’s another message to Blackwood’s film it’s clearly that “Women are heartless cunts”.

This, I believe, is over the top. I do agree with some of your comments I quoted before the last one. I don't believe that the director would form such a low opinion of women to think of them as heartless cunts.

If he based this from experience. He might have come from a position where the outcome of the experience led him to deal with the conflicting emotions in this way.

You always have to take into consideration that the director has an imagination that challenges him to go against the norm. To keep on trying what society might not find amusing and highly degrading. What makes people unique is their ability to put something out there for the world to scrutinize. The more politically incorrect something is...the more attention it draws in.

As a woman, and the director's friend (I think), the irony of me seeing this objectively is laughable.

On a highly personaly note...I look at the film and I see a work of art. Yes, Alex, you may consider it trash...or a film that should never have been made. I watch it with amusement because I've seen relationships that are unfortunately similar to this. We're only human after all....I'm sure a lot of people goes through a period of emotional stupidity before realizing that mistake.

Sometimes you have have to lose someone in order to find yourself.

This film is the perfect example.

This wasn't made with the intention of pleasing everybody. Nor was it made to show the "proper way to deal with relationships"

It is what it is. A short film. No real mystery behind it. :)

Okay I rest my case. As always I've written way too much. I'm now officially done with this blog commenting.

And for Adrian...

Like I said earlier...keep on making those films. It sure as hell gets better and better from here. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that the director would form such a low opinion of women to think of them as heartless cunts.
He’s talking about the piece, Bel. People make sexist pieces all the time without meaning to. It’s because everyone is sexist, and most people tend to not think about gender dynamics in a persistent and thoughtful way, and thus will make pieces that hate women, oblivious to what they’ve done. (Or else they spend all their time thinking up justifications for their own shitty attitudes, but that’s a different problem.)

It doesn’t mean that Andrew is worse than anybody else, it just means that the act of filmmaking has revealed his latent sexism. Believe me, it happens to the best of us.

I don’t necessarily adhere to Alex’s line that it’s sexist because the woman slaps first. I don’t really care who slaps first, as I feel the filmmaker doesn’t care. The reason I find it sexist is his general treatment of the subject, rendering “slapping” into a nonviolent act, thus romanticizing it. (Let’s not call it sexist then; let’s say it glosses over the dominant-submissive paradigm that comprises sexism.)

It is, to get maybe “over the top” about it, as if he’d made a (non-ironic) ballet about rape. Dennis responds that I don’t understand Andrew’s approach to the subject. I do, and I respect that he’s adhered to strict visual terms. Everyone could use that much discipline. I just think that as an approach to its subject the piece is fundamentally dishonest. Again, it happens to the best of us: we make an art object that may be internally consistent, but withers upon real contact with the world.

As a piece, I feel that Andrew’s plays little better than propaganda: we all want to believe that people can’t hurt each other, that we’re each cordoned off, invincible in our own frames, that violence is nothing but a funny sound effect and an unhappy facial expression. As someone who has regularly gotten the shit kicked out of her I can assure you that that’s not what violence is, either as an act received or employed. In that regard, Andrew’s piece is more like a Disney movie than any thoughtful treatment of the subject.

I’d ask him to talk to people who’ve suffered violence in their lives, to read about violent relationships, visit , then try to make the piece again.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Merry Christmas, everybody!