Monday, November 11, 2013

Andy Warhol SLEEPover

Check out this exciting screening:

Watch Andy Warhol's Sleep, 5 hours!, nighttime screening, "bring pillows"!

Also, got a film? Screen it at Echo Park Film Center's "Open Screen" coming up Thursday Dec. 5.
Thursday, December 5 – OPEN SCREEN – 8 PM
Our cinematic free-for-all dares you to share your film with the feisty EPFC audience. Any genre! Any style! New, old, work-in-progress! First come, first screened; one film per filmmaker; 10-minute maximum. DVD, VHS, mini-DV, DV-CAM, Super 8, standard 8mm, 16mm.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Jean Rouch Films at UCLA Jan 25, 2013

This is a great and rare opportunity to see the highly-praised films of Jean Rouch. Finally Criterion is releasing his Chronicle of a Summer (1961), but before that, there was nary a single Jean Rouch film anyone could find on video. I first got all jazzed on him, without seeing anything, by reading the Cahiers du cinéma critics heaping praise on him in their '60s articles, available in translation from various sources. So far I only had one chance to see a film by him, which I think if memory serves was "Les Maîtres fous" ("The Mad Masters") at a rare screening in L.A. at Pacific Design Center. And it was great! It was a cultural anthropological documentary on the native rituals still being performed by a very isolated African tribe. Great stuff.

But now, the opportunity arises to see not one, not two, but a whole mess load of Jean Rouch films-- predominantly on film, for those who care--  and see if those Cahiers du cinéma boys were on to anything with this fellow. At the very least, you can go back in time and immerse yourself in the heady intellectualism of 1960s French cinema as it intermingled with new philosophical currents. Don't miss it! Criterion may be releasing one film by him, but I've been waiting at least 15 years since first reading about him to see anything other than that one short film, so let it be known, this is rare, rare, rare, cinephiles!

And okay, so maybe you don't know me from Adam, so I'll let Werner Herzog convince you (from the UCLA site):
"Les Maîtres Fous—The Mad Masters—one of the truly great films." - Werner Herzog
Here is all the info, thank you UCLA screening series for always being awesome!

I can't figure out how to quote a full Web page yet, so these are cut off, just click to read the full version.

PS - I am remiss in just noticing now that additional screenings are taking place at Redcat and L.A. Film Forum Even better!!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Alain Resnais interview

Great little interview with Alain Resnais!

I'm pretty sure this is taken from some Criterion bonus material.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Charles Dickens and Silent Cinema, Plus Ultra-Rare Works by Dziga Vertov

Here is a very cool intro to what was going on in the early days of silent cinema, especially for those who have become curious about the early days of movies after learning about Georges Méliès in Scorsese's Hugo.

In other news, UCLA is hosting a jaw-dropping showcase of ultra-rare films by the incomparable film experimenter Dziga Vertov. While best known for Man with a Movie Camera (1929), his other work is perhaps even more incredible, especially his Kino-Pravda newsreels, in which he displays an eye for composition and montage that is more modern and unique than even some of the most experimental filmmakers we have today.

Vertov screening info here.

If you were not aware, he was also a huge influence on Jean-Luc Godard, who formed "The Dziga Vertov Group" with Jean-Pierre Gorin in 1968, during his most political period of filmmaking.

The only negative about the show — and it is a huge one — is that unless you live there, the UCLA Billy Wilder Theater at the Hammer Museum is nigh impossible to get to. With some screenings brilliantly scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the height of Friday night rush hour, these great works may go unseen. If you live there, please take advantage of this treasure trove of the rarest work by one of the greatest Soviet montage artists of all time. For the rest of us, we just have to be in Westwood already earlier in the day, or else allow two hours if you live on the east side or Valley. Or petition the theater to adopt a more sensible 8:30 p.m. screening time; they would start to attract bigger crowds. All L.A. theaters should consider doing this, even the Egyptian, which should know very well the traffic and parking bottleneck it sits square in the middle of!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

New Reviews

I started reviewing for this British Web site.
Check out my first three reviews here:

L’Enfance-nue is a deeply moving film with a compelling cast of amateur performers, confidently guided by Maurice Pialat. He achieves an understated portrayal of foster care life that has the deep ring of truth that only great art can achieve. Pialat has a lovingly humanist artistic vision, and this series of Masters of Cinema releases showcasing his work invites a well-deserved reconsideration of this great director. Keep your hankies on hand!

La Pointe Courte
A full three years before the French New Wave began, Agnès Varda directed this rarely-seen film on a shoestring budget, edited with the help of Alain Resnais, and now acknowledged as a key stylistic precursor to the New Wave. La Pointe Courte also features Philippe Noiret’s first significant appearance, essentially his debut, in the co-lead role.

Kuroneko is a well-made and exciting sample of the Japanese ghost fable genre – a cultural hallmark everyone should experience at least once. While it may not earn a place in the pantheon of the greatest Japanese films, if you’ve never experienced a film by Kaneto Shindo, you owe it to yourself to give a listen to yet another talented voice from the rich history of Japanese cinema.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Criterion on Hulu+ A Cinephile's Report

Early impressions of Criterion on Hulu+:

The selection, of course, is the major appeal. Not every existing Criterion movie is on there yet, but a huge number are already, and then there are the many titles that they have never released. You can keep a running count of those exclusives here. (go to the last page for the latest updates). Another pleasant surprise is the inclusion of all the major Chaplin feature films, up through the sound era.

So what are the negatives? The Hulu+ interface on your HDTV (a Panasonic Viera was tested in this case) is nowhere near as user-friendly or informative as Netflix's interface—especially for cinephiles. You can create a queue on the Hulu+ Web site. It has various sorting options, including customizing the order, same as Netflix, but that does not translate over to the TV, which jumbles the queue in an order it favors and which cannot be changed. If you add a lot of movies, and want to watch in queue order, you're going to have to scroll through the entire queue on the TV to find them. The next problem is the Hulu+ TV interface does not list the director or the actors. Criterion famously said they were dumping Netflix in favor of Hulu+ because "In short, they get it." Well, they certainly don't get it if they don't list who directed the frigging film!

A final selling point given to us by Criterion was that Hulu+ would add special features, something Netflix was unwilling to do. This has been sporadic. Perhaps one example isn't fair, but along with uploading L'Enfance-nue (1968, Maurice Pialat), it would have been nice if they included his breakout short "L'amour existe" (1960), which is on the DVD. Although it is understandable that that they already have more content on there than any reasonable person could keep up with. The treasure trove aspect basically wins out.

There is one remaining problem. Even at the highest HD streaming speed, the visual experience can be less than stellar. Dark black-and-white films exhibit significant compression artifacts as pixelization in the darkest areas of the frame. If one has Netflix and may gain access to the DVD or rent the blu-ray somewhere (Netflix doesn't carry many Criterion blu-rays unfortunately), it doesn't appeal to sit through a high-profile, artistically significant film with some splotchy pixels dancing around behind the characters' heads just because the scene was shot at night. Bright, color films, however, look perfectly fine—as long as they don't have any night scenes! It's the same with Netflix. This is simply a drawback of the streaming experience in general. If you know a film is shot dark, rent the DVD, or better the blu-ray.

Criterion on Hulu+ is a great way to gain access to the world's biggest library of great art films, but there are a few drawbacks to endure. If you are a bloodthirsty shut-in who has oodles of time to put your exploration of art cinema into overdrive, this is the deal for you. You don't need to wait for any discs, just keep clicking play, watching one film after another all weekend long. But if you are a high-minded snob who has come to enjoy not just the films but the award-winning visual quality of the Criterion Collection, you may find yourself preferring to wait for the discs, especially if your viewing habits are down to only one film a week.

UPDATE 10/28/11: Some other problems worthy of mention:

If you have Hulu+ on your TV, you're not going to watch online. So when you are online, it's usually browsing for things to add to your queue, but when you click a title for more info, it starts playing immediately. This makes for a very irritating shopping experience.

Any non-Criterion titles open a can of worms. 4x3 1.33 material, say an old TV show like Remington Steele or The X Files, displays incorrectly stretched to fill your 16x9 TV. Netflix does not screw this up.

There are commercials before and during every non-Criterion, non-Miramax movie/TV show. One may accept that on the newest episode of Glee, but on the 1999 British TV show Spaced? You would be better to rent the discs from Netflix. Miramax movies seem to be commercial-free, but other than that and Criterion you're facing commercials.