Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on May 2, 2013
I first became familiar with Chris D.’s (Dejardins) writing in the early 90s thanks to his work for a small-press magazine (or zine) called Asian Trash Cinema. At the time I was utterly obsessed with Japanese pop culture and history and for a 10 year period roughly between 1991-2001 I spent many of my weekends in San Francisco’s Japantown where I’d rent movies and anime (often without any subtitles), buy manga and books I couldn’t read and eat lots of good meals that I couldn’t pronounce properly. I was also writing and publishing my own zines at the time. Zine culture peaked in the ‘90s before the internet changed the way we all communicate but for a brief time the only place where you could really find good information about cult cinema, B-movies, forgotten gems and unusual art-house films was between the pages of self-published zines and small-press magazines like Psychotronic, Video Watchdog, Shock Cinema and Asian Trash Cinema. These are the kinds of publications that helped shape my own film interests and writing. While many film journalists may have found popular mainstream critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert inspirational, they held little interest for me because they weren’t talking (or writing) about movies that appealed to my own eccentric tastes and if they were, they weren’t particularly kind. But folks like Chris D. were and one of Chris’ early essays from Asian Trash Cinema (Issue #3, 1992) titled YAKUZA EIGA: Losers on Parade is one of my favorite pieces of writing on Japanese cinema. When Chris D. composed that love letter to gangster (aka yakuza) films that I was just discovering and beginning to appreciate, he was one of a handful of writers trying to thoughtfully grapple with a genre that had been ignored and maligned by critics and scholars for decades. Chris helped me see the often tenuous connection between Japanese cinema and the country’s complex cultural fabric that seemed to confuse and perplex many western writers. I mention all this because I’m not exactly an unbiased reviewer. In fact, Chris and I have exchanged numerous notes over the last few years and I was honored to be asked to write a blurb that appears on his latest book GUN AND SWORD: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980. I wanted to share his new book with Movie Morlocks’ readers but to be fair I thought I should let you know these facts first. What follows is my honest review of Chris’ latest book but read on at your own discretion.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on March 21, 2013
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on February 5, 2013
On July 13th, 1934 the madcap RKO comedy We’re Rich Again was released, the sixth collaboration between director William A. Seiter and star Marian Nixon. They married soon after, and five years later they collaborated in the birth of Jessica Seiter (now Jessica Seiter Niblo), whose Movietown Baby Grows Up is a breezily entertaining memoir of her upbringing in Hollywood. Published at an Espresso Book Machine at her local bookstore, it was intended as a gift for her family, but she is also selling it through Facebook for those interested in the careers and personalities of her talented parents. Seiter Niblo has a warm conversational tone, relating her parents’ romantic foibles and career bumps as if she were flipping the pages of a family album with you over a mug of Irish coffee.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on January 8, 2013
Aleksandr Sokurov’s Soviet Elegy (1989) begins with a tour of tombstones, the camera floating down rows of Communist phantoms. In the next sequence, Boris Yeltsin is shown stalking down a hallway, another kind of ghost, one aware of his coming obsolescence. Sokurov’s work is a series of elegies, in which ghosts of history mourn for themselves. Cinema Guild has illustrated this development in their three-disc box set of Sokurov: Early Masterworks. It contains the three features Save and Protect (1990, DVD), Stone (1992, DVD) and Whispering Pages (1994, Blu-Ray), plus three of his shorts, including Soviet Elegy. Each displays his increasingly idiosyncratic visual sense, in which he uses distorting lenses to produce stretched figures akin to El Greco saints, yearning for a God who doesn’t respond. Sokurov is often compared to Andrei Tarkovsky, the previous Russian spiritual guide/director. But while Tarkovsky often offers the possibility of transcendence, there is no such hope in Sokurov, just figures circling a void.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on September 27, 2012
A soundtrack can often make or break a movie for me. While some might find it easy to overlook a dissonant score that sounds out of place or overbearing, I find the choice of music in a film as important as the casting. A good film score can literally become another character on the screen. It can set the pace and mood of a film or blend seamlessly into the background. Soundtracks can transform a film’s atmosphere and confirm or deny our deepest feelings and fears. And nowhere is this more apparent than in horror, science fiction and fantasy films.
Author Randall D. Larson knows much more about the importance of a good film score than I do and he just published the second edition of Musique Fantastique (Book One), his highly acclaimed comprehensive analysis of music in science fiction, fantasy, and horror films. It’s a fascinating and informative read that should interest anyone who appreciates film music. Recently Randall took the time to answer a few of my questions about his book for the Movie Morlocks and I hope you’ll enjoy reading his answers.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on July 5, 2012
I do a lot of reading all year long but during the summer months I tend to set aside some extra time to catch up with the books that have accumulated on my shelves. This is partially due to a habit I developed as a child. While other kids were outside playing and enjoying the bright sunshine I could often be found in my bedroom pouring over a good book. Even when my family would go on vacation I would always stick a book in my suitcase or duffel bag. For better or worse, many of my fondest childhood memories involve books that I read during the sweltering summer months while on camping trips and during long plane flights to visit grandparents. This summer I’ve started habitually reading some interesting non-fiction film related books so I thought I’d share some recent discoveries.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on June 7, 2012
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime solving super sleuth has been the subject of numerous films and television shows over the years. How numerous? According to author Alan Barnes, Sherlock Holmes has appeared on big and small screens more times than any other fictional character. In his recently updated book, Sherlock Holmes On Screen, Barnes sets out to solidify that claim by compiling an alphabetical list of the detective’s numerous film and television appearances. But Barnes’ book isn’t merely a list of titles. Each film and television show receives its own write-up with detailed information about the production and its place in the ever-growing Sherlock Holmes’ canon.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on February 21, 2012
Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) is the latest beneficiary of Geoff Dyer’s cultural immersion method. Zona, which comes out today from Pantheon Books, is a pellucid scene-by-scene ramble through Tarkovsky’s sci-fi head trip, alive to the film’s textures as much as its ideas. In his non-fiction works, Dyer is a dilettante angling for expertise, his books (whether on jazz, photography, or WWI) documents of an enlightenment-in-progress. Like a student prone to daydreaming, Dyer often strays off-topic, doodling in the corners of his notebook, not Van Halen logos, but on his susceptibility to boredom, how his wife looks like Natasha McElhone in the Solaris remake, or simply on his love of knapsacks. These detours are maddening and lovely, bracing returns to everyday neuroses in the midst of high-minded esthetic ruminations. It’s this whiplash between objective and subjective modes, from high to low (he’ll go from quoting William James to thoughts on three-ways), that makes his work so addictive. The pleasure of Zona lies in Dyer’s method, in its constant sense of discovery, as if he had just stumbled out of a screening and was sharing his thoughts with you after a beer or three.
Posted by Susan Doll on February 20, 2012
The Film That Changed My Life by Robert Elder features interviews with 30 directors about the one film that inspired, influenced, or touched their personal lives or careers. While the title evokes a rapturous experience in which the filmmaker suddenly realizes his calling after viewing a magical movie, the book works better as a window into the participants’ own films. Chicago’s Music Box Theater has programmed a series of screenings based on the book in which participants are invited to a Q&A with Elder to discuss their perspective after the film.
The series was launched last summer by the infamous John Waters, who had selected The Wizard of Oz (1939) for the book based on one line in the original script: “Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?” Waters claims that he repeats the line each night before he goes to sleep, “like a prayer.” The second event in the series was a screening of The Godfather (1972), which had been selected by Kimberly Peirce, who draws parallels in her interview between that modern-day classic and her film Boys Don’t Cry (1999).
Yesterday, I attended the third event, a screening of Harlan County U.S.A (1970), which had been selected by documentary filmmaker Steve James of Chicago’s own Kartemquin Films. If James’s name sounds familiar, it is likely due to his critically acclaimed documentary, The Interrupters (2011), which aired on PBS last week. The Interrupters has probably made more news because it did not get nominated for an Academy Award than if it had, and it marks the second time James has been snubbed by the Academy. (The first was for Hoop Dreams (1994), one of that decade’s most acclaimed and popular docs, which the Academy did not nominate due to some bizarre ruling or technicality that only they understood.)
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on February 14, 2012
On February 4th, the last living veteran of WW1 passed away in King’s Lynn, England. Florence Green was 110 years old, and had joined up with the Women’s Royal Air Force in September 1918, two months before the armistice. The last surviving combat veteran, Briton Claude Choles, died in Australia in 2011. The Great War is no longer part of the world’s living memory, and so drifts slowly from history and into myth (see: War Horse). This process will accelerate in 2014-2018, the 100th Anniversary of the conflict. But no images, not even Spielberg’s, have defined the war more than those in All Quiet On the Western Front, Universal’s grim gamble of 1930. Banned in Poland, reviled in Germany, and a tough sell to studios, this adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s landmark novel is one of the bleakest films ever made in Hollywood. Universal is releasing it on Blu-Ray today in a pristine restoration, in a nearly-complete 133 minute version, while also including the rare silent edition, which was made for theaters not yet equipped for sound (For background on all the edits inflicted on the film, please read Lou Lumenick’s article in the NY Post).
MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
Popular terms3-D Action Films Actors Actors' Endorsements Actresses animal stars Animation Anime Anthology Films Autobiography Avant-Garde Aviation Awards B-movies Beer in Film Behind the Scenes Best of the Year lists Biography Biopics Blu-Ray Books on Film Boxing films British Cinema Canadian Cinema Character Actors Chicago Film History Cinematography Classic Films College Life on Film Comedy Comic Book Movies Crime Czech Film Dance on Film Digital Cinema Directors Disaster Films Documentary Drama DVD Early Talkies Editing Educational Films European Influence on American Cinema Experimental Exploitation Fairy Tales on Film Faith or Christian-based Films Family Films Fan Edits Film Composers Film Criticism film festivals Film History in Florida Film Noir Film Scholars Film titles Filmmaking Techniques Films of the 1980s Food in Film Foreign Film French Film Gangster films Genre Genre spoofs Guest Programmers HD & Blu-Ray Holiday Movies Hollywood history Hollywood lifestyles Horror Horror Movies Icons independent film Italian Film Japanese Film Korean Film Leadership Literary Adaptations Martial Arts Melodramas Method Acting Mexican Cinema Moguls Monster Movies Movie Books Movie Costumes Movie locations Movie lovers Movie Magazines Movie Reviewers Movie settings Movie Stars Movies about movies Music in Film Musicals New Releases Outdoor Cinema Paranoid Thrillers Parenting on film Pirate movies Polish film industry political thrillers Politics in Film Pornography Pre-Code Producers Race in American Film Remakes Revenge Road Movies Romance Romantic Comedies Russian Film Industry Satire Scandals Science Fiction Screenwriters Semi-documentaries Serials Short Films Silent Film silent films Social Problem Film Spaghetti Westerns Sports Sports on Film Stereotypes Straight-to-DVD Studio Politics Stunts and stuntmen Suspense thriller Swashbucklers TCM Classic Film Festival Tearjerkers Television The British in Hollywood The Germans in Hollywood The Hungarians in Hollywood The Irish in Hollywood The Russians in Hollywood Theaters Thriller Trains in movies Underground Cinema VOD War film Westerns Women in the Film Industry Women's Weepies