Friday, July 29, 2016

NEW IMAGE COMPARISONS...


THE TRIAL / KAFKA


THE WIZARD OF OZ / ORDET


THE INFLUENCE OF CHRIS MARKER
TOP TO BOTTOM:
JACOB'S LADDER
DEATH IN THE SEINE
NOCTURNE
JACOB'S LADDER
NOCTURNE
TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL


THE LOVELESS / SCORPIO RISING


SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT / RATCATCHER




Thursday, July 28, 2016

WRONG REEL #167: KUMITE!


Listen to another all-star lineup as Chris (The Pink Smoke) & I join James to discuss all things concerning underground fighting movies.

Enjoy...

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

NEW IMAGE COMPARISONS...


VAMPYR / WILD STRAWBERRIES


THE INFLUENCE OF 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
(TOP TO BOTTOM:
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
THE REFLECTING SKIN
NOAH)


HARDWARE / FEAR X 


THE FLY
AUDITION
THE GREAT BEAUTY
THE WITCH



VAMPYR / THE MAGICIAN
EXORCIST / THE MIRROR
GHOSTBUSTERS / SACRIFICE
LADY IN WHITE / THE CRAFT
TREE OF LIFE / LIVID
THE REVENANT / THE WITCH


RENDEZVOUS D'ANNA / VERS NANCY


TAXI DRIVER / DRIVE


FLIXWISE: LA JETEE/KEN RUSSELL

I'm honored to be on back-to-back episodes of the excellent Flixwise podcast!
This time we're joined by Lisi Russell to discuss the films of her late legendary husband Ken Russell, as well as Chris Maker's classic experimental film Ja Letee (click the image to go to the episode).

enjoy...




Monday, July 25, 2016

Friday, July 22, 2016

TWITTER

If you enjoy the content on this blog, make sure to follow me on Twitter (@PINNLAND_EMPIRE) to see more of my ongoing obsessive fascination with movie comparisons...

(top to bottom)
MAHLER
FIRE IN THE SKY
ALIEN:RESSURECTION
KNIGHT OF CUPS


A MARRIED WOMAN / TROUBLE EVERY DAY


(top to bottom)
A WOMAN IS A WOMAN
BUFFALO '66
"MAPS" (YEAH YEAH YEAH'S VIDEO)
ENTERTAINMENT


(top to bottom)
VERTIGO
THE CRYING GAME
LOST HIGHWAY
BROKEN EMBRACES
DUKE OF BURGUNDY
MULHOLLAND DRIVE


BLUE VELVET / PARENTS





Thursday, July 21, 2016

FLIXWISE: BABE

Check me out on the latest episode of The Flixwise Podcast where I discuss Babe w/ Lady P, Emma & Martin Kessler (click image to go to the episode).

Enjoy...



Tuesday, July 19, 2016

WHITE FACE: A SHORT FILM ABOUT OUR TIMES (A FILM BY MTUME GANT)


Hey all, S.P.I.T. director Mtume Gant is back with his latest project; White Face: A Short Film About Our Times. Gant's latest short film is the story of New York actor Charles Rodgers - a man who hates his Black skin and all the hardship that comes with it. Feeling trapped by his race, Charles believes he has found the solution to his problems - change his appearance to embody "Whiteness" - erase all that he has ever been and join the group he's believes he should be a part of. But is this ever possible?

Check out the trailer below...



Mtume is currently trying to secure funding for post production costs in order to finalize this project.
With shades of subconcsious inspiration from what appears to be Wendall B Harris & Robert Townsend's Hollywood Shuffle (along with a lot of very real issues plaguing us today that many folks don't want to talk about), how could you not support this?

Click here to go to the kickstarter page in order to donate and get more info on the film.



Monday, July 18, 2016

CONFLICTED THOUGHTS ON BELLY & VISUALLY STUNNING MOVIES WITH LITTLE TO NO SUBSTANCE


I’m not a filmmaker but even I know it takes effort & hard work to make even a bad film. And not all "bad" films should be dismissed. Some are visually stunning. That counts for something. With the popularity of filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn & picture-heavy outlets like Filmgrabber, there seems to be a surge in appreciation for movies that may be "bad" in terms of the acting & story, but beautiful in terms of their visual presentation (other recent films like Beyond The Black Rainbow, Love & Under The Skin fall in to that same category for me). Take the dystopian science fiction film Hardware (1990). I hadn’t thought about this movie since I was 12 or 13 (and for those of you that remember Hardware, when’s the last time any of you thought about it?). But thanks to a recent post on film grabber, I’ve come to like the images from the movie when taken out of context…






A common criticism of Nicolas Winding Refn’s last two films (Only God Forgives & Neon Demon) is that they’re pretentious, silly, boring, etc.
…But at the same time, those same movies are almost always praised for how they look (say what you want but Refn’s name is still relevant. He’s still talked about so his style over substance approach means something in certain film circles).
And quite frankly, if you like pop art, modern art and/or Stanley Kubrick/Giallo-inspired visuals, I don’t see how you could deny Refn’s eye as director…




(if my memory serves me correctly, a lot of the same criticisms that Refn faces now were the same criticisms Hype Williams faced in the 90’s with Belly long before Refn found his current glossy style).


Again - no matter how bad the plot, performances & editing may be, it still takes talent to make a beautiful looking movie. Case in point: Belly. Now…it’s not that I think Belly is “bad” (although I wouldn’t argue or disagree with someone if they labeled it as such in a constructive way), it’s just that I’ve seen it so many times that I’ve grown sick of it. Belly was very popular on every floor of my freshman college dorm in 1999. Seriously – this movie was on HEAVY rotation my freshman year at Hampton University. Everyone seemed to have the VHS. The sounds of Belly rang from many rooms on my floor and the floors above me. I’ve seen it so many times that I just can’t watch it anymore like someone who was force-fed to the point of vomiting. I’m also not the biggest fan of Belly because in terms of plot and overall execution, it’s incredibly phony. I know that sounds harsh but I’m calling it like I see it.
Belly director Hype Williams is a music video director known for his emphasis on the fish-eye lens effect & shiny suits…






To me, Belly is phony because Hype Williams tried to incorporate his signature flashy/materialistic style in to a film about drug dealing, dirty cops, black pride, black on black crime & conspiracies to commit murder and it just didn’t go together. It’s like…do you want to make a socially conscious film, or do you want to make a two hour long music video? It’s definitely possible to mix both styles, but in the case of Belly there seemed to be more effort put in to the look of the movie and a lot less effort in to the story. Hype Williams definitely took plenty of unnecessary time to show how cool it is to have money from selling drugs, but he never takes 30 seconds to show the negative effects that drugs have on the (Black) community. That’s phony to me. The plot is also kind of a mess. I mean, one minute Belly is the story about two friends/drug dealers (Nas & DMX) who get in way over their heads. Then it turns in to a movie about cops using pawns to assassinate a Black civil rights leader.
And what's most frustrating is that Hype Williams did have the formula for a good movie on his hands with the final 30 minutes concerning the police using DMX to assassinate "Reverend Saviour" (Benjamin Chavis). Had the entire film been based around that story and shot in the same polarizing style, I think he would have had a stronger final product. Seriously, that whole segment between DMX & Chavis is quietly brilliant. The editing, the use of music, the chemistry, etc...


Kind of a powerful scene, right? It could be interpreted in so many ways from Christianity's conflicted relationship with Rap/Hip-Hop (which is mostly a generational conflict) to the (sometimes) layered & complicated relationship between Black men in America.

But instead, the majority of the movie is made up of stuff that had already been explored on film for a large portion of the 90's and I think people were just tired of it (for those that don't remember, there was controversy during the release of Belly as Magic Johnson refused to play it in his chain of theaters. This was a callback to former New Jersey mayor Sharpe James condemning the release of New Jersey Drive). By the mid-late 90's, films like Daughters Of The Dust, Watermelon Woman, Eve's Bayou and countless other "alternative" black films had kind of ushered in a new perspective and the “urban drama” was played out (it should be noted that the aforementioned films were all directed by Black Women).


...But, like Hardware, when you take a lot of the images from Belly out of context it does look pretty amazing (and it should also be noted that you don’t often see Black skin photographed in such a polarizing way in American movies)…





It does take a lot of talent to shoot images like this.


There are a few positive aspects to Belly. It exposed Harmony Korine’s Gummo to an audience that wouldn’t normally come across a film like that (I remember explaining to people in my college dorm that the movie Nas & DMX are watching at the beginning of Belly is in fact a real movie).



It was also went on to inspire & influence good music…



And it also gave Sister Nancy’s career a resurgence due to the use of her classic song in one scene...

and do you think shows like Money & Violence would exist without Belly?

Maybe if Belly came out in the early/mid-90's (an era where "urban crime hip-hop dramas" were at an all-time high and in serious demand) I wouldn't be so critical. It would have fit right in with films like Juice & Strapped (for those that don't remember, Strapped was Forest Whitaker's directorial debut).


Perhaps a lot more visually stunning films that got dismissed upon their initial release for not offering much in terms of substance will gain a little more appreciation (Belly definitely doesn't deserve its current "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes). But at the end of the day no one wants there to be an overflow of movies with little to no substance. I just think there’s a certain specific lane for empty beautiful looking movies.


Monday, July 11, 2016

AN INTERVIEW WITH TAMI STRONACH


The Never Ending Story was a major part of my childhood so it means a lot that Tami Stronach took the time out during her busy schedule to answer some questions.

enjoy...


PINNLAND EMPIRE: You’re essentially a renaissance woman (film, dance, theater, music) - what was it growing up that attracted you to so many different arts? Did your parents encourage it? Or do you think it was just embedded in you from birth?

TAMI STRONACH: I definitely came out of the womb singing and dancing but it was also the encouragement I received from my parents. I do think it is really interesting to consider how one's internal sphere mixes with external stimuli and what results from that exchange. My parents were archaeologists but in their early lives they were involved in the arts. I learned recently that my father very much enjoyed acting in Shakespeare plays in high school. This was a kind of a "Ah Ha" moment for me. His eyes sparkled as he described performing in hollowed-out castles in Scotland while attending Gordonstoun. That kind of site-specific theatrical event is magical to me. My mother was a serious gymnast as a teen-ager—so my DNA definitely craves movement. I think it all began at 4 when my parents took me to see Swan Lake which made a big impression on me. I ended up performing my own version of the dying swan ad nauseam and my parents were always a willing audience. To me acting, dancing and singing are all part of the same gesture. They are different modalities of story telling. They have their own properties and differing techniques. I am interested in what is special about each art form. How do ideas get expressed across these differing platforms? I often try to plant my flag at the intersection of dance and theater.



PE: What was it about dance & choreography that made you participate in that more than anything else over the years (acting, music, etc)?

TS: Dance is a young person’s game. You need to be fit and uninjured and have the energy to move 8 hours a day. I understood that and prioritized dancing while I could. But also, after the film we as a family agreed that my parents might not be able to steer me through the Hollywood machine as a child actor without me being seriously chewed up. There were no classes on how to gracefully handle all that. I also wasn’t happy with the scripts I got. Some had way more violence than seemed appropriate for a kid to be around. There was a European script offer with nudity for an 11 year old in it, and frankly all the scripts I was offered were really more about being exploited as wallpaper--or worse. If I had access to a savvy manager I would have loved to stay in the big budget Hollywood movie game, but coming from an academic family we just didn’t have the experience needed to change the rules of the game to favor us. As a result I chose to focus on dance and fell in love with it in a serious way. The funny thing is that I have been quietly acting in plays in NYC for the last 20 years, most notably as a member of the physical theater company; The Flying Machine. I worked with them for 7 years and was a part of developing 4 original plays that received support from a Soho Rep in NYC. It was a thrilling experimental troupe that integrated elements of masque and stylized movement to create highly imaginative visually distinct works. So I never left acting entirely. I just preferred to work on smaller scale live projects where I could have creative input and be part of a collaborative team.

Now that I’m 43 and a mom and have been nursing herniated disks and other injuries that are just par for the course in the life of a dancer, I am excited about making even more space for acting and music again. And I’ll keep choreographing because... I can't stop. I am starting a new dance work that has been commissioned by the Czech Center as part of their Prague-NY effects series. I am being paired with Czech artist Tomáš Dvořák (aka Floex) who is a multi-media artist/musician. I’m looking forward to it! We will perform both in NYC and Prague in September 2016.


PE: Your music had a distinct analog/synthesized sound that’s suddenly popular again in certain music scenes? Where you in the studio during the entire production process of “Fairy Queen”/”Riding On A Rainbow”? Did you get familiar with the analog equipment that made your music, or did you just provide vocals?

TS: That record was made in the blink of an eye. I was promoting the Never Ending Story on a daytime TV show. On the program I sang a bar off 99 red balloons which was popular then and we got a call from Jupitor Records that night to see if I wanted to record a song for them. My mom agreed to let me do it as long as we got on our departing plane scheduled to leave in 3 days. So we recorded Fairy Queen and Riding on a Rainbow, made a music video and promoted the new song on a daytime show all in 3 days. It was crazy and fast and I had nothing to do with any of the production elements. But I loved it. My daughter likes to sing it now which makes me smile.



PE: Do you keep up with music-making today?

TS: And it’s funny you should ask that - I wasn’t ready to really talk about this yet but—I love singing. I did a bunch of musical theater as a kid and always found myself being asked to sing in dance and theater over the years. As a young person I seemed to always attract rock stars into my life quite literally. For example, my best friend in the world (Karina Denike) and I used to busk on the streets of Berkeley for pizza money in high school. She is an incredible singer. She caught a break early and became a big deal in the 90’s with the ska band Dance Hall Crashers, and has gone on to make awesome solo music, and is now on tour playing keyboards for NOFX. Anyway, I dated one of the other members of Dance Hall Crashers (Mikey Weiss) for a long time. He and I are still really close friends. So my scene in NYC is populated with singer/songwriters and indie folkies and rockers of one kind or another, and while I’ve never really taken myself all that seriously as a ‘singer’ I always had great music makers around me. So, maybe it won’t be all that surprising to hear that I have actually been in the recording studio this year working on a ‘family music’ project with the help of some great musician friends. I guess we’re calling it a folk rock opera ‘concept’ album? It tells the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but we wanted it to be music that grownups would really want to listen to. So our record starts out folk, even old-timey. Jack is imagined as a kind of young country boy from the wrong side of the tracks. A silly Woody Guthrie maybe. Then when Jack goes up the beanstalk to the mansion in the sky, the music changes its vibe. In our version behind the door is not the traditional giant’s wife, but rather his daughter. She’s a rebel. She’s rock & roll. And she and Jack fall for each other and run off together to have a band. I liked the idea of him stealing her heart as the twist. I sing her bits and it’s a really fun crazy tour through rock styles. And yes, we do have a couple of awesomely ‘derivative’ 80’s sounding tracks on there. It is incredibly fun, slightly mad, totally terrifying, and we just gave our first concert of it for live humans this June in NYC. It was really fun! It’s called Beanstalk Jack and will be available really soon via the Paper Canoe Company website: www.papercanoecompany.com

Around The Bend

PE: Can you tell the readers about your latest work; “Around The Bend” (feel free to write as much as you want).

TS: It is a dance theater piece about being in the middle of things. In a culture that really loves youth and beginnings, I found myself ‘in the middle’ of my life. I think people generally like endings, but things that have to do with the middle skew negative—mid-life crisis, stuck in the middle, etc. I made the piece to reflect on what being in the middle of things means to me, to my dancers and to audiences. The work is a kind of a challenge to myself to keep inviting risk into my life at a time where the temptation to gravitate to routines and safety is increasing. Watching my parents age but still make the most of their time even as their bodies are breaking down was also part of the need to make this work. While I was making the dance I visited my folks and as part of that trip I attended a dance class for patients with Parkinson's disease that my dad was taking. The people in this class all had a lot of trouble with their motor skills but they held hands and did simple folk steps together and for me this was very moving to be a part of. I incorporated some simple folk steps done holding hands into the piece because dance really can sooth us when we are faced with things we cant control. The work is structured as a party to which the audience is invited and mid-work we actually hand out wine to everyone and make a toast asking them to imagine that they are at the exact midpoint of their lives. It’s kind of a bitter sweet moment. People often chuckle nervously. The work addresses serious themes that affects everyone with humor. In terms of style, I know that sometimes modern dance can feel like a foreign language to people who don’t see a lot of it, and in a way it is true that you have to spend time practicing how to digest abstract movement to enjoy that experience. So in this piece I wanted to balance that rich but more elusive aesthetic with really accessible theatrical material so everyone felt included.



PE: I had the pleasure of watching all the video clips on your website. What inspires the experimental/abstract quality of all your work?

TS: I am really interested in the way the subconscious and the conscious interact. I’ve witnessed the way my gut will react to something, and then I spend days or months trying to rationalize why I feel the way I feel. For me, dance is this curious form that gives expression to subconscious drives. You get in the studio and ask yourself questions - Do I want to charge or retreat open, or close myself off? And then there are million ways to uncover how to express those impulses aesthetically. In dance every abstract movement has to be performed by a breathing living body. The act of moving itself affects us physically and emotionally. If you smile for a minute you feel happy—it actually changes he chemicals in your brain. That means that the shapes we put ourselves in influence how we feel. That is so cool and mysterious and special to dance. Performing abstracted complex moves gives one access to a deep range of feeling and sensation that we normally don’t have access to. A lot of things in life conspire to shut us down—like doing taxes. Dance wakes me up to the intelligence of the body and a rich reservoir of experience that exists beyond language. To me being alive is about being in motion--transformation requires motion. I can’t fully articulate it but here is an attempt - I find lost pieces of myself choreographing. I tap into and access corners of myself that needed attending to. So when I make it work, I feel whole again. I am also just a nerd about form. There is that thrill to building a dance—the compositional satisfaction of creating something structurally sound.


PE: As an adult you seem to still love & embrace your performance in The Never Ending Story. A lot of adult actors/entertainers tend to shy away/distance themselves from childhood performances for various reasons. Is it because you found success in other arts over the years (Dance, theater, choreography, music) that it makes it easier for you to still stay (emotionally) connected to your performance as the Empress?

TS: Yes I think having created art that was really fulfilling for last 20 years and now being a professor and a mom I just feel grateful to have had this extraordinary experience as a child. It feels good to thank people for the good wishes they send me. It’s a special way to connect with folks.



PE: Was there ever a point in your life where you did want to distance yourself from The Never Ending Story?

TS: Yes, as a teenager I didn’t tell people I was in the film. Even though most people who did find out were just supportive and curious. But I did have several serious stalkers. That was difficult to navigate. Ultimately, as a teen I wanted to fit in. Not to stick out. Then later as a young artist in NYC I wanted to make my mark without talking about it. It didn’t lend me gravitas in the modern dance scene to have been in a movie as a kid. But now as a mom, and a generative story teller I think a lot about what kinds of stories I want to share with my daughter, and its has made me embrace the experience. It’s obviously very beautiful that the film has deep meaning for people and still moves them. I feel very lucky to be part of a story like that. I’m finally happy to meet the world a bit more head on about it. It's about time!



PE: Were you aware of Wolfgang Peterson’s filmography prior to working with him? Or where you too young?

TS: I was not aware of his past films. But I definitely followed his films after.



PE: With that being said – are you a film buff/cinephile? If so, what are some of your favorite films and/filmmakers (past & present)?

TS: Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Blade Runner, Princess Bride, The Matrix, and Labyrinth (because of Bowie). Wow, I guess I’m pretty nostalgic about old films.



PE: Can you tell the readers about “Posledni Z Aporveru? (you can give just a basic synopsis. Or feel free to expand & write as much as you want).

TS: I did it on a whim—I choreographed the fight choreography for it and got to visit Prague that summer.


PE: In my opinion The Never Ending Story is one of the few true family films in that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Have you had the chance to watch/share the film with your own daughter?

TS: No, not yet. I just did a twitter poll and people seem to agree that 7 or eight is the right age. We will have to talk about the horse scene.



PE: What does your daughter think of her mom playing such an iconic character? Is she old enough to understand?

TS: Not really, but she knows we make art as a family. She comes to our shows. She wants to be in the shows. I’ve actually danced with her at the Whitney Museum and at the Movement Research’s Improvisation Festival. This summer we made a sock puppet show for kids her age in the neighborhood. She’s angling to get a part in that—I think we should give her a small role next spring. She regularly watches me choreograph and is surrounded by art all the time. Music is her thing so she loves the Beanstalk Jack project.



PE: Thank you so much for taking the time out for this interview. Any closing words?

TS: People can always visit our website and check out what we are doing and make a donation there. “Light” is an original play that my husband wrote about a world where the sun has been stolen. We wanted to make a story with a young girl as the hero for our daughter and kids everywhere. I’m a sci-fi junky, so I’m really excited about bringing that kind of dystopian universe to the theater. We have performed two incarnations of the piece and will keep refining it over the course of next year. As with every artistic endeavor it takes a village so our work is supported in part by individual donations. It has been really lovely to have gotten support from people around the world. The project has also been really fun for me because I get to do some nice juicy acting again.

As a child I wanted to be in the Never Ending Story because I was a theater kid who loved acting. It was never about celebrity. If after the release of NES I had gotten offered a role in a film that I had wanted to be a part of I certainly would have taken it. That’s true today too. But I never have stopped doing the part of art making that I really like. For me being in the studio—inventing—collaborating--that is the most exciting place to be. As a teacher I am a mentor to many young choreographers now and I of course love entertaining family audiences. I am passionate about empowering the next generation of young people to believe in the power of their imagination to manifest…whatever they dream of. It’s also important to allow dreams to change—for one’s perspective to mature. How to chart a course that fits ones soul is the big question. It goes back to your original question of what is embedded in us (internal) to us and what do we receive externally. How to steer a path that is both authentic to oneself and responsive to the world. I’m putting together a talk about doing that. Maybe I will call it “Do What You Dream.”
Please check out Tami Stronach Dance and Paper Canoe Company to find out about upcoming events. Wishing for everyone to have courage and imagination!


WRONG REEL 160 & 161: UFC 200 & RANDOM MOVIE TALK



I challenge ANYONE to find another podcast where Brock Lesnar, Randy Orton, Abbas Kiarstami, Freddie Got Fingered & Todd Solondz are discussed all within the same episode (don't waste your time because you wont be able to).

This past weekend Chris Funderberg & I joined Wrong Reel co-hosts Mikhail Karadimov & James Colebrax on a massive 3 hour long episode where we covered UFC 200.

enjoy...



Friday, July 1, 2016

THE CINEMA OF RICK ALVERSON TOLD THROUGH MOVING IMAGES & STILLS


It is my personal opinion that Rick Alverson is one of the best American filmmakers working today. And what sets him apart from the other great current American filmmakers on my personal list (Kelly Reichardt, Richard Linklater, etc) is that some of the defining characteristics of Rick Alverson's films are; frustrating, uncomfortable, cringe-worthy and depressing. But those aren’t insults in this particular case. I think Rick Alverson would appreciate some of his work being associated with the aforementioned terms. Having messy characters, plots & scenarios is a great thing when done right. You can’t always wrap things up in a nice package. The goings-on in Rick Alverson's movies linger on in my brain long after I’ve watched them. There’s also usually continued dialogue concerning his work long after the credits roll which equates success in my book (if you have friends who appreciate challenging cinema I highly suggest watching films like New Jerusalem & The Comedy together rather than alone).

On a more positive sounding note - I consider Rick Alverson’s work to be (quietly) visually stunning (The Builder & Entertainment) and also uncategorizeable (Entertainment & The Comedy). Again – that’s a good thing. Films like The Comedy & Entertainment feature scenes that cause me to belly laugh. But five minutes later those same movies make me question both my existence and the existence of the people around me. If video stores were still around today, Rick Alverson’s work would belong the "existential" section.

So to kick off the summer here at PINNLAND EMPIRE we’re going to take a look at Rick Alverson’s entire filmography (features, shorts & music videos).

Enjoy…


TRANSGRESSION
If another filmmaker from Alverson’s generation were given the same materials & subject matter that he works with in order to make a film, chances are they’d come off as pretentious. I know “pretentious” is a ridiculously overused/misused term these days, but some filmmakers give you no other option but to label them as such. That’s not the case with Alverson. Often times I see critics & bloggers lazily compare his work to the likes of Harmony Korine & Vincent Gallo but that’s so easy (right out of the gate I have contradicted myself as you’ll see some visual comparisons between Alverson & Gallo later on in this piece, and I namedrop Harmony Korine in my review of Entertainment). I’ve even seen his earlier work like The Builder & New Jerusalem grouped in with the Mumblecore genre which is beyond infuriating to me (I’m not a fan). There’s a bit more depth to the experimentation & transgression found in Alverson’s work whereas the aforementioned filmmakers, who I do like, want to just shock (the blowjob scene in The Brown Bunny) or push buttons (Harmony Korine).

While each film & music video Alverson directs is more polished than the next (in terms of presentation) and he continues to grow as a filmmaker with each project – the experimentation (camera work & editing) & transgression (dialogue, discomfort & storylines) found in all of his early work can still be seen in his recent/more popular projects like The Comedy & Entertainment
The Comedy
From The Sun (music video for Unknown Moral Orchestra)
Even If We Try (music video Night Beds)
Entertainment
Windows (music video for Angel Olsen)
Jeroen Van Aken (music video for Gregor Samsa)
Lean Year (music video for Lean Year)
Minor Careers (music video for Spokane)
Tell Me (music video for Spokane)
New Wonder (music video for Will Oldham)




UNLIKABLE MAIN CHARACTERS
There are antiheros and then there are unpleasant assholes who just so happen to be the main characters in some of the movies we watch. It takes talent to keep an audience engaged & invested in an unlikable character. In New Jerusalem Will Oldham plays an imposing Christian that I’d probably tell to get lost in real life, but his performance is so unique and slightly “off” that I find myself intrigued by him. Although Tim Heidecker’s character in The Comedy is clearly going through a lot of personal drama (depression & family issues), I still don’t have any sympathy for him due to his attitude and all around personality. But at the same time I find myself invested in his story. Gregg Turkington’s character in Entertainment straddles the line between antihero & unlikable, but he’s still the kind of miserable human being that I’d want nothing to do with in my own life. But imperfect characters (which is putting it lightly) are more intriguing to me than just standard “bad guys” & “good guys”.
The Comedy
New Jerusalem
The Comedy




CRINGEWORTHY& UNCOMFORTABLE MOMENTS
If you read about John Cassavetes you hear stories of audience members storming out of his films midway through in order to take a breather, only to go back and finish watching. The same thing applies to Alverson's body of work. Sometimes when I find myself immersed in Alverson’s movies I want out (or I at least want to fast forward to the next scene). Not because I dislike his movies obviously, but because there’s always some scene that leaves me feeling incredibly uncomfortable (sometimes a little horrified). Whether it’s the pregnant woman in the bathroom in Entertainment, or Tim Heidecker casually watching Kate Lyn Shiel have a seizure in The Comedy – I’ve found myself going; “what the fuck?” or “Get me out of here” on more than one occasion.
The Comedy
New Jerusalem
Entertainment
Even If We Try (Night Beds music video)




VISUAL SIMILARITIES & (POSSIBLE)INFLUENCES
(with the exception of Two-Lane Blacktop it's HIGHLY unlikely that Rick Alverson was influenced by any of the films below. It's totally speculation on my part)
Two-Lane Blacktop/Entertainment
A Woman Is A Woman/Entertainment

A Woman Is A Woman/Entertainment
Entertainment/A Woman Is A Woman
Entertainment/A Woman Is A Woman
Entertainment/The Color Of Money
Entertainment/Blue
Entertainment/Blade 2
Entertainment/The Empire Strikes Back
Entertainment/The Brown Bunny



RECURRING IMAGERY

continuous/unbroken tracking shot
New Jerusalem
The Comedy
The Builder
Even If We Try

"the washing of hands & feet"
The Builder
New Jerusalem
From The Sun

"the lonely road"
Even If We Try
The Builder
The Comedy
Entertainment




THE (SOMETIMES) POINTLESSNESS OF DIALOGUE & COMMUNICATION
I feel like one of Rick Alverson’s unofficial mission statements is to challenge the norm in a non-pretentious way. In The Comedy he challenges the idea of provocative humor. In Entertainment he, along with Gregg Turkington, challenges the idea of stand-up comedy while New Jerusalem challenges religion. But the one general thing he challenges in all of his films is the idea of dialogue & communication. Do we need to talk with each other all the time? What is the point of saying certain things?








DEPRESSION, ISOLATION & LONELINESS
It’s already been established that the characters in Alverson’s features are quite depressed (I know I’ve mainly been focusing on The Comedy & Entertainment, but I assure you that some of the characters in The Builder & New Jerusalem are quite sad and/or depressed as well).
Even when you take some of the images in his films completely out of context, his characters still look painfully depressed...
The Builder
The Builder
Even If We Try
New Jerusalem
New Jerusalem
Entertainment
The Comedy
Minor Careers
From The Sun
Have You Seen My Soul (music video for Benjamin Booker)
Strand Of Oaks (music video for Goshen '97)




ART IMITATING LIFE
I don’t know Will Oldham, Gregg Turkington or Tim Heidecker personally, but from what little I do know (through interviews, Q&A’s and other random pieces of info that they have shared about themselves), it’s more than clear that bits (sometimes lots) of their real selves end up in the characters that they play in Alverson's movies. From his lyrics to his early performance in Matewan, it’s clear that Will Oldham has some Christian/religious background which turns up in New Jerusalem. The connection between Gregg Turkington and the character he plays in Entertainment goes without saying (both are ”alternative” stand-up comedians) and Tim Heidecker seems to be playing a heightened version of himself in The Comedy.
Tim Heidecker in The Comedy
Gregg Turkington as Gregg Turkington in Entertainment
Rick Alverson appearing in his Spokane music video
A young Will Oldham as a preacher in John Sayles' Matewan / an older Will Oldham as an evangelical christian in New Jerusalem




THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Alverson usually shies away from urban landscapes and sets the majority of his filmography in rural areas...
Windows
The Builder
The Builder
Entertainment
Even If We Try
Minor Careers
Magic Chords (music video for Sharon Van Etten)
Thankless Marriage (music video for Spokane)


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