Saturday, October 31, 2009

Two Jacks. Or, No way, Jose!

by Claire Twisselman

Call me a grinchess: I don't care! Most of the people I love the most live for Halloween. I don't. Straight up. In fact, it's pretty basic: I hate it. Sure, I've had some fun times. But, seriously, as I've gotten older, rampant costuming and no-mystery ghoulish behavior makes me make a "that smells" face. And part of my scowl comes from everybody being an asshole, insisting on my participation. I don't dress up. Stop poking my ribs, jerks! Do you want me to wear nothing? To get drunk and make out with my best friend? No thanks. And I've worn fishnets. Hell, I've even made out with my best friend. But, you know what? The best thing about Halloween is the pumpkins—and the start of pumpkin pie season. So that's what I've done this year, and that's what I'll do tonight: make faces with a knife. Also, I'll watch The Shining on my uncle's ginormous television in his basement with the sound turned up way loud. Yup: I'll be avoiding the doorbell.


[Later I might whip my own cream for a slice of my aunt's perfect vegan pie. Click that image above for a similar recipe I found, looking for a picture since I left my camera in my friend's back seat last weekend.]

Friday, October 30, 2009


by Steven Boone

It all comes down to what you believe, because none of us knew the man.

I believe Michael Jackson was a good guy. I believe he never harmed anyone's child. I believe he was one of those rare people who tried to apply his otherworldly talent to healing some of the basic, eternal problems of humanity. I believe he was a great man of strong constitution and boundless vision. I believe that the incessant lies told about him were his indirect murderer.

Moonwalk is the autobiography he wrote in 1988.

I believe David Lynch is the filmmaker who should make the inevitable Moonwalk movie. Lynch's capacity for empathy; his ability to describe alienation, suffering and loneliness in spiritual, visual terms; his American ear; his understanding of corporate show business as a place where dreams are nourished with candied arsenic... make Lynch the best equipped among marquee-value auteurs to say something vital about Michael's life and death.

Here are some notes and sketches for the Lynch adaptation:

Originally posted at BIG MEDIA VANDALISM

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Convergence for your keening kith (10/28/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

they feel, duh

Losses roll, barrel, fall and float so
Species size up and history can hope.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #13

by Ryland Walker Knight

hold it together
—Don't be a deer, darlin'

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Viewing Log #17: Burn off by now already [10/19/09 - 10/25/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—What's a womb? That's a home?

  • The Informant! [Steven Soderbergh, 2009] Totally daft-deft stab at greed. Maybe the most ironic film of the decade? Easily the best thing Sodeyface has done since The Limey. But where most of the rest of S.S.'s career is about self-aware charisma, Matt Damon's Whitacre isn't charismatic so much as crazy, a perfect boob, caught inside his own tape loop confessional; it's still about acting, but this film is more about delusions than anything. I feel like I could go see it again tomorrow and the next day—and then the next day, too.

  • Antichrist [Lars Von Trier, 2009] I watched the prologue, then struggled to stay awake for the next twenty minutes of Charlotte Gainsbourg jumping all over Willem Defoe. I'll have to get back to you on this one.

  • 36 vues du Pic Saint Loup [Jacques Rivette, 2009] Damned flawless. Boy do I wish I'd seen this on film for the first time (you were right, DP), but I trust that pleasure, yet to be had, will come to pass a lot sooner than I expect. I will write more soon, maybe, after I finish some projects.
  • Bright Star [Jane Campion, 2009] I'll have more to say later, in another space, but in this right here I'll say, hey, this is nice; and, for good measure—I'd say this if she was a stranger—Martha's recent piece at The Auteurs gets at this sweet thing but good. Further, it was great to see on a big screen, and mostly alone, as my reintroduction to cinema-going in a big city.

  • Eyes Wide Shut [Stanley Kubrick, 1999] # Total fkng masterpiece. Very Rivette, it strikes me, now, with its hidden worlds and masks. Otherwise, very Kubrick, duh, with its fluid and (near) fish-eyed camera; with its dissolves; with its compassionate distrust of the human (and excoriation of male pride); with its color and compositional eye; with its musical arrangement; with its acetate wit; and with its quite "flawless" acting. Another rarity that deflates fantasies but keeps hope alive that marriage is a viable way of life in this world of temptation and commodity-fixation.

—Out to dry

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bunch your matter and count the pages.

by Ryland Walker Knight


Back to widget time. Really. Just want to sell some books, even if this internet thing is part of the reason why lovable stores like Black Oak (and Cody's, of course) are long gone. So, here's some stuff you should read, and probably own, if you haven't/don't already, along with some quick plugs for some DVDs (released and yet to be released) that I'll be bringing up and blogging about, again, in greater depth, soon. Cough:

  • As inspired by his recent Fresh Air interview, which was amazing for how moving it was on top of how hilarious it was, I want to nod at what Tracy Morgan was helping sell: his memoir, I Am the New Black.

  • Since I took off that Library of America collection, but couldn't leave off my man, here's a plug for the paperback I own of Pale Fire, which may be the best book ever.

  • Georges Perec's Species of Spaces is pretty phenomenal, as is most of his work, and this Penguin edition is an affordable introduction to one of the great Oulipo brains (and hairdos) to create language fun full of wit and smarts. I think I like Perec more than Queneau, if that matters.

  • Coming out of Bright Star the other day, I spent a lot of energy thinking about how much I wanted to read all kinds of Keats. I did not buy any, and may not yet, but I may check this Complete Poems and Selected Letters put out by Modern Library Classics. [Update: You can also get the poems, all of them, for free right here.] The Brawne-inspired poem that gives Campion her title is quite lovely, and Ben Whishaw reads it well; recites it well, too, laid against Abbie Cornish's breast. Still thinking about the film...

  • And, for good measure, here's some movies I'll be writing about shortly: from The Criterion Collection, Wim Wender's perhaps-pinnacle (or a high point never touched again?), Wings of Desire, and Chantal Akerman's seminal structuralist block of routine-art that couches feminist politics inside a maze of linoleum and potatoes, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; from the long-lost file (also the terrible art direction file), John Huston's final film, The Dead, adapted from James Joyce's short story of the same name (itself the final story of its Dubliners book), which I've recently re-read.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Convergence for a plenty-pregnant invisible (10/20/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight


—The negative crowns every second.
(For Link, belatedly)

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #12

by Ryland Walker Knight

—Who do you see behind this eye?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Viewing Log #16: Flight, he says, from a box [10/12/09 - 10/18/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

—We all find the flux different, we bloom

As I noted before, things will be changing around VINYL IS HEAVY while we close out the calendar. I'll still try to keep these viewing log posts popping up on the regular along with the Vitti posts, and there will be a few link-thru posts to stuff written for other places (read: Danny), but otherwise I'll be focusing my energy outside the internet and this site in particular. I'm hoping it won't slow down all that much, and that I'll simply be able to integrate it into my life a little better, but I also have the desire—as I rejoin a certain fray—to shuck the whole thing for a while; to unplug as much as possible. We'll see. So, without further ado, here's what I watched as I packed bags and wrote many an e-mail and made phone calls galore this week.

  • A Canterbury Tale [Powell & Pressburger, 1944] Talk about a cathedral. Built around a gee-whiz G.I., there's a host of ideas—about patriotism, about duty, about beauty, about childhood, about faith, about the movies (and their worth in all that)—all working together in cheeky harmony. It's buoyant; it's a fantasy; it's Real Cinema. But I haven't sussed everything: that will require more thought and more viewings and, preferably, I'll meet this rich picture again on a huge silver screen.

  • Meet Me In St. Louis [Vincente Minnelli, 1944] This DVD looks fabulous, like new. What's great is that, in a musical, it plays with that expansion form, and the power of "the voice" and "voicing," so much: it's all about society's will to keep things tacit, that is quiet, until eruption—often into song, as if plain language can't cut or contain it. Also, it's about valuing the home, which is nice. One of those rare pictures that makes me hope I have more than one kid when the time is right.

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [Julian Schnabel, 2007] I liked the first reel from inside his head. Then I started to fall asleep again and again, thinking, Why are they speaking English? Why does he spell one word in English, one word in French? Make up your mind, Schnabel. Sicinski nails it. [Insert quip about the babes.]

  • His Girl Friday [Howard Hawks, 1940] # Sometimes you just gotta watch the best movie ever when you settle in for the night and don't want to "think" too hard.
  • The River [Jean Renoir, 1951] # Don't know what kept me from fully embracing this the first time I watched it, but, boy, this sure is a loveably lazy movie; that is, it's patient and seemingly aleatory; that is, it flows irregardless of forces; that is, it goes, onward, always, like life.

—Off I go!

Friday, October 16, 2009

We Live OK: 22 Selections, 07.09 + 10.09

by Ryland Walker Knight

sunsetting 1
—Lucky clouds (return)

This eddy ends now, and I'd like to share my final collage of imaginary reportage. These weeks have seen me see plenty. However, I worry I saw more inside than out. But that's why I'm finding a line back to a coast—in fact, back to the gold coast. That is, back home. Time to own up to that: I'm a Californian. So with my smile widening, I look forward to playing basketball in the winter, to eating fresh vegies as often as I can, to the PFA's healthy calendar, to trips up to Truckee's snowbanks, to a quick flight south or north, to The Trappist, to pho, to the Mission, to yelping my way around more dance floors, to breaking that habit of you. Here's to the steps taken, and the leaps yet; to footfalls, maybe, turning into feathered-up flights from our hard-earthed dirt and from our tubes of infotainment. We must remember to move amongst! Thus, there might be a little less frequency here (and elsewhere) as the calendar year winds-grinds to a close. Priorities will be re-arranged and if I'm to live alone by my next birthday I will have to make some kind of living happen quicker outside this site.

So, enjoy this latest and last collection over at VINYL IS IMAGES.

I see your light touch my eyes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Convergence for finding fall, and falling up (10/13/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

Ed Ruscha

finding falling
—For Mark

NYFF09: Moments Out of Time

by Steven Boone

dont change nuthin

Film Festivals come and go. What's important is what stays with you. I saw some things at this year's New York Film Festival. Moments out of time, as they say (and used to say in a provocative yearly Film Comment roundup). Here are some fragments that are still stuck to my shoe:
A Dutch-angle, chiaroscuro long-take of singer Jeanne Balibar recording a drunkenly sexy number with her two leathery pet guitarists. All we hear of the song is whatever they coo into their mikes and whatever leaks, like a whisper, from their studio headphones. As the music builds and Balibar's narrow hips become possessed, the session gathers all the heat of an inspired ménage à trois. They even smoke afterwards.
—on Ne Change Rien

no order, no law, no rules
His soul as restless as a kid at recess, a dapper retiree (André Dussollier) descends into a mall parking garage to the busy chickawa-thump-thumps of a Bruckheimer techno-thriller. The camera glides along in anamorphic widescreen, soaking up the garage's teal fluorescents. So mesmerizing and intense—but why are we laughing? Alain Resnais is a master of appropriating styles to fit/bedevil/brazen his characters' lovesick delirium, that's why. At the NYFF press conference, he noted The Shield and Law and Order among his favorite TV shows. In many places, his camera swoops and hovers with the abandon of Hitchcock, of The Conformist, of Branded to Kill, all in the service of a dream, the kind you wake from with a stupid grin and a thousand thoughts.
—on Wild Grass

Monday, October 12, 2009

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #11

by Ryland Walker Knight

who knew a sheet could be sexy?
—Guns before knives, not knees

Sound off: sounds off. 'Formers, for the hell of it. A study in orange.

by Ryland Walker Knight


—Dialed in close, dials deal back


—Torn tumbling, aflame


—Kick-spray'd escape (from the image)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Viewing Log #15: Risk recognition and open again [10/5/09 - 10/11/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

addicted to what
...wade into the deep end

  • Julia [Eric Zonca, 2008] Worth it for any fan of Tilda Swinton, who's just as likely to be a Cassavetes fan, and I'm clearly both. That said, this is a rough one. "Unflinching," as they say, with more than its (un?)fair share of abuse. Don't really know why I chose to watch all 143minutes of it right now. I'm guessing it's got something to do with that voyeurist's masochism that Manohla nods at in her review; a review, as ever, that I respect and agree with, for the most part, in that Zonca's crueler than Johnny, and Tilda's colder than Gena, but Julia's just outlandish enough to make you believe in its/her sacrifice, in the cracks in that alabaster face. How her eyes widen! Always a messy frame for such an elegant-angular countenance, Tilda's hair loosens as the picture progresses, relaxing into waves, and Julia's mask (once literal) altogether disappears on that terminal meridian. She is, at last, truly naked: it's final fright at the liminal life; it's acknowledging the cost; it's gone all too quickly. Ultimately, she reminds us that aversion is compulsory: there's always a lie at work in the world.
  • Transformers 2 [Michael Bay, 2009] # Yeah, so what. It's not like I watched the whole thing. Just wanted to see a few of the beautiful things Bay dreamed up alongside his idiotic things (sometimes these things are the same things), like watching the forest fight with the sound off. Earlier: me at fN! and Phelps at his joint. (Worth noting: the commercial-break realization that this junk's already ready and hocked for home consumption is plenty indication, among manifold blinking lights, that this thorny respite-or-rumpus needs to end, and shall, quite shortly.)

  • Mary [Abel Ferrara, 2005] Brenez talks of the pleat, but this film is a coil. A slinky, even, falling down stairs: it picks up speed and gets looser, but its parts work together in the rush—or, at least, their tension produces kinetic energy, pulled by the earth, by gravity. It may be about Him, about a certain kind of transcendence ("to become fully human" she repeats), but, despite all those shots trained skyward through New York's caverns of glass, Mary, like Mary and her performer Marie (Binoche is a wall of will), aims down. As ever, Ferrara's after essence by way of archetype. And the coil winds tighter, impressionistic even, layer on layer, as it picks up speed. Then it cuts out, meeting the floor—or the shore—with a kiss, and the credits begin before you know it.
  • The Addiction [Abel Ferrara, 1995] # Bits and pieces on youtube (start here), searching for the right clip to embed in this week's Video Sunday at The Auteurs. Seriously need to read the Brenez book (Google gives you plenty to tantalize). I'm meeting this dude, and his movies, again, at just the right time.

  • The Exterminating Angels [Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2006] Troubling, to say the least, and almost too-easily erotic. Not sure where we sit with this, but, this heterosexual young man will cop to arousal. How not to? The images aren't soft-core gauzed but amber-bathed. —Except, aha!, for a camcorder playback played back in slow motion, as if step-printed, that's grainy and "poor" but less documentary, and more expressive, because of its consumer-grade manipulation. Or maybe that's just, um, my kind of thing? my kind of taboo?
  • Port of Shadows [Michel Carné, 1938] A bit clunky, but the implication of Valhalla at the close is stirring. And Gabin cannot fail. Michel Simon, too, lends weight with his Bluebeard act; and I feel close to Michèle Morgan's Nelly with her plight for life, for finding life with both hands; but there's a little too much talk. At any rate, Martha wrote this generous missive back in April after a BAM screening on what she said was one of her best days—and it shows. She's got way more to offer the movie than me, so, you know, read it.

  • Body Snatchers [Abel Ferrara, 1993] # Abel trades Bad Lieutenant's grime for emptiness, and some snot, and comes up with something almost entirely synthetic: a parade of masks and costumes apt for a feature about an adolescent, about adolescence's paranoia—its fears and its fantasies—made a reality. Crazy how hierarchical the picture is what with all those crane maneuvers to place (rank) people and things. That whole finger-pointing scream business is genuinely terrifying, so basic it's beneath the human. My own adolescent memories of Gabrielle Anwar clearly weren't giving me the full picture.

  • Ratatouille [Brad Bird, 2007] # Such a joy. Looked at it a couple times grabbing images for this piece at The House, which I doubled at VINYL IS IMAGES

—Brooklyn goes hard

Cover up the blank spots

by Ryland Walker Knight

Hey, Bay Area! Get ready to floss some palladium, or some tacos, on 10/19! Mark yr walls'n'calendars!

Hey, Brooklyn! Hey, 778! I miss you already! Like, a ton! But don't worry, dumbelles, nothing's wrong.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ratatouille's sense of taste, of place

by Ryland Walker Knight

—It starts with a book.

I put together a little image-essay for Todd's Pixar Week over at The House on Brad Bird's Ratatouille as it's easily my favorite Pixar film. Click here to see-drink-eat it. (If that takes some time to load, click here for VINYL IS IMAGES.) Every viewing gives me good things, and its pathos really hits hard what with its ideas about creativity and finding a place in the world for that passion. It's no secret that writing is a dying profession—hell, a dying skill set—let alone art form. But I keep at it, and I take pride in my miniscule accomplishments. I'm having fun with this stuff, with things like this work. Besides, these image-essays are something different, I hope, than your usual film blogging. At any rate, another thing I was thinking about rewatching this great little film is the different in choreography between something like this and something like, say, Playtime (or Tati in general), though there's definitely some overlap/inspiration at play. The most obvious is that Tati is a scientist, kinda, while Bird runs in trenches. Tati refuses identification and, as with most "kids movies," you can't help but find yourself in Remy's paws, scuttling here and there avoiding ovens and broken bottles. This gets at Bird's fluid camera perspective: the image shrinks and expands in fun ways. And—I still don't know, exactly, outside a stab at the idea of focus-blur—you really get the sense of a camera's presence in this film. (I find this true of The Incredibles as well.) Definitely something to think about more here, because it's subtle, unlike with the ostentatious zooms and lens flares of everybody-but-me's favorite, Wall-E. (Oh, right, Coffeen wasn't a fan either.) Gotta be more to say about plasticity inside these Bird Pixar films. The image, here, is itself an aperture—but it's been explicitly made, or built, so what, then, are we seeing but pure expression?

—Let it fill you! Use every sense, use every-thing you've got.

Convergence for your chocolate girl (10/8/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

sleeping wild in light, I can see you

Monday, October 05, 2009

Vinyl is heavy and Vitti is forever #10

by Ryland Walker Knight

—And bangs bring color!?

Convergence for shame's abatement (10/5/09)

by Ryland Walker Knight

go go tales

french cancan
—Always a belle epoch, always belles around

Cosmic calls in on us, again.

by Ryland Walker Knight

elena! ingrid!

I'd planned on letting that last widget post lapse past the page, but, well, this early AM I got excited about some more recommendations from my daily dials. The coding on the widget is a little wonky, but, still, I'm updating it. Here goes. Most immediate would be that I just finished watching Criterion's Renoir box set of films from the 1950s, Stage and Spectacle, and I cannot sing its praises enough. Not only are the films all delightful, and typically excellent, but spread across the three discs is the interview Jacques Rivette conducted with le maitre, called "Jean Renoir parle de son art," which has as many lessons about cinema (and art in general) as you'll get in a full semester of study. Essential viewing. Likewise, Bill Callahan's Woke on a Whaleheart has been getting a bunch of spins around these parts. I'm going to have to return my library copy of Infinite Jest this week and hope to pick up another copy at my next local, but you can certainly buy one because it's worth it; I'd just rather spend that $12 on some food right now. Or, I could put it towards a copy of that new Farber on Film behemoth (which Glenn wrote a few words about over here). Finally, in my haze yesterday, browsing around (somewhere, anywhere), I learned that the Blu Ray release of 2001: A Space Odyssey is currently being sold at a staggering discount, which is another disc I'd love to own along with the requisite player. Can't beat 70mm at the Castro, but it's better than standard def on a tube. Some day soon, we can hope!

— There's sap in the trees if you tap'm

10.06.09: Added five more things to give the lil box two pages of fun stuff. Quickly: (1) Nabokov: Novels 1955-1962: Lolita / Pnin / Pale Fire for the greatest 20th Century novelist's most recognizably seminal works; (2) That FatCat reissue of Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished + Danse Manitee for how those wacky Bmore guises got started; (3) The Cary Grant Box Set (Holiday / Only Angels Have Wings / The Talk of the Town / His Girl Friday / The Awful Truth) for the best Hollywood actor of all time in some of the best Hollywood pictures of all time; (4) A Christmas Tale for being the best picture of what I feel about families, and mine (with more words soon upon this DVD's release); and (5) the game of Scattergories for all the fun it's brought me through the years.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Viewing Log #14: Holy haunts are private [9/28/09 - 10/4/09]

by Ryland Walker Knight

what's he hear?
what's he feel?
— Where do you heal? Where could he be?

  • Elena and her men [Jean Renoir, 1956] It's Ingrid's show, no doubt, but I was more taken by the sly Mel Ferrer and his lanky-limber rogue. That said, it's a fine metaphor for the star system, and Ingrid's go-anywhere constitution; she's great at aloof twined with cunning. Renoir says he had to improvise the whole thing, for the most part, interpreting history into a comedy, and, I think, it works thanks largely to his cast and his cousin Claude behind the camera. Still, the weakest of this set, I'd wager.
  • French Cancan [Jean Renoir, 1954] Vibrant, generous paean to a world of fun, to the joyful life we'd all like to lead rich with love and dancing and art and sex and (did I say?) fun. Gabin beams.

  • Partie de campagne [Jean Renoir, 1936] # Wanted to see the transition, again, and the river recede from me.
  • Loulou [Maurice Pialat, 1980] A wreck, stumbling on a wall (or laying in a bed, ahem). However: very exciting to see an earlier, softer Huppert still arriving at her powers to command a camera's attention. Her performance stings especially in this little man because she's able to unmask and mask so many multivalent, contradictory motivations-impulses-emotions in such close proximity, as can often be the case in life's mess. But what's intriguing about Pialat's interest in actors, and images, isn't any allegiance to "the document" (despite many long takes and the realist weight of a sudden slap) but to selection and contiguity, how one thing follows another—often in rhymes—while "hiding" his timing since, though the editing can pop and the ellipses alarm, you forget about the camera.

  • Ne Touchez Pas La Hache [Jacques Rivette, 2007] # Games fail like words and we brand each other's souls—we maze traps like Waco, Texas! Balibar's a wraith and Depardieu's a blood-pumping prosthetic: each barely attached to their own life. The walls are curtains, or wrought iron; the limits ceaselessly solecistic. After all, it is but a poem.

  • Bad Lieutenant [Abel Ferrara, 1992] # Guess I didn't wait so long again after all! But I only watched a few things, to get the feel and a few images. Really: maybe the best movie ever. "Where! Were! YOU?!" —Steve, via text: "Captures the fast-fading old new york with stunning fidelity. many great scenes caught in available light, ambient sound. jesus is in the details."
  • The Brothers Bloom [Rian Johnson, 2008] It's all about Ruffalo, despite the allure of Brody and Weisz. The film says so, after all, giving him the director's chair (or Fellini hat) and, it seems, unlimited means to stage events in the world. It's a goof of a movie (a little simple and didactic, maybe), but it is winning. And Ruffalo, master wincer, sells every turn. His spot-lit farewell says it all: satisfied, resigned, and understanding his worth. A good actor is a miracle.
  • Tall Enough [Barry Jenkins, 2009] Watch it here. I could make a crack about advertising really easily, but that'd undersell Barry's fine-line achievement. This is about as charming a short as I could imagine from a project such as this, and it proves, as ever, Barry knows what he's doing with a camera. G'head, get your Denis on, man: it looks great.

  • Partie de campagne [Jean Renoir, 1936] Just amazing. Even in pieces, le maitre makes a whole natural world swing-swim into view, into action, falling away in time as our petty obligations web us into roles we don't want. Best? Jokes abound!
  • Dogville [Lars Von Trier, 2003] # The first half. Started this because somebody I adore (and respect) loves this movie and I want to understand why; because back in 2003 it made me pretty mad in (I'm learning) pretty dumb ways. That said, I fell asleep.

  • Bad Lieutenant [Abel Ferrara, 1992] # Cuz I'm an idiot masochist, apparently. Also, it'd been a few years. Maybe never can go long enough between viewings. But, hell, this is a fucking movie. Even more than Unforgiven, this is the H.W.-headache movie. Also, truly Catholic.

what's he smiling about?
—Answer yourself