Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paying Taxes Is Participating

For whatever reason, Alex Cox – the iconoclast behind Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, and Straight to Hell – has never quite enjoyed the indie godfather reputation of Jim Jarmusch or David Lynch. Having created several of the best American independent films of the 1980s, Cox dropped off the cultural radar after the commercial failure of the fitfully brilliant Walker – his single stab at a studio-backed, comparatively large-budgeted film. During the two decades since, while Cox has languished due to a self-proclaimed “blacklist”, he’s directed seven little-seen films.
Fortunately, Microcinema has recently issued a few of the overlooked films on region-free discs, hopefully contributing to a rediscovery of Cox’s work. Primary among these releases is 1991’s El Patrullero (“Highway Patrolman”), the first film Cox made after Walker.

Monday, October 24, 2011

An ISLAND Not on the Chart

Some Backstory: in the winter of 2002, I was on a classic horror kick. Thanks to the recommendations of my brother and my friend Barry, I’d seen Ulmer’s THE BLACK CAT, Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE, and – most eye-popping of all – as many Val Lewton-produced films as I could get my hands on. Searching for the latter among the hallowed stacks of old VHS in Santa Monica’s Vidiots, I grabbed Erle C. Kenton’s THE ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, mistaking it for my intended rental, the Lewton/Mark Robson/Karloff effort, ISLE OF THE DEAD.*
It was a happy accident.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Death is Not the End

I very much wanted to (and still might) do another one of my illustrated blog posts indexing the awesome imagery that gives Victor Sjostrom's 1921 PHANTOM CARRIAGE its spiritual/visceral resonance. Instead, we'll all* have to settle for the review I wrote for GreenCine.

* That is, all two of us that read this blog (hi wife!).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ashes of Time

Dust motes! Just one of the many wacky animated inanimate objects on display in Michelangelo Frammartino's meditation, LE QUATTRO VOLTE (THE FOUR TIMES), which I attempt to explain over at GreenCine.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Five Film Friday

Alternate Alliterative Title:
"Philip's Failure to Find Five Minutes to Fashion (and Finish) a Fitting Tribute to Two Fine DVDs"

It's been a lousy coupla weeks for me to keep up with a blog that, as much as I (sometimes) enjoy writing, doesn't pay a bloody penny (or generate comments). That said, I need to clear the decks and do an unfortunately brief run-down of two fantastic releases by (who else?) The Criterion Collection: THE COMPLETE JEAN VIGO and Chang-dong Lee's SECRET SUNSHINE. So I'll bang these out and clear my to-do list (and conscience) so as to enjoy a weekend getaway with my bride.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

While I'm Stalling, Here's This

Buzz Nano had had a busy Solar Unit. He’d taken a tube car over to West Dakota in order to secure a breathing license. With that done, he was settling in for a laser drink with his robot friend, Gr0x Gearsley.

“Th1s stuff 1s g00d,” Gr0x bleeped, pouring the laser into his taste portal.

Buzz adjusted his visor.


They sat in contented silence. With one metal finger, Gr0x smoothed out the steel wool on top of his head. He scanned the bar, hoping to get lucky with a G-Bot.

“I wonder what the weather’s like on Europa right now,” Buzz mumbled. “I could use a mooncation.”

“Can’t y0u get the S0larCast 0n y0ur v1s0r?” Gr0x asked.


- excerpted from my forthcoming, 800-page sci-fi paperback, Men of Metal, Book One of the Ursa Minor Chronicles. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Crickets... (actually, cicadas)

TROPICAL MALADY (2003, A. Weerasethakul)

THIRST FOR LOVE (1967, K. Kurahara)
Awfully quiet around here. Especially since I'm waaaay overdue for my pieces on SECRET SUNSHINE and Criterion's revelatory release of THE COMPLETE JEAN VIGO. Please stand by...

Look! Here's a wooden ball playing Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" in the middle of a Japanese forest:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sun, Sweat, and Smoke: The Visuals of Koreyoshi Kurahara

One of the most striking things about the films in Criterion/Eclipse’s new Koreyoshi Kurahara set is that – despite their disparity in theme, genre, and tone – they all share an urgent, kinetic style that reminds me of Scorsese at his most gutsy. From the chaotic WARPED ONES to the ostensible romantic dramedy I HATE BUT LOVE, Kurahara never lets his audience feel secure for very long. 

Which makes it hard for me to convey Kurahara’s skittering style via the staid still frame showcase that I love so much. But I’m going to try it anyway since I really believe he’s a filmmaker whom young, piss-n-vinegar-filled filmmakers would do well to study.  With his Ginsu editing and kamikaze camerawork, Kurahara’s got style to burn (as I say in my review over at GreenCine) and knows how to fill a frame. Here’s a brief, frame grab-heavy tour of the set (and, note well, it contains spoilers).

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Get the hell out of my fortress!"

CUL-DE-SAC (1966) is Roman Polanski’s third feature film and his third (and final) film in black and white. For those into making arbitrary trilogies*, CUL-DE-SAC and its predecessors (KNIFE IN THE WATER and REPULSION) create a Polanski sourdough starter of sorts: the germ of Polanski’s entire subsequent filmography can be found in these three films (all available from the Criterion Collection, with CUL-DE-SAC hitting the streets tomorrow).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunshiney Intimidation

Yesterday's mail brought two unexpected surprises: Criterion's latest Eclipse set (THE WARPED WORLD OF KOREYOSHI KURAHARA) and their forthcoming disc of Lee Chang-Dong's SECRET SUNSHINE. I know nothing of either filmmaker and plan on keeping it that way. Normally, I'd be doing as much pre-screening research/viewing as was possible. In this case, I'm too busy and am kind of looking forward to going into these films absolutely blind, without any expectation (aside from the implicit "Cinephile-Approved" baggage that accompanies anything coming from the Criterion label). It's rare that I watch a film without knowing anything about it or its makers, so this should be fun.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Well, my review of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's UNCLE BOONMEE ETC. ETC. has posted. Like his other films, I find BOONMEE more and more compelling as I digest it. It'll require more viewings but I'm moving on to another blindspot: Satyajit Ray, in anticipation of next Tuesday's Criterion release of THE MUSIC ROOM. I've had the Apu Trilogy sitting on top of my DVD player for about a week and the time has come to reckon with India's most well-known filmmaker.

Regarding BOONMEE, I doubt there will be too many images this year that are halfway as arresting as this:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hello, "Joe!"

After campaigning to review UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES (aka 2010's Palme d'Or winner) for GreenCine, I got the assignment. And now I'm a bit terrified. Part of it is that many other much smarter and more qualified folks have already spilled ink about the thing. I’m not so much standing on the shoulders of giants as I am clawing my way up their backs. But worse is the fact that, other than a charming short, I've never seen another film by Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul.

This holiday weekend, I began to remedy this bit of cine-oblivion on my part by taking in SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY, Weerasethakul's fourth feature. I'd hoped to catch up with all of his work prior to the Tuesday, July 12th DVD release of BOONMEE but, realistically, that's not going to happen. What follows are my flop sweat-drenched ruminations on SYNDROMES.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

People On Melodrama

- Brigitte (Brigitte Borchert) fires up her beach-worthy Victrola and blasts "In a Little Pastry Shop" to the delight of her fellow PEOPLE ON SUNDAY. Ms. Borchert appears in the film and, in a mildly revealing documentary that appears as a supplement on the Criterion disc, discusses her memories of its making. Most notable is the fact that she received double the pay of her cast mates and spent her per diem on sausage and potatoes. Like I said: mildly revealing.

- At the end of their outing, Wolfgang and Erwin are down to one cigarette and compelled to share. They smoke and have a laugh about the emptiness of Wolfgang's promise to call Brigitte (his fling-for-a-day) for a follow-up date. It's probably my favorite moment in the film, signaling their exhausted resources as well as their loyalty to each other. My review, for GreenCine, can be found here.

- A wholly different seaside outing ends badly in Raffaello Matarazzo's THE WHITE ANGEL. One of the amazing things about the films in this Eclipse set is the filmmakers' willingness to whimsically dispatch characters -- minor and major -- to their doom, all in service of the feverish plots.

- A rare moment of calm allows Guido (Amedeo Nazzari) a chance to reflect on the hand dealt to him by the screenwri- er, fate. My take on the exquisite Matarazzo set is not yet published but should be soon enough.

UPDATE: Here is said review.

Font Fetish

One of the many pleasures of watching Criterion's new edition of the Ulmer/Siodmak/Wilder/Zinnemann/etc.-helmed PEOPLE ON SUNDAY is that the pristine restoration allows the viewer to luxuriate in the Weimar-era graphic design and architecture. I will be posting a link to a review shortly.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"I live. Isn’t that challenge enough?"

CHAINS (1949, Raffaello Matarazzo)
TORMENTO (1950, Matarazzo)
NOBODY'S CHILDREN (1952, Matarazzo)
THE WHITE ANGEL (1955, Matarazzo)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Give Myself a D+

Spurred by Dennis Cozzalio and the need to interrupt the silence of the last two months lest some pornographer declare imminent domain on my site, I've decided to take a stab at Professor Ed Avery’s Cortizone-Fueled, Bigger-Than-Life, Super Big-Gulp-Sized Summer Movie Quiz.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Still More 2010 Film Minutae

Thanks to Steve Carlson, the 2010 Muriels ballots have been published. Mine is here. More later but a few quick caveats/errata:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dwell On These Things

Cyril the Squirrel Holding a Blue Balloon, Eliot Tatler, 4/3/2011
After watching Hitler, reading interviews with members of the Khmer Rouge, editing a show about child abductors/murderers, vomiting my way through biographies of L. Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith...

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Road To Hell

And my White Elephant assignment is...

Atta Boy Mike

(The salient detail, of course, being Timothy Carey's entrance in the above video around the 4:22 mark.)

Today marks the fifth annual White Elephant Blog, of which I'm honored (and vexed) to be a part. I'll be delivering my piece a little late, hopefully by the stroke of midnight. I won't give away the name of what I was assigned but I will say that it's the story of a failed painter who decides to get into politics and becomes god for a mercifully short period of time.

I submitted a movie which I think is a small masterpiece but has a (deserved) reputation for being BONKERS.

I can't get the above song out of my head this morning, hence the link. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Album of the Week: The Pretty Things - Parachute

Ray Davies of the Kinks once said 'Whenever I want to hear new Beatles songs, I listen to Guided By Voices.' Which raises a good point: the boys from Liverpool ended their recording career four decades ago. Where to turn for "new Beatles songs?"

God's Lonely Man

Giving up social media for Lent! Blog entries will still auto post. Six week break.

Later today: Album of the Week.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Stripper Blow

The 2010 Muriel Awards wind to a close today with another round of smashing write-ups from the likes of Danny Baldwin, Patrick Williamson, James Frazier, Matthew Lotti, and others. Baldwin even made me rethink for a moment my apathy where Andrew Garfield's pallid screen presence is concerned. But then the moment passed.

Beginning at 1pm EST, the countdown to best picture will begin. I submitted a measly 197 words on WINTER'S BONE (pictured above, obviously). I found little to add to the ink that's already been spilled. As I say, it's a singular film, a rare Southern Gothic folk tale that doesn't aim to be some sort of liberal guilt social piece. BONE certainly moves Debra Granik to the top of my Can't Wait To See What's Next list.

Anyway, please stop by and explore the awards. They were a blast to participate in again this year and offer up a nice counterpoint to those other movie awards. At the very least, add OCTOBER COUNTRY, CARLOS, and VINCERE to your Netflix queue.

Thanks, as always, to Paul Clark and Steve Carlson, our very own Price Waterhouse Coopers.

(Regarding the post title: I'm ashamed to say that someone wound up here using the eponymous Google search. If you're reading this, I hope you went away empty-handed.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

(Don't) Touch Me, I'm Sick

Behind on my proposed schedule due to some head-spinning, stomach-churning thing that's attacked me ere these last 48 hours or so. Bear with me...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Album of the Week: Mist King Urth

Robert Pollard has been known to cite the "four Ps" - pop, punk, psych, prog - as the primary building blocks for his prodigious musical omniverse. Lifeguards, his coalition with former Guided By Voices bandmate Doug Gillard, explicitly emphasizes Pollard's prog predilections. I use "prog" here more to denote structural ambition than to reference the synth-based, conceptual long form works associated with the term.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Week Ahead

If I can break away from my ever-important horticultural research, here's how I hope the upcoming week will shake out:

Monday: Album of the Week
Tuesday: 2010 Film Wrap-Up
Wednesday: Thoughts on Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin
Thursday: Pensées
Friday: A new approach to Freeday Friday

This is, of course, barring any unforeseen bouts of monsterism in my patients.

So far as this evening's self-congratulatory festivities are concerned, I think the stuffy Brit thing will win for picture and actor, that ridiculous ballet thing will take actress, the how-we-livin'-now movie will nab director, and etc. I can't bring myself to finish this thought.

By the way, this is still going on. Please check it out. Great write-ups this year:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Freeday Friday Continues Lazily

Kind of phoning this one in today. Short story written 8+ years ago. Have at it. The cabin is meant to establish setting. It's the result of a two minute Google Image Search.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Music Monday Launch (Sort Of)

This is all I got:

An almost completely ignored masterwork from 1993, featuring members of Yo La Tengo and Combustible Edison. Perhaps part of their obscurity is due to their completely unGoogleable name (the band, by the way, is Christmas; the album is Vortex).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Inauguration of the Freeday Friday Dome!

As threatened, here is the first installment of the horribly named Freeday Friday. The title itself is a homage to my former gym teacher, a colorful character who once summered on an air mattress in the middle of a lake. I hope to take up some future FreeFri space on that particular story. For now, this weekly feature will highlight old attempts at creative writing, fragments from my 15+ years of journals, doodles, etc.

Here are two pieces, both written while I was living in Los Angeles. I present these without editing and with only one comment: I was into "scare quotes" -- and hyphenated asides -- back then, wasn't I?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2010 Report Card and Muriels Fanfare

Tomorrow, the honorable Steve Carlson and Paul Clark begin unveiling, day by day, the Muriel Awards. I'm honored to be a voter again this year, my second. In preparation, I figured I'd go ahead and list, in descending order, the 2010 films I saw that were eligible for the awards this year. I'm leaving out the top twenty in order to discuss them further and maintain the proper amount of suspense with regards to my ballot.

Now I know nobody reads this so I'm effectively nattering on to myself, in the style of a three am subway passenger. However, I hope in the coming days to actually start writing here more often. Movies, of course, will be on the docket. I'd also like to start picking my way through my impressive CD collection and write on some of my choice albums. Most importantly, this Friday I'll inaugurate Freeday Friday, a carnival of words and wonders to delight the mind and tickle the fancies. So there's that to look forward to.

Without further ado, my 2010 Movie Report Card (asterisks indicate films I have full intention to explore in future posts):