Film Review http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/film en Portrait of the Artist as a Work of Art http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4323 <span>Portrait of the Artist as a Work of Art</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7306" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7306" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Chet Kozlowski</a></span> <span>June 17, 2024 - 14:45</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/832" hreflang="en">LGQBT</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-06/queendom2.jpeg?itok=00u7W4IF" width="1200" height="495" alt="Thumbnail" title="queendom2.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Director Agniia Galdanova's new documentary <i>Queendom</i> profiles Jennadiy (Jenna) Marvin, who is young, queer, and suppressed in her native Russia. Films about drag have become a burgeoning genre, but in this case, the notion of "drag" isn't big enough. We need a new category. Jenna Marvin's work transcends drag into performance art.</p> <p>Her staged public performances are meant to mock, shock, and provoke. She herself is impossibly tall and impossibly thin. Her costumes are intricate constructions, combining forms of nature, science, and pantomime. Elongated extremities. Arachnid movements. Hair a nuclear explosion. Jenna descends from ceilings, crawls from holes, glides down escalators, slithers through subway cars. "I'm an anomaly," she says, a strange visitor from another planet.</p> <p>"When I go out in character, I'm on top of the world," she proclaims. One would expect, then, a certain <i>joie de vivre</i>. Through much of <i>Queendom,</i> however, her demeanor is dour, even despondent.</p> <p>It might be because she's living with her grandparents. Grandpa wants her to spend less time on her costumes and more on her studies, and she freaks out when Jenna is expelled. Grandma just wants peace. She calls Jenna "my little oddball."</p> <p>She might live in Magadan, a soulless, snowbound industrial port town that used to be surrounded by prisons.</p> <p>It might be the disdain. “You’re in the boonies now,” says her companion. “You’re obviously going to be met with aggression.” Men smirk as she walks by in full regalia. Jenna is berated and abused, at one point punched in the mouth by a random passerby. A neighbor yells down as she walks past her apartment window. “You’re a man. Act like one.”</p> <p>It might be the isolation. The film spends much time with Jenna by herself, and her loneliness is palpable.</p> <p>It might be Russia itself. Even in this modern day, it is illegal to be queer there (one of the fascinating aspects of the film is how much license Jenna is afforded in daily and night life, and for how long).</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Gr6f0lUcPvM?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>It <i>definitely </i>is politics. The film’s action happens under the shadow of Putin's regime. As a companion tells him, “Aggression is on the rise here. We have fear and subservience in our DNA.” Jenna attends (towers over) demonstrations such as for the release of dissident Alexei Navalny, navigating past lines of police, her costume in stark contrast to riot gear.</p> <p>Ms. Galdanova has said in interviews that the film is timed to Jenna's "public coming out." It's not an easy process. She's booted from a supermarket (the cops say because children are present), threatened, insulted, even assaulted. In Moscow, Jenna receives validation. Auditioning for a runway show, she elicits a gasp from the fashion designer Alexandr Rogov. "A real-life monster!" he exclaims, excited that she'll represent his brand.</p> <p>Jenna's plight is meant to be disturbing. When <i>Queendom </i>turns to a protest against the war in Ukraine, it becomes more than that. Her costume is special, an expression of truth to power. Preparing, assistants wrap her near-naked body in lengths of industrial fence wire, a body-crown of thorns. Tines stab her. "Does it hurt?" the accomplice asks. "Just do it," Jenna snaps. At the rally, Jenna is arrested. The courts will decide her fate.</p> <p>Agniia Galdanova has directed other features about escape: <i>Out of Place</i> (2017) and<i> </i><i>One Step Forward, One Step Back</i> (2020), about a family's dream to live far from civilization in the Altai Mountains. <i>Queendom</i> was conceived as part of a docuseries on drag queens but became a freestanding feature. She shot for two years, off and on, intrigued that a location like Magadan, so remote and haunted by the "historical weight" of Stalin-era prisons, could produce such an artist. It's to Ms. Galdanova's credit that she had started filming Jenna Marvin before her self-exile.</p> <p><i>Queendom </i>can be viewed as a plea for LGBTQ+ rights, and for the freedom of the artist. It exists as a snapshot of resilience in an era of uncertainty that comes with change. In the end, Jenna is emblematic. Her final “costume” will stun you.</p> <p>____________________________________________________</p> <p>Queendom. <i>Directed by Agniia Galdanova. From Greenwich Entertainment. 2023. In select theaters and on VOD. 98 minutes.</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4323&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="tptudYF9wyJA-lCbXnLs53BYArJ_GBTkU6nFwuz7vUs"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 17 Jun 2024 18:45:14 +0000 Chet Kozlowski 4323 at http://www.culturecatch.com With Friends Like These http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4320 <span>With Friends Like These</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7306" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7306" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Chet Kozlowski</a></span> <span>June 5, 2024 - 15:28</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/797" hreflang="en">drama</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-06/guy_friends_photo.jpeg?itok=7WtD9TUa" width="1100" height="511" alt="Thumbnail" title="guy_friends_photo.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>The word "frothy" comes to mind while watching <i>Guy Friends</i>. There's an effervescence to it, a bubbliness that you don’t often see in films these days. It's in love with its characters, its setting, and its clichés—and it uses a <i>lot</i> of clichés—in a way that is almost refreshing. It's lighter than air. You expect it to float off at any second.</p> <p><i>Guy Friends</i> is Jonathan Smith's "Woody," as in Allen: it's a paean to the lifestyle of upscale New Yorkers. Like <i>Manhattan,</i> it's shot in burnished tones of black and white. Like <i>Manhattan,</i> its credits are white type on a black background. Like <i>Manhattan,</i> it uses cocktail lounge jazz to underscore the whimsey of the action.</p> <p>Jaime Sharma (Kavita Jariwala) is a single Indian/American Millennial whose relationship has ended. She announces her breakup on social media and is instantly deluged with proclamations of love by her male followers. They've adored her from afar (even the doorman), and now she’s available. But Jaime wants something more, and that comes in the person of a former college friend's significant other, Sandy (Katie Muldowney). Sandy challenges Jaime's views about male friendship and about herself. <i>Guy Friends</i> is not a coming-out movie. It's too Mary Tyler Moore for that. It's about true friendship and how to achieve it in today’s dating scene.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GH9zd6yFwQE?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Director Jonathan Smith has solid comic timing, paying off the setups of his script, and the story co-written by Chris Siemasko. <i>Guy Friends</i> was shot during the pandemic for less than $5000.00. His actors are lesser-knowns but not amateurs, and Mr. Smith deftly blocks and edits to disguise any awkwardness.</p> <p>Kavita Jariwala, who is also Mr. Smith's future sister-in-law (!), carries off the part of Jamie well. The black-and-white cinematography highlights her striking features while equalizing the visual effect of the actors. Skin color becomes gray tones, which masks the paucity of ethnic diversity in the casting. This is a very white movie, which ultimately doesn't reflect the reality it celebrates.</p> <p><i>Guy Friends feels like a first film, but it is actually Jonathan Smith's fourth.</i> It's surprising, then, that its theme is so thin. His other films, notably <i>The Worst Year of My Life</i> (2012) and <i>Batsh*t Bride</i> (2019), have more heft, diving deeper into contemporary attitudes, but still in a richly comic way. Mr. Smith leans into his actors' strengths, even in the unfortunately titled <i>Breast Movie </i>(2010). He overreaches sometimes, resorting to tropes like montages of frolicking happy people set to pop music. But it’s always better to overreach than fall short.</p> <p>We've often walked down this street before with Woody, Nicole Holofcener, Whit Stillman, Eric Shaeffer, et al., filmmakers who find the social mores of Manhattan fascinating.</p> <p>But they also find themselves endlessly fascinating. Theirs are niche movies, designed to appeal primarily to the people they portray, and so are destined to languish on the lower shelves of a streamer like Tubi (that’s where to find Jonathan Smith's earlier films).</p> <p>___________________________________________________</p> <p>Guy Friends. <i>Directed by Jonathan Smith. Released by Freestyle Digital Media and Vile Henchman Productions. 2024. In theaters and on VOD. 85 minutes.</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4320&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="B47ZOO-hSWas20duytdPgoTAo5-ivvAYiapLq1fTcJE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 05 Jun 2024 19:28:08 +0000 Chet Kozlowski 4320 at http://www.culturecatch.com Spiders from Mars http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4318 <span>Spiders from Mars</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7306" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7306" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Chet Kozlowski</a></span> <span>May 27, 2024 - 10:23</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/829" hreflang="en">horror</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JMNOaJOWICo?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Roger Corman would love <i>Sting</i>. In fact, he would have <i>made</i> this movie. If there’s a heaven, the late, great maestro of the B movie is looking down and smiling.</p> <p><i>Sting</i> is Corman to the core: it has a charmingly no-budget look, an offbeat premise, a crew of actors you know you’ve seen before, and limited <i>mise en scene</i> (all the action takes place in one building, between floors. It’s snowing furiously so they don’t go out). In other words, all the earmarks of a classic Roger Corman movie, like <i>The Little Shop of Horrors, Attack of the Crab Monsters, </i>and <i>Not of This Earth.</i></p> <p><i>Sting</i>’s going for the effect of a B-movie classic. Add elements of the original <i>Invaders from Mars </i>and <i>Die Hard</i>—those are not Corman productions—and you get the picture. <i>Sting</i>’s credits even use the same font as Netflix’s <i>Stranger Things</i> (it’s Benguiat Bold, blood red).</p> <p>After a prologue about Earth’s weather being screwed up by a mysterious meteor shower, we cut to a tenement in Brooklyn. The building’s old, and everything’s going wrong with it, including ominous bangs in the duct system. A grumpy exterminator finds unexplained carnage and is sucked into the ducts by an invisible menace.</p> <p>A title card takes us back four weeks. Unbeknownst to humankind, let alone the residents of the building, the meteors have deposited <i>Alien</i>-style eggs that birth spider-like creatures. They emerge from their pods, adorable and appearing harmless.</p> <p>One of them is captured by a girl named Charlotte (get it?), a precocious 12-year-old. Charlotte’s mother Heather has remarried to Ethan, who moves the family in and becomes the supervisor of said tenement. Charlotte and her stepfather are aspiring graphic novelists, working on the book that once published will bring a better life. Charlotte hides the spider, names it Sting, and feeds it cockroaches.</p> <p>That is, until Sting grows enough to go after bigger prey, that is, human.</p> <p><i>Sting</i> was filmed in Australia. Kiah Roache-Turner directed from his script. His movie is clever and has a sense of humor: jump scares come from the threatening shadow of the giant spider mistaken for hanging plants and a power strip riddled with cords. It’s more technically sophisticated than a Corman movie. It has lots of POV Steadicam shots through corridors and ducts. Mr. Roache-Turner has directed other genre films, like <i>Wyrmwood </i>and<i> Nekotronic</i>.</p> <article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/sting.jpeg?itok=qB4cYbYb" width="1200" height="676" alt="Thumbnail" title="sting.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>The Australian cast is impressive: Ethan is played by Ryan Corr of <i>Hacksaw Ridge</i> and HBO’s <i>House of the Dragon</i>; Penelope Mitchell of the latest <i>Hellboy </i>and <i>Star Trek: Picard</i> is mom Heather; Alyla Browns (who plays <i>Furiosa</i> as a young girl in the upcoming blockbuster) is Charlotte. Silvia Colloca, Danny Kim, and Jermaine Fowler (doing a decent Chris Tucker imitation) also stand out.</p> <p>For its Corman-y constraints (digital effects give way to a charmingly DIY spider in the climax), <i>Sting</i> takes on some deep human issues. Charlotte’s father is absent, and she’s having trouble adjusting to her new life. A woman downstairs mourns her lost family and drowns her grief in drink. Granma has Alzheimer’s. The biologist upstairs wants to cure cancer.</p> <p>One aspect Roger might not use: human suffering is a punchline when sympathetic characters meet gruesome fates. Call me old-fashioned. I know we expect blood and viscera from a movie like this. But I liked <i>Sting</i> and can’t help thinking it would find a wider audience if it didn’t have so much gratuitous gore.</p> <p>---------------------------------------------------------------</p> <p>Sting. <i>Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner. 2024. From Screen Australia and Align. On VOD, DVD, and Blu-Ray. 92 minutes.</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4318&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="R5yrFMxI6djacgvA-WzC9Mfwva8VtR7YrMK9E5kCSf0"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 27 May 2024 14:23:58 +0000 Chet Kozlowski 4318 at http://www.culturecatch.com British Busker Blues http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4317 <span>British Busker Blues</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7306" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7306" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Chet Kozlowski</a></span> <span>May 24, 2024 - 06:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity align-center"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/american_mileage.jpeg?itok=t_IWELPj" width="1100" height="469" alt="Thumbnail" title="american_mileage.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p><strong><em>American Mileage</em></strong></p> <p>Cam Cole is a feisty young busker, a street musician from London. He's a one-man band, riffing Blues on a fuzzy guitar while stomping out the beat on a drum he's rigged with pedals. His streetcorner act attracts tourists and passersby who post videos that have gone viral. This has made Cam a social media celebrity. Now he’s taken that and run with it, all the way to America.</p> <p><i>American Mileage</i> is a lively road trip in a gypsy RV. Less a documentary than a celebration of self, Cam arrives on American shores and sticks to the South—and the spirit of Highway 49—hitting important Blues landmarks along the way. Remember how, in Lost in America, Albert Brooks wanted to "touch Indians"? Cam Cole wants to touch Bluesmen.</p> <p>He and his cohort, director Tim Hardiman, blow into a town, looking to jam. Cam just wants to <i>play,</i> mate, and that playfulness and energy endear us to him. He’s fun to watch, especially when bashing away on his guitar and wailing.</p> <p>Cam shows up at places like the legendary Muscle Shoals Studios (Alabama), Stovall Farm (Louisiana), and The Riverside Hotel (Mississippi). Iconic names are evoked: John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, Mavis Staples, and Alan Lomax. He sits in with some of the best and holds his own: at Wild Bill’s in Tennessee, guitarist Chloe Lavender and Cam blow the roof off. He plays in the building where once stood the site where Robert Johnson recorded.</p> <p>Others have been down <i>American Mileage</i>'s road before: U2 made some of the same stops in 1988's <i>Rattle and Hum</i>. In the '70s, a Brit named Mark Bristow toured in a van with <i>Mark's America</i>, a multimedia show shot on Super 8 as he drove.</p> <p>Tim Hardiman shoots Cam in the frenetic style of an infomercial, with a roaming camera, jump cuts, and snappy graphics. Mr. Hardiman's kitchen-sink style revels in messy moments, like when Cam's Street show is stopped by a freak thunderstorm or when he, Cam, interrupts an interview to take a piss.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WATfD6GYuAc?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>For all the miles and all the history, <i>American Mileage</i> all comes back to Cam. Cam jamming. Cam getting a tattoo. Cam sharing wisdom. Cam eating soul food. Cam is front and center the whole time. He gets goofed on. At Greg's Guess House, MS, a guy offers Cam what he tells him is a barbecued raccoon but is actually a cat he hit with his car. "Hmm," Cam says, chewing. "It's very good, mate, very tender."</p> <p>Cam does some direct narration (i.e., cautioning the viewer that sometimes he'll have a beard and in others be clean-shaven because, you know, shaving), and his soliloquies are shot as if he’s talking to an off-camera interviewer, making us witnesses. It's a popular technique for building credibility. If someone else is listening to him, what he’s saying must be important.</p> <p>How is Cam received by the Bluesmen? Is he seen as a peer or an upstart? Singer Bobby Rush, who appeared in Martin Scorsese's 2003 doc <i>The Road to Memphis</i>, invites Cam into his home. "You're looking at the Blues," Bobby tells him. "I'm a Black man in Mississippi." Bobby’s cordial and full of stories, some of them horrific, like the car accident he got into while playing with Ike Turner's band. He invites Cam to play with him. He's genuinely pleased to be remembered and respected.</p> <p>Other guys, not so much. In Bentonia, MS (population 319), Cam inserts himself into a gathering of authentic Bluesmen. These guys are poor and old and still playing. R.L. Boyce slurs and swaggers, then sing like an angel. He tells Cam, "The style I got, you ain’t never gonna get it." Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, owner of the Blue Front Café and a renowned musician, is suspicious and defensive. When Cam extols his own unique style, Jimmy snaps, "Blues is Blues." He accuses Cam of trying to show him up.</p> <p>These guys have paid their dues. They're <i>still </i>paying their dues. (Has Cam Cole? His backstory is dispensed with quickly; he claims to have not pursued a traditional recording career because the industry is full of "wankers.") Cam purposely placing himself in the midst of the Blues' origins brings up interesting questions.</p> <p>He asks and answers: "Have white people stolen black people's music? Can a set of chords be owned by a race of people? I don't have an answer to that. I think claiming ownership of anything based on race is starting off on the wrong foot as nothing good can come from that." His predecessors, the Stones and Led Zeppelin, took flack for this, too. They were considered cultural appropriators during the "British Invasion" of rock music. See Keith Richards' spirited dispute with Chuck Berry in 1987's <i>Hail! Hail! Rock n Roll</i>.</p> <p>But that's the way of the Blues, mate. It’s a continuum. <i>American Mileage</i> is Cam Cole making myth. If he deserves a place at the table, seats will be open soon enough. Maybe he can wedge his way in there after all.</p> <p>_____________________________________________________<br /> American Mileage. <i>Directed by Tim Hardiman. 2024. Produced by 7</i><i><sup>th</sup></i><i> Floor Films, Nomad Films LLC, and Black 22 Productions. On digital platforms. 81 minutes.</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4317&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="ovgyOgMmF55ETCyv2xnKLwsYwj_g58d6AdVXBspCqRg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 24 May 2024 10:54:40 +0000 Chet Kozlowski 4317 at http://www.culturecatch.com The "Worst" Title for a Great Little Film http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4316 <span>The &quot;Worst&quot; Title for a Great Little Film</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/brandon-judell" lang="" about="/index.php/users/brandon-judell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Brandon Judell</a></span> <span>May 19, 2024 - 20:55</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/672" hreflang="en">comedy</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KVacS6T7jxs?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>If awards were handed out for the most impossibly difficult film title to remember, Joanna Arnow’s <i>The Feeling that the Time for Doing Something Has Passed</i> would win hands down. Indeed, every time I want to recommend <em>TFTTTFDSHP</em>, I google “Richard Brody New Yorker Masterpiece” for the moniker of this wryly comical ode to consensual-female-sexual-submissiveness to pop up.</p> <p>Yes, Mr. Brody, one of the current deans of film criticism, has praised to the hilt this feature, an offering at last year’s New York Film Festival that was also nominated for a Golden Camera at Cannes. Currently released in a handful of theaters, ones with hopefully extra-large marquees, it should be noted that Mr. Brody warns that <em>TFTTTFDSHP</em> is a “deceptively plain masterpiece.” He’s possibly indicating that unlike Eisenstein’s <i>Battleship</i> <i>Potemkin </i>(1925) or Coppola’s <i>Godfather </i>(1972), you might need a few hours or even days to realize you’ve just experienced a magnum opus.</p> <p>With that realization achieved, you can now consider that if Woody Allen had been born a woman and had showcased nudity in his works, plus sported a strong “female gaze,” we might not need Ms. Arnow to direct films, but since Woody wasn’t, doesn’t, and hasn’t, Ms. Arnow fills a huge vacancy.</p> <p>Clearly, there are many similarities between these two auteurs. For instance, Arnow’s opening frame announces her feature with white lettering on a black background, and her lead’s Jewish-American family could be stand-ins for Woody’s in <i>Radio Days</i> (1987). Arnow also inhabits the lead character as Allen often did until he didn’t. Her Ann, not unlike <i>Annie Hall’s </i>Alvy Singer, is at times a borderline needy, nerdy, loveable Jewish schlimazel but without most of the philosophical frills.</p> <p>For example, Ann’s opening nude, horizontal monologue is spoken as she’s rubbing her genitalia back and forth against her semi-slumbering, older lover Allen (Scott Cohen). Amidst furniture a few steps below Ikea, she states with a joyfully monotone delivery: “I love how you never care if I come. You never do anything for me . . . You go to sleep right after we finish.”</p> <p>Allen: “Hmmmmmm.”</p> <p>Ann: “Do you think people can change?”</p> <p>While Woody might showcase the skyline of Manhattan to the thunderous notes of “Rhapsody in Blue,” Arnow’s tribute is more a battered Valentine to the Brooklyn subway stop, the Smith-Ninth Streets Station, situated above the Gowanus Canal. The Canal, you might recall, was some time ago recognized as one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States, famed for its abundance of fecal coliforms.</p> <p>Excretory matter aside, this is the tale of a woman . . . a Wesleyan graduate with exposed bra straps. . . who would remain invisible to most of us whether we passed her on the street, sat next to her on the subway, or spent three years with her in our homeroom class. Her family has given up on her, her employers don’t realize she’s been with them for three years, and even her food lacks color.</p> <p>For dinner, Ann regularly squeezes out the queasily brown Maya Kaimal Everyday Dal from a pouch, a product placement that might actually hurt the company’s sales.</p> <p>So you won’t be surprised by her response when her bedmate asks, “What do you like?” Again in monotone, Ann responds: “I like when you tell me what to do…. I like things. I just can’t think of them at the moment.”</p> <p>Distinctly, the storyline doesn’t matter that much here. It’s basically one deliciously understated droll vignette following another with a few rueful undercurrents.</p> <p>After nine years with Allen, Ann, now 33, is ready to experiment with other Masters. Yes, from running into walls on command to dressing as a farm animal to Zooming her butt across town, please note that our eyeglassed heroine is in control of the situations. “But,” you query, “is she ready to give up control for love without domination? Is she ready for someone who is not a ‘sex friend’?”</p> <p>Maybe. Maybe not. But either way, there’s no argument that Joanna Arnow has arrived as both an actress and a director, one that you will want to be subsumed by in feature after feature.</p> <p>(Favorite moment: Ann sitting alone on a bench late at night at a deserted subway station. She’s licking a melting chocolate ice cream cone and starts smiling at an inner thought, and then laughing, and then . . . .)</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4316&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="voDfUVKC8na_YHs4nz6QnxkHIRUjs3LwBgLMxsw1GYo"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Mon, 20 May 2024 00:55:53 +0000 Brandon Judell 4316 at http://www.culturecatch.com Play With Fire http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4315 <span>Play With Fire</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7162" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7162" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Gary Lucas</a></span> <span>May 17, 2024 - 13:35</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/anita-nintchdbpic.jpeg?itok=SW2RcDel" width="960" height="940" alt="Thumbnail" title="anita-nintchdbpic.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>I went to see the new Anita Pallenberg doc <i>Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg </i>last week shortly after it opened at the IFC Center here on 6th Avenue, the first show of the day at the ungodly hour of 11:50 am. About five souls only collected in the lobby before the management opened the doors to the main theater—obvious hardcore fans of the Rolling Stones, more or less from my g-g-g-g-generation, knowledge brothers and sisters. Fellow old souls, we cast a commiserating glance at each other, waiting to go into the main theater when one of them whispered conspiratorially across to me: "Only people of a certain age know who Anita Pallenberg is" (was)—historical memory if not yr basic continuum of knowledge post-iPhone having been fucked into a cocked hat/relegated to the slag heap of history ("Do you remember your President Nixon?" sang David Bowie circa '75, only a year after Nixon resigned. Indeed. Do you remember what you even had for lunch yesterday?). </p> <p>Then it was time to bear witness to the blazing trajectory of Anita Pallenberg, Rock Chick Uber Alles, in a league of her own you could say, a powerful female shaman in her own right, a Lilith-figure who had Brian and then Keith with a side order of Mick, who even out-did Marianne Faithfull in the Ultimate Stones Bad Girl pantheon, a (dis)Honor Roll whose ranks stretch back to the early '60s and roll on to the last syllable of recorded time and include chanteuse Nico (knocked up and abandoned by Brian), singer/actress Marsha Hunt (knocked up and abandoned by Mick), German tv presenter/left-wing poster girl Uschi Obermaier (who had the signal pleasure of tearing Keith's earring out of his ear with her teeth during wild sex, leaving him and his bloody earlobe glued to the pillow when he came to next morning)—with special mention going to Mandy Smith who began an affair with Bill "Perks" Wyman at age 13—Bill enjoyed his perks!—and finally wed him 5 years later when she came of legal age in a marriage that lasted only 23 months. </p> <p>This is a very long and comprehensive documentary skillfully assembled by Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill, and it's worth a look, especially if you're a fan of the Stones. If not, you may come to gawk and stay. It has a copious amount of (to me) never-before-seen footage of the home movie variety, which looks pretty damned good considering its source, no doubt courtesy of Keith's two kids by Anita—Marlon and Angela Richards. Both come off as very well-spoken, sensitive, and sympathetic people who experienced a real amount of damage growing up in the wake of the Stones juggernaut and their absentee parents's antics and came out the other side intact (phew!).</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/FdJriCs_Y8k?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Now, the Stones have always been my favorites ever since the immortal opening bluesy guitar riff of <i>The Last Time </i>(composed and played by Brian Jones) came wafting over the airwaves and cast its hypnotic spell—and having seen them live in 1965 in my little town of Syracuse I became a stone zealot. Over the years, I've read almost every book about them, beginning with the 1965 Bantam paperback<i> Our Own Story by the Rolling Stones as We Told It to Pete Goodman</i> (UK music journalist Peter Jones in real life). I also sat through myriad HBO live specials and theatrical concert docs, including rarities like British Pathe's 1964 short subject <i>Rolling Stones Gather Moss </i>(I saw it in a movie theater). So yeah, eventually, I kinda knew the whole extended Anita episode pretty well, all the highs and lows. You could do worse by starting here: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Pallenberg">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Pallenberg</a> </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="539" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/brian_jones_anita_pallenberg_and_keith_richards_at_a_cafe_marrakesh_morocco_1967.jpeg?itok=eywqUP5c" title="brian_jones_anita_pallenberg_and_keith_richards_at_a_cafe_marrakesh_morocco_1967.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="800" /></article><figcaption>PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER </figcaption></figure><p>Here, her story is fleshed out to the nth degree and—clocking in as it does for nearly one hour and fifty minutes, but it feels like three—they easily could have trimmed twenty minutes from it. Still, I am happy Anita is given her due here at last because she comes off on the face of the available evidence as an even stronger, more willful, and forceful Personality than Messrs. Jones, Richards, and Jagger combined. Certainly, none of the Stones radiate anything resembling real Star Power on the big screen when caught off stage, going back to Peter Whitehead and Andrew Loog Oldham's 1966 live-in-Ireland documentary, <i>Charlie is My Darling</i>, where they come off as lumpen proles in the interview sections (as opposed to The Beatles' individual charismatic sparkle throughout <i>A Hard Day's Night </i>). The Anti-Beatles, eh? But Anita shines in all her film forays. A real-life force of nature, for my money, she is the best thing about Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell's 1970 <i>Performance</i>—she absolutely steals the show from Mick. </p> <p>The narration here is by Scarlett Johanson, who reads chunks from Anita's posthumously discovered autobiographical manuscript entitled (what else?) <i>Black Magic. </i>Her low-key (some would say flat) American accent doesn't work for me, sorry to say—she sounds way too <i>nice</i>. I would have vastly preferred the dulcet accented tones of Eva Green or the husky vocables of Emma Stone on the soundtrack—or better yet, going for true Bad Girl glory, the voice of Asia Argento or Paz de la Huerta—but you can't always get what you want. </p> <p>Fun Fact/Most Impressive Takeaway: Anita was the great-granddaughter of Swiss symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin, whose canvases contain as much colorful Sturm und Drang as Anita's own storied life. Böcklin specialized in mythological portraits of centaurs, satyrs, and nubile nymphs at play; some of his tableau seem to predict (or at least are not that far afield of) central episodes in Anita's saga. (I actually discovered a knockoff of Böcklin's 1883 masterpiece <i>Playing in the Waves </i>in a smoky pub in Prague some years ago, which on close inspection, has a horned demonic visage <em>Goat Head's Soup</em>-style painted under the top layer of pigment courtesy of the anonymous forger (see below, right under the centaur's outstretched left arm, this painting now hangs in Studio Faust just across the road from the pub in Prague, an excellent recording facility operated by my old friend Richard "Faust" Mader). </p> <figure role="group" class="embedded-entity"><article><img alt="Thumbnail" class="img-responsive" height="900" src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/Bocklin-painting.jpeg?itok=zsxsK9rK" title="Bocklin-painting.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" width="1200" /></article><figcaption>PHOTO BY GARY LUCAS, A KNOCKOFF OF ARNOLD Böcklin'S "PLAYING IN THE WAVES"</figcaption></figure><p>True confession: I am kind of burned out on the Stones and their wicked wicked ways at this point in time. I'm told they are still capable of churning out the occasional banger. But I couldn't name one. And I have no desire to sit in a stadium to see them—or anyone, for that matter (well, Paolo Conte—maybe). Can holographic AI performances of the band a la Abba be all that far off?</p> <p>Basically, "I don't find this stuff amusing anymore" (Paul Simon). I still enjoy their early recordings, particularly the Andrew Oldham-era Stones—but I've stopped actively listening to them. They have become (for me anyway) a tired fossilized cliche, aging poster boys for a decadent rock 'n' roll lifestyle that flourished in what looks now like the Jurassic era, with scant relevance in the current world-historical climate other than as mere entertainment fodder (albeit on a Brobdinagian scale). A nostalgia act, in other words. They're not dangerous anymore. Were they ever, really?? Yes. So dangerous that the UK establishment contrived to try and shut them down by busting 3 of them repeatedly when their influence on youth culture became a perceived subversive threat to authority and the way people thought about things like "petty morals" (to quote Keith in the dock of the Old Bailey in 1967). When their very presence on stages (particularly in Eastern Europe) could provoke riots. </p> <p>The beginning of the end of my fascination with the Stones began with the Altamont debacle—which, along with Kent State, heralded the death knell of the '60s—and picked up speed right around the time they brought Truman Capote and Lee Radziwill into their entourage on the road with them in '73, when the whole thing became a mega-commodified spectacle—you can get a strong whiff of this sorry-ass rawk 'n' roll circus up close and personal in parts of the suppressed-for-years Robert Frank doc, <i>Cocksucker Blues</i>. Their music stayed strong for a few more albums post-<em>Exile</em>. They could still pump out the occasional world-shaking anthem—but their whole Outlaw persona began to ring hollow. Keith's <i>Life </i>autobiography signaled the end of my Stones infatuation: too many casualties surrounding the group, too much collateral damage, too much bad behavior and by-the-numbers debauchery over too many years. Not impressed. "What else can you show me?" (Dylan). </p> <p>Still, this documentary is a good start towards shining a light on a powerful female artist in her own right in the Stones menage who was seemingly under nobody's thumb but that of King Heroin—a nasty habit she managed to kick before joining "the choir invisible" (George Eliot). It restores an overall sense of agency (to invoke a current big buzzword) to the "Voodoo Priestess" and "seductive enchantress," as she is referred to in the doc—but it is not exactly a "pretty pretty" (<i>Barbarella)</i> story.</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4315&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="nf5sdFSeR050zabo2q6zWQ_leXtGjOsiteyxa80IkLE"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Fri, 17 May 2024 17:35:53 +0000 Gary Lucas 4315 at http://www.culturecatch.com World, Meet Jack http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4314 <span>World, Meet Jack</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7306" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7306" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Chet Kozlowski</a></span> <span>May 15, 2024 - 09:28</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/859" hreflang="en">indie film</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/east_bay.jpeg?itok=raW1SDDo" width="1200" height="669" alt="Thumbnail" title="east_bay.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>A man sits in a field of overgrown weeds and wildflowers. He turns a video camera on himself. A patch of sunlight spotlights him, singling him out. Is it a trick of the light or a celestial signal?</p> <p>The man is Jack Lee, the protagonist of the new film <i>East Bay</i>. Jack's frustrated. He's 39 years old. His ancestry is Korean, and his family holds themselves to a high standard, which Jack falls short of. "Success gives one's existence a meaningful narrative structure," he bemoans, due to his lack of either. What does his life add up to? When someone asks him, "What are your long-term plans?" Jack answers, "Death."</p> <p>Jack works a menial job at a Silicon Valley software firm, performing "the custodial work of the digital world." He wants to be a filmmaker. He's made a few goofy and sardonic bits he wants to be considered "good bad," but he suspects they are just "bad bad." Undaunted, he enters the East Bay Film Festival. One of the festival planners, Sara, gets his jokes. She campaigns for the film to be accepted, and Jack's story arc begins.</p> <p>Writer/director Daniel Yoon was born in Chicago and is now based in Toronto, Canada. His first feature was <i>Post Concussion,</i> shot in 1999 on 16mm film, and he's lived all sorts of lives between then and now. He's worked as an Outward Bound Instructor, leading extended canoe expeditions in Northern Ontario, as an energy policy analyst in Washington DC and Colorado, and as a management consultant to Fortune 1000 companies.</p> <p>Besides writing and directing <i>East Bay</i>, Mr. Yoon also plays Jack, an endearing sad sack. His modest ambitions, relationship with his slacker roommates, and surprising way with beautiful women make us root for him even as he routinely sabotages himself.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VHV5JEjeVUI?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>If <i>East Bay</i> belongs to any category, it's the Confused Young Man Finding Himself Genre begun by <i>The Graduate</i> and refined through <i>Orange County, High Fidelity,</i> and even <i>Ferris Bueller's Day Off</i>. But it's more DIY than any of those. <i>East Bay </i>has the pokey quality of a school project. Mr. Yoon seems to be making it up as he goes along, surprising himself that he's got a film at the end. Granted, he allows himself some motifs, like glowing light that comes from no discernable source, singling out Jack at particular eras of his life. But for the most part, <i>East Bay</i> just…<i>happens.</i></p> <p>It's as a faux video diary, with flashbacks, flash-forwards—held together by John Welsman's pensive piano score—and Woody Allen-style asides spoken directly to the audience. Like Woody, Mr. Yoon is perceptive about human nature. As the film opens, Beth, Jack's partner (played by Melissa Pond), is embarrassed by her own intellectualism, so she puts on a "girlie act." Nervous Sara (Constance Wu of <i>Crazy Rich Asians,</i> and top-billed here) practically yells her dating chat at Jack as if reading off cue cards. Kavi Ramachandran Ladnier (TV's <i>CSI: Los Angeles</i>) is an "aspiring elite spiritual leader" about whom Jack says, "She is not completely bonkers unless you take everything she says 100% literally." Edmund Sim and Destry Miller, Jack's roommates Tim and Stuart (who both appeared in Mr. Yoon's first feature <i>Post Concussion</i>) show uncommon insight at unexpected times. There's even a cameo by God Himself. It's that kind of movie.</p> <p><i>East Bay's</i> Canadian roots show. Jack gets into the festival with a joint titled <i>Hockey Daze; </i>he and his roommates spend much time on the ice. The casting has a nonchalant multi-national bent that US films are still self-conscious about<i>. </i></p> <p><i>East Bay's</i> plot is not particularly cohesive or a grand narrative. It's like a TikTok confession that branches out to themes like legacy, destiny, and divinity. It's a shaggy dog of a movie, ambling in, sticking its wet nose in your hand, wanting to be noticed. Eventually, you give in. <i>East Bay</i> has charm to spare and a wonderfully offbeat sensibility.</p> <p>_____________________________________________________</p> <p>East Bay. <i>Directed by Daniel Yoon. 2022. From Level 33 Entertainment. In theaters and on VOD. 94 minutes.</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4314&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="0HoAwRPecnYLw8grxqZTcr9_nktlUQ1WWPa1C_zV61I"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 15 May 2024 13:28:38 +0000 Chet Kozlowski 4314 at http://www.culturecatch.com Mourning in America http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4313 <span>Mourning in America</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7306" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7306" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Chet Kozlowski</a></span> <span>May 11, 2024 - 10:54</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/23%20mile_0.jpeg?itok=i94jRVF1" width="1200" height="900" alt="Thumbnail" title="cc-film-review.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Our divided nation is the topic of Mitch McCabe’s harrowing new documentary <i>23 Mile.</i> Set firmly in America’s heartland, the film is a video diary of a perfect storm of events in 2020: the Presidential election in the midst of the Covid pandemic.</p> <p>The scene is Michigan, from Detroit to Kalamazoo and stops in between. While the state has “long been a hotbed of militia activity,” as one observer puts it, <i>23 Mile</i> spreads a wide net, documenting tourists, activists and extremists. What emerges is a disquieting portrait of a disillusioned and confused populace.</p> <p><i>23 Mile</i> offers no narration or commentary. Its technique is simplicity itself, purely point-and-shoot: press conferences, rallies, protests, fundraisers. It’s a verité collage of the breadth of involvement (and dissatisfaction) that emerges from behind masks and disinfectant. Bleak scenes—bare trees (it’s fall), red MAGA caps, puffer jackets—are punctuated by radio show call-ins, ghostly voices out of the ether, against shots of waves lapping at a tanker, or media microphones awaiting a speaker.</p> <p>Mitch McCabe is the director/producer of other topical shorts and features, including <i>You Have Been Lied</i> <i>To</i> (2023), <i>Civil War Surveillance Poems, Part 1</i> (2020), and the 2009 HBO documentary <i>Youthh Knows No Pain.</i></p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fZwmwLxIqiU?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Though the time for both sides-ism has passed, the film employs it to great effect. The people just speak. Their affiliations are not readily revealed. It’s a canny device: all the complaints sound alike: something’s got to change in our basic political and social structure. One man who hosts an unpopular Biden display on his front lawn says, “Policies are the same. I just want to vote for decency.”</p> <p>The media is a pariah, called out as “the most effective devil in America.” Most of the dissent is bull-horned or glad-handed. “I cannot do anything unless it’s defensive,” says a middle-aged man in paramilitary garb, as if that justifies his assault weapon. He knows that whoever fires the first shot potentially sets off a barrage. Yet they carry, concealed or right out there.</p> <p>To watch <i>23 Mile</i> is to witness the groundswell and experience the monotony of lives left behind. These people take to the streets, waving the flag and mouthing the mantra “We the people/liberty for all” while marching under the shadow of disinformation. In the span of time covered by the film, the plot to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer is exposed. One interviewee is happy to see her unharmed but stung by her criticism of Trump, as if the two acts weren’t related.</p> <p>It's no spoiler to say that <i>23 Mile</i> ends first with the election—a lone walker holds up a hand scrawled sign that reads “You lost,” which could be intended for any of us—and then with the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine from the plant in Kalamazoo. Then the chilling caption “24 days till Jan. 6.”</p> <p><i>23 Mile</i> is a searing snapshot of a prophetic time in our history.</p> <p>_____________________________________________________</p> <p>23 Mile. <i>Directed by Mitch McCabe. On VOD, DVD, and Blu Ray. 78 Minutes.</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4313&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="TFSNXZ5NiUIlMHhz4_dOf7xdeZgn4M8M-ZIhYe5-L9c"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sat, 11 May 2024 14:54:32 +0000 Chet Kozlowski 4313 at http://www.culturecatch.com Ultimate Value of All Things http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4312 <span>Ultimate Value of All Things </span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/user/7162" lang="" about="/index.php/user/7162" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Gary Lucas</a></span> <span>May 5, 2024 - 14:05</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/765" hreflang="en">fantasy</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/undefined.jpeg?itok=nKjF8xDi" width="1200" height="900" alt="Thumbnail" title="undefined.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH: I love to go and see films on weekday afternoons in actual cinemas. Very few people are in attendance, a mix of hardcore cineastes and pensioners. I like to get there early, stake out a good seat, and hunker down with buttered popcorn and a cold drink (usually a coke, although Film Forum offers an exceptionally delicious egg cream which they whip up from scratch). Once the lights go down and we are altogether in the communal womb-like darkness, I tend during the trailers to drift into a semi-twilight state--the crash after my cold drink's initial sugar rush--before rousing myself into sharper focus just in time for the opening credits. Which is why I enjoyed Italian director <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Alice-Rohrwacher-365567210221358/?__cft__[0]=AZVo6J524NBNY4tsZdUGHAKt7THPNWsWqgTEhBrGuIohPQKm18qKf65oNs_ceiKUgLYk8KTDPADm2mn6CABoIJXrnWR5gCwVqv2zMtzeqIkxVEFy1s6bNIbHMzKS7AqWHQFfBR9Ac-_MtOFuBtVl2LdJeIOzWhpeJw_Vne_AWw3r-LHJa0Cr3QumVWRp1tNPuwhfMyLwx6IOq-Gxo9jB28nt&amp;__tn__=kK-R" role="link" tabindex="0">Alice Rohrwacher</a>'s magic realist opus <em>La Chimera</em> so much. It pretty much inhabits the same drowsy semi-conscious dream state I normally experience before the film du jour starts--and sustains that mood for nearly three meandering and delightful hours, eventually building to a Very Big Bang I won't reveal here. Suffice to say that the film is sheer visual and narrative poetry, in part reminiscent of the gauzy descriptive wordscapes of late Nabokov (<em>Ada</em> and <em>Look at the Harlequins</em> come to mind), which float in and out of the reader/viewer's consciousness, insistently begging the questions "What exactly is a Dream / And what exactly is a Joke?" (pace Syd Barrett's "Jugband Blues").</p> <p>Ostensibly a comedic tale of a band of impoverished ragazzi tomb raiders (tombaroli), sifting under the top soil of Tuscany necropoli for ancient Etruscan artifacts, the film is also a profoundly serious inquiry into the Ultimate Value of All Things both corporeal and spiritual. The band sells their unholy pickings for a pittance to a shadowy sharpie, an imperious boss woman who forges documents of fake provenance to better auction the loot off for millions of euros to international museum curators who most likely know better and look the other way. The film leisurely ambles its way through the gorgeous land and seascapes of '80s Tuscany using a variety of different film and video stocks to suggest different mystical psychological and psycho-geographic states. From scene to scene, in a strategy of offhand misdirection and inference, shards of the characters' history--fragments of memory and desire--are gradually revealed like so many pieces of broken amphorae, while real ghosts hover around the proceedings above and below ground.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TkIC8YI9-eU?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>Soon-to-be-superstar protagonist Josh O'Connor (<em>The Crown</em>) portrays a mumbling, shambolic former British archeologist named Arthur, first seen sprawling in a train compartment wearing a dirty white linen suit which grows grubbier as the film proceeds--gone to seed and fresh out of jail for (it's implied) past grave robbing, and seemingly now on a permanent bummer due to his current impecunious position and the simultaneous disappearance of his Italian girlfriend. He's on the skids but still possesses, to the delight of that old gang of his, a near-preternatural gift for divining ripe and ready grave sites. There are strong performances from <a href="https://www.facebook.com/rossellini.isa?__cft__[0]=AZVo6J524NBNY4tsZdUGHAKt7THPNWsWqgTEhBrGuIohPQKm18qKf65oNs_ceiKUgLYk8KTDPADm2mn6CABoIJXrnWR5gCwVqv2zMtzeqIkxVEFy1s6bNIbHMzKS7AqWHQFfBR9Ac-_MtOFuBtVl2LdJeIOzWhpeJw_Vne_AWw3r-LHJa0Cr3QumVWRp1tNPuwhfMyLwx6IOq-Gxo9jB28nt&amp;__tn__=-]K-R" role="link" tabindex="0">Isabella Rossellini</a> as the village matriarch Flora, the mother of Arthur's grand lost love, and in a Fellini-esque touch, Brazilian actress <a href="https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100095396197320&amp;__cft__[0]=AZVo6J524NBNY4tsZdUGHAKt7THPNWsWqgTEhBrGuIohPQKm18qKf65oNs_ceiKUgLYk8KTDPADm2mn6CABoIJXrnWR5gCwVqv2zMtzeqIkxVEFy1s6bNIbHMzKS7AqWHQFfBR9Ac-_MtOFuBtVl2LdJeIOzWhpeJw_Vne_AWw3r-LHJa0Cr3QumVWRp1tNPuwhfMyLwx6IOq-Gxo9jB28nt&amp;__tn__=-]K-R" role="link" tabindex="0">Carol Duarte</a> portrays Italia, a Gelsomina-like Holy Innocent who falls for Arthur and vice versa, and later admonishes him and his gang of tombaroli when she stumbles on them trying to cart off their booty: "These are not meant for human eyes!" Or ears, as Arthur has given her a little jingling bell seemingly dating back to 800 years BCE. which once delighted and now repulses her as she realizes what the lovable gang has been up to. There is a lot of effective music on the soundtrack (including Kraftwerk's "Space Lab"), as well as commentary on the proceedings sung as Tuscan folk ballads live in the film by members of the gang (who seem to be freelance commedia dell 'arte players when they are not raiding tombs).</p> <p>It's definitely, a film that bears repeated viewing, I highly recommend!</p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4312&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="CaAJvwVTPla8LDJKQyTo0igudcgnBhDx6vGf6nw0zl8"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Sun, 05 May 2024 18:05:07 +0000 Gary Lucas 4312 at http://www.culturecatch.com Quest of Ire http://www.culturecatch.com/index.php/node/4311 <span>Quest of Ire</span> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/index.php/users/webmaster" lang="" about="/index.php/users/webmaster" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Webmaster</a></span> <span>May 1, 2024 - 17:04</span> <div class="field field--name-field-topics field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Topics</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/film" hreflang="en">Film Review</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-tags field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Tags</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/index.php/taxonomy/term/399" hreflang="en">documentary</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><article class="embedded-entity"><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/width_1200/public/2024/2024-05/living_with_lions.jpeg?itok=Gs0oX9of" width="1200" height="675" alt="Thumbnail" title="living_with_lions.jpeg" typeof="foaf:Image" class="img-responsive" /></article><p>Fun fact: there are two kinds of primed lions in South Africa. Primed for what? Primed to be hunted.</p> <p>"Canned" lions are bred for it and regulated by the state. "Wild" lions are, well, wild. They live free in the plains. The hunts for them are popular because they promise adventure, illicit thrills, and validation. These are run by essentially outlaw outfits. Guides are free agents and unsanctioned. These wild hunts are highly profitable, the first link in a chain of exploiters that includes everyone from taxidermists to international financiers.</p> <p>These are the guys Rogue Rubin is after.</p> <p>Rogue (<i>né</i> Joni) Rubin is a South African photographer who specializes in big game in its natural habitat. She's attractive, spirited, and on a crusade: to end the extinction-in-progress of wild African lions. <i>Lion Spy</i> is her stirring documentary about that issue.</p> <p>She's also the "spy" of the title. Ms. Rubin knows that powerful forces—shadowy individuals and corporations—are at work here. There’s big money to be made, and they would be unhappy with her attempts to stop it. So she's taken on a fake identity and gone undercover, posing as a "trophy intern," an assistant, and a general gofer on these safaris. She uses small, covert cameras to record what transpires.</p> <p>Most trophy hunters are white, male, rich, and living the fantasy of the bold adventurer triumphing over the savage predator. Back home, the mounted head of a lion or other feral beast is a great story and a display of <i>cojones.</i> These are the clients wild lion guides cater to. The reality isn't quite as risky: the guides who take them out are heavily armed and poised to take over in case the client is a poor shot, or the quarry turns on them.</p> <div class="video-embed-field-provider-youtube video-embed-field-responsive-video form-group"><iframe width="854" height="480" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4izPWguUx70?autoplay=0&amp;start=0&amp;rel=0"></iframe> </div> <p>But that's rarely the case. For the most part, according to the film, wild lions are docile in their home environment and avoid contact with humans. These outings are a setup: the guides spot a lion, pursue it, and just when it relaxes, the client shoots it from a safe distance. The animal doesn't stand a chance. This practice enrages Ms. Rubin. "This wasn't a chase," she hisses into her hidden camera. "This was an execution."</p> <p>And it's not limited to lions. Unassuming antelopes and zebras are felled by long-range rifles while strolling or foraging. When a majestic giraffe goes down, the hunters gloat over it, and a guide casually remarks that the gigantic animal's hide will make a great rug, running right up the client's stairs.</p> <p>Ms. Rubin casts a wide net in <i>Lion Spy. Besides the in-country episodes, she infiltrates a PHASA conference (the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa), where one speaker warns that "public opinion will kill this business."</i> At a convention in Las Vegas, we get an animal-by-animal kill price list (getting a hippo will cost you the most).</p> <p>One of <i>Lion Spy</i>'s more jaw-dropping episodes concerns a father and daughter duo. Dad has returned to Africa and the site of his "triumph" over the wild lion—the carcass now mounted and displayed proudly in his home--this time with his teenage daughter in tow. "It's her turn," he explains. The girl is eager and has a good shot and gets hers right away. Wait, will they see this on Instagram?</p> <p>As film art, <i>Lion Spy</i> is competent. It documents what many of us may never experience, a safari, using the techniques of modern documentaries: testimonials, rapid-fire editing, and a rousing soundtrack worthy of an action film.</p> <p>As propaganda, <i>Lion Spy</i> is more effective, especially when tracing the path of money generated by the trade (its sponsors may surprise you). Ms. Rubin has a lot of footage to work with, from her hidden cameras and those used by hunters themselves to immortalize the event.</p> <p>The "spy" part is gimmicky as a framing device. Ms. Rubin wants <i>Lion Spy</i> to be seen as a "thriller," but it's a pointed one: she prods opinions for sound bites (like the daughter-hunter who sees a lion cub and says she "wants one." Who <i>wouldn't, </i>until it's grown up? Yet Ms. Rubin uses the remark as evidence of the girl's insensitivity).</p> <p><i>Lion Spy</i> isn't made to play in theaters but on flatscreens at fundraisers. Of course, the jig is up once audiences (and her subjects) see the film and its true agenda is revealed. But in the final account, the movie works because it's persuasive, and Rogue Rubin is so passionate about preserving the lions.</p> <p>After all, as Debby Thomson of Bushveld Connections, one of Ms. Rubin's supporters, says in the film, "What is Africa without wild animals?"</p> <p>_____________________________________________________<br /> Lion Spy. <i>Directed by Joni “Rogue” Rubin. 2021. On digital platforms. 76 minutes.</i></p> </div> <section> <h2>Add new comment</h2> <drupal-render-placeholder callback="comment.lazy_builders:renderForm" arguments="0=node&amp;1=4311&amp;2=comment_node_story&amp;3=comment_node_story" token="ScSALuQZN9GBqtGE31TyeHMpgtpvXuqBa-qoHTKMApg"></drupal-render-placeholder> </section> Wed, 01 May 2024 21:04:16 +0000 Webmaster 4311 at http://www.culturecatch.com