Monday, January 31, 2011

Viewing Log #71: High occupancy vehicle [1/24/11 - 1/31/11]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Best promo still ever.

  • The Hunted [Jack Bernhard, 1948] Kind of a clunker, but Belita was the business. A perfect example of a B-picture where budgetary concerns force a lot of formal ingenuity, and a fair number of long takes. The early exposition-heavy tete-a-tete scenes are the best because of the long two-shots with Belita and our idiot gumshoe on opposite sides of the frame, the way old lovers give each other space.
  • Angel Face [Otto Preminger, 1952] # A unique shape of a film, always pushing in. Apt that the big finale's wreck ends in rugged close-up. Frightening that these two dudes (OP & HH) put this lady through so much bullshit. Heartening that "Bob" was a real man. I will see this movie whenever it plays on any silver screen.

  • True Grit [Coens, 2010] The first one of theirs I was ever plainly bored by; but the ending is rather perfect and Damon's timing is priceless. I can't imagine watching it again, but it'll be on HBO some day, or I'll get bored one night after it's on Netflix Streaming, and I'll most likely warm to its go-nowhere-ness and its dialog's turns. Still caught in the afterglow of the novel to really be any kind of fair to the picture. Still, it's a paycheck flick. Part of the appeal of A Serious Man is that it was mounted with such care; that it was a picture they clearly lived with for a long time. This one's a dash.

Factory girl
—Her zipper's broken down the back

Monday, January 24, 2011

Viewing Log #70: The possessive element made my chest thump [1/18/11 - 1/23/11]

by Ryland Walker Knight

With life
—The world allows a lot

  • 30 Rock "Mrs. Donaghy" [S5E10] Love the concepts, and kind of loved that Weinerslav scene, but the mirroring across the studio is getting stale (as are the caricatures). I wanted to include this here simply to be able to say: Chris Parnell is always the best actor/comedian on the show. He's allowed to be a caricature, plain and simple, and it works every single time.

  • Two Lovers [James Gray, 2009] # Forgot how severe a downer this one is (somehow), how deep its truths cut. Yet Joaquin, as ever, made me laugh out loud a crazy number of times, as did some of the tossaway stuff his dad does. I'm still not in the "masterpiece" camp home to a lot of my friends, however, because of the cleverness of certain winks. Like, as much as its designed to excoriate the male psyche, it no doubt flatters it (or one kind of it), too. [I have no memory of what I wrote here.]

  • Close-Up [Abbas Kiarostami, 1990] # Still fabulous. Sabzian is too perfect, in all his roles, to ever be a villain. The BR disc is phenomenal not for clarity but for color. Throughout the picture, the colors pool, adding weight. But don't count out the jokes—especially all that bluster by the reporter, a perfect clown for this procession.

  • The Fighter [David O. Russell, 2010] I had a fine time watching it, even got some pangs of reflection when it comes to the self-reliance bits, but it's kind of a messy movie with a lot of competing, moving parts and a rather rote script. Worst thing is I don't think it was built to be something at odds with itself; instead, I think it's trying to serve too many agendas; or it's just kinda convoluted and cheesy in parts. The most curious thing, I find, is that fine line that separates the hamming Christian Bale does, which I dug, from the mugging Melissa Leo does, which I almost loathed. I think it's how Bale uses his eyes over against how Leo uses her mouth. People tell me they're both likely to win Oscars and that does not surprise me. (What Oscar result does anymore? ever?) I just wish Mila Kunis could/would beat Leo. [FWIW, the cinetrix kills it on the topic, as if that's a surprise.]

—Waves can surprise you

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Viewing Log #69: Hello stranger [1/10/11 - 1/17/11]

by Ryland Walker Knight


  • Eccentricities of a Blonde [Manoel de Oliveira, 2009] All these frames—of light, of wood, of windows, of narrative—and the one that matters is only made tangible as exchange. That is, at bottom economics determine the course (already fixed, given the train that houses the story) of where such an obsession can go. Time's funny, too, in this leap-frog structure that sees daylight blink away, making the brief running time a kind of metonymy for bigger films by Senhor Oliveira; but the funniest thing is that a jig and a beard are all you need to see a man as younger. By contrast, the metonymy applied to "a blonde" and her "beautiful Chinese fan" is the saddest thing; that she's only seen for these things, that our narrator can only see these things. Her final posture of defeat—discarded like that poker chip thrown (that she stole), head hung to the floor in shadow and legs open almost in surrender—inverts her image from that sanctioned pedestal in the window, a final evacuation of the frame and of the image since we see neither her blonde shimmer nor her twirling fan. Money dooms love, indeed, as does thievery, the third metonymy at play: she stole his time, it blinked away. [Did any women write about this film?]
  • Bellow [Christopher Tirrell, 2010] Watch it here. Honestly can't remember how I found this, but it was sitting open in a tab for a few days before I watched it. Certainly a fine example of a 5Dmk2 doing film-like work, though its low light images are rather particularly digital (which isn't a bad thing), making the sound a bigger part of the argument (as if the title didn't point there). In any case, I dug how obfuscating it was, how it seemed like a test was being passed but at the same time how these little compositions added up to something like an argument; an argument about the sudden rush of the world, either by accident or by necessity, and about a fire on the horizon of life, though its flames are lit not for light but for signaling. Which is to say for alerting the world to your mark, which is a funny metaphor for emulsion given this digital bend.

  • Hudson Hawk [Michael Lehmann, 1991] # Some gchatting about Die Hard 2 with Haz resulted in a Bruce Willis investigation, which resulted in my giving this a go, wherein I lasted five minutes before I fell asleep.

  • The Wrong Man [Hitch, 1956] Were I not so tired when I saw this, I would have more to say beyond: amazing, this is the grim kind of movie that Hitch was certainly capable of but rarely made given his love of a good joke. (Any bit of levity, no matter how brief, seems "worth it" to him in movies like, say, the Tippi two, which are often alarming but somehow not all-the-way horrifying.) That is, this flick is almost the anti-NXNW the way Fonda is some odd inverse of Cary Grant, or the way a pool of mud can reflect the sky. I'll hafta watch it again.
  • Lifeboat [Hitch, 1944] I'd heard some cinephile types extol the cinematics of this one but I was always skeptical. Turns out: they were right and I was wrong! That said, this was the one I was super excited to see this last week of Hitch at the Castro. The print was in lousy condition, but the crowd was big and generally alright (some idiot snickers are to be expected) for this odd little capsule of a movie. Some of it's pat, sure, and dated; but its employment of the close-up is fabulous (punctuation, affect, a general timing device to break up the space/time) as is the relative lack of score.

  • The Strange Case of Angelica [Manoel de Oliveira, 2010] Very simple, and slow, but I was charmed by its near-naive devotion to the image. That is, it almost takes on the devotion of its twin director-audience surrogate. What keeps it this side of hokey isn't just its commendable seriousness but that long scene of breakfast yacking amongst the other boarders, none of whom can fathom this young man's swing into his own head, nor his interest in certain images. Which makes me think the film is about, to a certain degree, the divide between the cinephile and the (excuse me) regular Joe-Jane voyeur: most images for most people serve strictly as a sociological referent, not a spiritual one. (Reminds me of something Ignatiy wrote about skipping a sunrise to watch a de Toth (or whatever) because we movie nuts need to see another life lived, which is of course something I've pushed back on in the past half a year or more, but also something I cannot escape. Nor should I try to mask that desire since it motivates just about any human aiming a camera to make images.) This is another way of saying we initiated always-already believe in a beyond, and we often want to join it.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some men dream #2

by Ryland Walker Knight



Small Black Room, Powell & Pressburger, 1949
shot by Christopher Challis

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mark me down for a deuce

by Ryland Walker Knight

Everything does

Though in 2010 I largely strayed from the eat-everything cinephilia that drove a lot of my last decade (as I mentioned here), which makes me fear I'll be outpaced in this little group of us doing the Out of The Past series, I still saw a number of good, older flicks in the past twelve months. You can read my five that mattered most in The Notebook here. It's probably predictable given this, but there's more meat in it.

I should also take the time, here, since I'm up so early, to note my participation in the year-end Fantasy Double Bills, which I'm very happy Danny and I brainstormed last year, and continued this year. We both had a hard time picking this year (for very different reasons) and I love the fact that Danny, closing things out, took such license to not limit himself, to disobey his own rules. His picks are great. I kept mine pretty simple, to be fair, and only divulged one bill. Earlier, in December, Martha'd talked about pairing I Am Love with The Last Picture Show, but I guess time got away from her; in any case I didn't want to "steal" that one. So I wrote about some other forms of love. The kinds on the side of that word associated with mania, I guess, because I find them funnier. I also like the Resnais a lot more than that Tilda zig-zag (though I do love that one, too) and I hadn't written enough on why, though it could be simplified to my preference to favor (not that I always do) the ludicrously hilarious, not the ludicrously affective.

Top to bottom, I liked all the pairs, really, but there were of course stand-outs. Miriam's up top definitely stood apart beyond its placement in the scroll for its audacious pairing—and, it should be noted, her likely-unnecessary, more-than-welcome defense, which invokes Stanley Cavell a little further, is a good thing to read. My other favorite pairing, probably, was R. Emmet Sweeney's, though I've seen neither of the films he chose, because it does what my favorite criticism does: not only does he make connections, elucidating significance, but more importantly his note makes me want to see the movies. Along these lines, I have to thank David Ehrenst​ein for the comments he left, alerting me, non-scholar that I am, to Warren Sonbert and his lasting imprint on collage-like cinema that interests me so. Unimportant declaration: I'll make a mission of seeing his films in 20!! as I largely forgot such missions through most of 2010. Not sure how it'll happen, with my day job and my new image-making projects I'm throwing myself into, but with the help of a friend like Brian Darr—one of the truest cinephiles I've ever had the pleasure to meet and eat pizza with—I'll have a leg up for sure. In any event, please do follow those links! The internet's a wicked game, prone to circled wagon spats, but it's also full of good things.

First Friday Fifty

Oh, and read Steve's 2010 wrap-up at The House why don't you. I'm biased, of course, but there's a unique take, a real individual, a jaunty run-through everybody'd do well to enjoy and not fight with, as many may well attempt.

Viewing Log #68: Very [1/3/11 - 1/9/11]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Unstoppable lobby card 2
—For fun; why not?

  • The Small Black Room [P&P, 1949] # Looking for an image.
  • La Captive [Chantal Akerman, 2000] # Looking for an image.

  • Heathers [Michael Lehmann, 1989] # The best movie ever? Some afternoons, yes. And, seriously, is it any big mystery why so many young men (and women, I'm certain) of a certain age are still obsessed with Winona? I don't think my love will ever die. Nor for this movie, as it happens. What I'm saying is: it'd been way too long. (Not sure it required a BluRay rental, but it still looked, well, crisp. The filmmaking's in the performances, not the stylistic touches.) —Veronica, why are you pulling my dick?! has to be one of the best lines ever said by a teenage babe in a movie or otherwise.

  • East A [Will Gluck, 2010] All kinds of fantasies went into this one. But it's a hoot, thanks largely to Emma Stone's actual acting prowess (not just a cute girl with a great voice, dudes!) and the timing of it all, which again makes me think Gluck is a pop filmmaker to watch (ahem) and makes me forgive a lot of the broader, wannabe-satirical jokes. That said, there's a lot of good self-awareness/self-analysis going on in the script. And it shows you can be sex positive without equating that with lots of sex. Not that it's prudish, either; rather, there's real choices being made by a seemingly real, well-rounded little lady character in this temper-tantrum.

  • Plenty from the first season of The Larry Sanders Show, which is on Netflix Streaming now. FWIW, I tweeted that the whole show is on there, when in fact it's about half. Regardless, watch as many as you can, as I will, because its maybe the best sitcom ever.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Farolito Fifty, take two

by Ryland Walker Knight


Since this clip probably won't make the cut for what we're working on, here's another test I shot last night. Please do hit up the full screen if you've got the bandwidth.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Getting going in 20!!

by Ryland Walker Knight

Hall ways in


If you follow me on twitter, the image atop this is no surprise, nor is the news that I got a new camera. But this video is something new. That is, it's a test run that a couple people egged me on to make public and share. So, here's a nugget, a tease of what's to come in 20!!.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Was vom Jahr bleibt (What lasts of the year)

by Ryland Walker Knight

Til I loved

Over at CARGO's site, there's a slew of trios from the writers and friends of the magazine, just like last year, about what mattered in 2010. You have to allow google to translate most of them (if you don't read German), but you can read mine in my version of English (google will still play with it after you hit 'translate' FYI). But, still, I thought it'd be good to cross-post the list here since I'm sure EK et al would enjoy the link-back and because these things do matter to me so. And because I will be writing a bit more for these fine gentlemen as we move through the year.

1. Pressing pause

Slowing my intake of cinema and output of criticism has proven a boon. Though I wish I'd seen a few films from the rep circuit that I missed on purpose (eg, those two Oliveira films), I am confident that the choices I made those nights lead to more fulfilling engagement with this mad world we're in. Besides, it has lead to different creative writing projects — to say nothing of the new lessons learned about living a better life, which is what we're supposed to do, I'm fairly certain. In the cinephile department, though, it also lead to fully embracing…

2. Blu-Ray discs

I'm certainly lucky to have had access to Blu-Rays for a while yet, but it wasn't until this year, and late within it, that a player entered my home. Perhaps against my better judgment, I already owned some BRs, but the new device gave me a more legitimate opportunity to buy The Red Shoes and that Brakhage set (both put out by Criterion Collection). The BR image can't quite ever be expected to approximate the flicker of celluloid, but these films have their own, new, sometimes-bizarre shimmer. The crisp lines and erupting colors make a new vision of what images are capable of, and what their purpose may be now, which I'd like to believe is closer to affect than representation, given these don't look real or hyper-real (whatever that means) but rather some fancy, new interpretation of light. There is likely an entire book of theory to be written on this new phenomenology, but I won't try any harder (get started) here. I'll just say, try to see something big and bright and colorful. Be sure to have the right HDMI cables. And let it wash your face in luster.

3. Tim & Eric

Back to lo-fi for a second. These weirdos make me laugh more than just about anybody, and they did an especially great job in 2010. Not only did they give us two shows full of goofs and spoofs only film nerd assholes in love with VHS and closed circuit cables could make, they went on tour with their brand of disorienting lunacy. They brought it to our backyards. On certain days in the second half of our late year, in fact, you could hear me tell my friends that I thought their announcement for the Tim and Eric Awesome Tour Great Job 2010 (as well as their inimitable Chrimbus Special) was the single best piece of filmmaking (and comedy) that I saw all year long. You can watch it and judge for yourself right here, below.

Viewing Log #67: With a bang bang [12/27/10 - 1/2/11]

by Ryland Walker Knight

Sycamore snoozer 2
in the middle of the bed

  • Déjà Vu [Tony Scott, 2006] # This time, I kept thinking about how lazy my initial reaction was, back in Seattle, in 2006, when I thought the film not only crass but offensive. Shows how easy it is to not pay attention to stuff outside story. Shows how much I grew going back to school. Because there are some truly beautiful moments/visions in this film. My favorites are confined to that little room, for the most part, with all the overlays and interactions across that surveillance window screen, but the semi careening at the camera is great and who can forget: yet another Tony Scott movie ending on a freeze frame.

  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind [Steven Spielberg, 1977] # One of the odder Hollywood hits, for sure, that's pretty much all exposition and build up for its entirety. Dreyfus going nuts throwing the yard into the kitchen sink is the only concrete action/scene not spent dancing about, waiting for a concept to emerge. If anything, it's one of the better (more beautiful-looking) arguments about the allure of the concept. There's also a lot of goofball jokes that Steve is always trying really hard to get away with, and always only hitting about half the mark.

  • square shot [Daniel Kasman, 2010] Very conceptual, but also very cool. You can watch it below, if you haven't already (or if you have), and you can read more contextualizing from Danny in the Notebook. I think it's pretty unique but Kevin had a few nice compliments about influences in the comments that are quite clearly a part of the make-up. In any event, as I dropped in there, can't wait for more DKaz words put into images in 20!!.

  • Father of My Children [Mia Hansen-Løve, 2009] # One of the more wonderful films from last year, full of life amidst all those goodbyes. A great way to say goodbye, in fact, to a lot of things. And hello to others.

— expect more like this (and like this)