Wednesday, August 29, 2018
LA GRANDE BOUFFE: ANDREI RUBLEV
ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 69: MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
This week, Scott & I were joined by wrong reel regulars; Mikhail Karadimov & Brit Starna to talk about the Mission Impossible series.
Friday, August 24, 2018
ZEBRAS IN AMERICA: EPISODE 68
On episode 68, Scott & I touch on the current state of modern Black cinema (from Bill Gunn to Spike Lee).
Friday, August 17, 2018
The greatest thing about Sophia Takal’s Always Shine is that she doesn’t try to hide her influences & inspirations. Takal’s film is, without a doubt, from the school of Bergman’s Persona in that it’s about mental illness and the loss of identity from the perspective of an actress/performer who essentially "cracks" due to pressure & stress (pretty much the premise of Persona on the most basic level). But to get from Persona to Always Shine there’s a few stops along the way in the form of Images & Three Women (Robert Altman), Sisters (Brian Depalma) Mulholland Drive (David Lynch), Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky) & The Clouds Of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas). There’s obviously a bunch of secondary films that could be mentioned (The Swimming Pool, Inland Empire, etc) but we’re just going to stick with these core films.
|Persona / Always Shine|
|Persona / Always Shine|
|Images / Mulholland Drive / Always Shine|
|Mulholland Drive / The Clouds Of Sils Maria / Always Shine - all three films feature similar rehearsal scenes that blur the lines between fantasy & reality...|
...Brian De Palma and other influences, like Robert Altman, Ingmar Bergman - all those directors are very astute observers of human behavior. ...Another [reference]: I saw the movie Black Swan. - Sophia Takal
And by pulling from so many great filmmakers, Takal ended up making a film that is all her own (it should be noted that she avoided the sexual tension angle that almost always comes along with these kinds of movies when you have two attractive leading ladies)...
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to. – Jim Jarmusch
There’s nothing more hilariously frustrating than when a filmmaker claims to be a hardcore cinephile/movie nerd yet when they get asked about an obvious homage or reference in one of their films, they suddenly get amnesia and/or don’t know classic films by people like Godard & Truffaut.
Take a guy like Quentin Tarantino for example. He always goes on about every rare movie he’s seen and how much he loves video stores and how much he loves to consume film. But when asked about The Bride Wore Black and it’s (obvious) influence on Kill Bill, he had this to say…
QT: Here’s the thing - I’ve never actually seen The Bride Wore Black.
QT: I know of it, but I’ve never seen it. Everyone is like, oh, this is really similar to The Bride Wore Black. I’ve heard of the movie. It's based on a Cornell Woolrich novel too, but it’s a movie I’ve never seen. The reason I’ve never seen it is because…I’ve just never been a huge Truffaut, fan. So that’s why I never got around to see it. I’m not rejecting it, I just never saw it. I’m a Godard fan, not a Truffaut fan. So I know of it, I know all that stuff, but it’s a movie I’ve never seen.
Interview: I thought of it because The Bride has that list of names she checks off.
QT: Oh, is that in there too?
For those that don’t know, both movies are about a woman seeking revenge on the people responsible for her husbands murder on their wedding day. Sound familiar?
|The Bride Wore Black|
Or how about Xavier Dolan who claims to have only seen 1 or 2 Godard movies…
|Contempt / Heartbeats|
Nicolas Winding Refn is always namedropping & bragging about all the movies he’s seen yet he claims to have never seen Bergman’s Persona…
|Persona / Fear X (even I admit this one is a bit of a reach but I think you see what I'm getting at)|
I obviously have no way of knowing who has seen what. Sometimes movies slip through the cracks. No one has the ability to see every movie ever made, but I always find it odd when lovers of film claim to have never seen certain specific classic/"important" movies.
Always Shine is the story of two friends/fellow actresses (“Beth” & “Anna”) on opposite ends of the career spectrum. Beth’s career is on the rise while Anna is still struggling to book commercials. Beth’s growing success makes Anna somewhat jealous especially since they both kind of look alike (Anna is clearly wondering what Beth has that she doesn’t considering how similar they look). The two friends go off for a weekend getaway where the tension between the two friends gets so thick that their relationship takes a turn for the worse…
Sophia Takal is a woman unlike Bergman, Lynch, Altman & co. I’m not saying men can't make great films about women (because they absolutely have), but who better than a (talented) woman in the film industry to make a film about being a woman in the film industry? Always Shine has layers to it because outside of the actual movie, it’s safe to assume that the actresses in the film have gone through the same auditions & rejections as the characters they portray.
While Always Shine may not break new ground in terms of plot, it’s execution is a breath of fresh air because we get a woman’s perspective on a film centered around women. Takal also manages to pull off a frightening & thrilling film without the use of monsters, ghosts and other typical supernatural elements & jump scares that one would expect these days.
Always Shine would make a hell of a triple feature with Persona & Mulholland Drive.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 67
On our latest episode, Scott & I talk about everything from The Green Ray to Always Shine.
ALSO - *DRUM ROLL* - We have t-shirts for you all to buy. Click here to purchase one and enjoy the episode below...
Friday, August 10, 2018
THE SCHOOL OF PERSONA PART 3
Below are a few more obvious (and not-so obvious) references to some of my all-time favorite moving images courtesy of Ingmar Bergman's Persona (along with a few quotes from the possibly influenced directors themselves).
I’m sure Ingmar Bergman did not influence Cheryl Dunye's Watermelon Woman (I did tag her in this post on twitter so perhaps she can chime in. I mean - movie references and video stores do play a big part in her film). But the visual similarities (along with Bergman's exploration of sexuality) is quite the coincidence.
|Persona / The Watermelon Woman|
BFI: What filmmakers have influenced you in making your Alien films?
Ridley Scott: Mostly Kubrick, but then along the way you’ve gotta take on board [David] Lean, you’ve gotta take on board [Akira] Kurosawa and [Ingmar] Bergman.
|Person / Bladerunner|
|Persona / Freeze Frame|
|Persona / Always Shine|
|Persona / Always Shine|
Nicolas Winding Refn is on record saying he's never seen Persona but this is a pretty interesting comparison nonetheless (although I find it hard to believe a self-proclaimed cinephile like Refn has never seen Persona)
|Persona / Fear x|
If I can’t watch a film like Persona and realize, Oh, Ingmar Bergman is an originator and I’m a synthesist, then I don’t know what I’m doing. Part of knowing what you’re doing is understanding, Okay, I can’t drive the lane. But I can shoot from the outside. - Steven Soderbergh
|Persona / Sex, Lies & Videotape|
I wrote a lot of fan letters to Bergman... - Lars Von Trier
|Persona / The Orchid Gardener|
|Person / Mullholand Drive / Blue Is The Warmest Color / Carol|
Wednesday, August 8, 2018
A FEW WORDS ON BLACKkKLANSMAN
"I never saw it [Blackkklansman] as a funny film. I'm not using the word 'comedy' - Spike Lee
I know Spike would hate this comparison but some of the klansmen characters in his latest film came off like the dumb, bumbling, comical klansmen in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. On one hand it is enjoyable to poke fun at the stupidity of white supremacy, but it is also a very real thing and is still a threat.
The tone of the jive talking/quick-witted trailer matches the tone of the actual film quite well which is sometimes rare. I’m sure anyone reading this knows that trailers and the feature films they’re attached to don’t always go together. But this could be problematic to some people because the real story of Blackkklansman isn't exactly fun...
I call this a partial comedy because no matter how you cut it - the subject matter of Blackkklansman is not only very serious, but there are plenty scenes that are far from funny or amusing. This story, inspired by the true events of a Black detective (Ron Stallworth) infiltrating the kkk in the 1970’s, is quite fitting given today’s climate as white supremacy seems to be making a “comeback” (I put comeback in quotations because anyone with a brain knows that basic white supremacy hasn’t gone anywhere). Our current president has the support & backing of white supremacist groups like “the alt-right” & the proud boys. Even so-called modern day self-hating black conservatives have racist & elitist views towards their own race yet they try to deny or downplay this by claiming that they’re free thinkers and don’t follow the group thinking/“pack mentality” that some Black folks get sucked in to. But for a group of people who claim to be "free thinkers", I always find it funny that today’s Black conservatives all think alike. Any Black conservative with a platform to voice their opinions all support trump, they all hate Obama & Hilary Clinton, they’re all sympathetic towards racist white people, and they’re all critical of other Black folks. That sounds like group thinking if you ask me (it would be easy and a little lazy to call modern Black conservatives "sellouts", “coons” or “uncle toms” but that would be an insult to actual sellouts, coons & the Uncle Tom character).
Current & former members of Trump’s inner circle can be directly traced to bigoted/racist actions. One could also make a very easy argument that his own policies & beliefs (even before his presidency) are clearly racist.
Now...this is the part where those modern-Day black conservative maids & butlers pull up pictures of Donald Trump posing with famous Black people over the years as if to say; “SEE? He’s not racist! He stood next to a Black person in a photo!” And if not that, they love to bring up the Black people he’s hired in recent years as if to imply someone can’t be racist for hiring Black people).
You see how easy it was for me to slip in to ranting about Donald Trump and the current state of racism in America? That right there is proof that Blackkklansman is a relevant & somewhat important movie. Plus the the idea & imagery of a Black person in klan garb (like the marketing campaign for Lee's film) has always been a taboo subject that people love to explore...
|Shock Corridor / Chapelle Show|
This is hardly a flawless movie. Far from it. Going back to the comedic tone for a moment, I found the mixture of comedy & drama to be a little disorienting at times. One minute you're laughing, and the next minute you're angry, uncomfortable & confused. But one could flip that by saying that's what makes Blackkklansman unique & original. It’s difficult to categorize the film or put it in a box. I would think some directors (especially those of Spike Lee's pedigree) would strive to make a film that can’t be easily categorized because that’s a sign of (or an attempt at) originality. But personally, I'm a little confused with what he was trying to do overall.
The tone & imagery of Blackkklansman isn’t completely original given it borrows from everything from The Spook Who Sat By The Door to the more respectable Blaxploitation films of the 1970’s...
|The Spook Who Sat By The Door / Blackkklansman|
|Intelligent Black men putting on a vocal disguise to infiltrate an outside system in Chameleon Street & Blackkklansman|
Topher Grace gives a fine performance as David Duke and it’s always a pleasure to see Hal Hartley regular; Robert John Burke in literally anything (not many people can pull off a believable hard-nosed police officer prototype these days).
Blackkklansman is certainly "ok" but I hope folks are open to criticizing aspects of it and not just blindly praising it simply because it could be labeled as “woke”. It seems that a lot of predominantly Black post-Get Out/Moonlight films (Black Panther, The First Purge, Sorry To Bother You, etc) are met with universal praise when there’s plenty to pick at and critique. As a Black person I understand the importance & excitement of representation on the big screen, but we shouldn’t be so easily satisfied. For example - David Duke's involvement in this story wasn't as major as the movie makes it out to be. I mean - fuck David Duke, but the actual source material for Blackkklansman is amazing enough without needing to sensationalize things.
I’m not saying to be like Armond White and immediately hate the film before even seeing it (something he actually confessed to once on twitter), but we should definitely be open to dialogue & criticism when it comes to stories about us. But at the end of the day, Blackkklansman is something worth seeing in the theater.
Tuesday, August 7, 2018
ZEBRAS IN AMERICA: EPISODE 66: AN INTERVIEW W/ OUTLAW VERN
We had the honor of chatting with film critic/hip-hop aficionado/action movie expert; Outlaw Vern. Listen as we talk about everything from Bruce Willis & The Rock to golden era hip-hip.
Make sure to check out his amazing site where he writes about the films of cinema.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
THE SCHOOL OF TARKOVSKY PART 18: MOVING IMAGERY: VIGIL
One could make an easily generalized comparison between Vigil & the work of Andrei Tarkovsky. Like elements of Stalker, Ward’s film could be considered dystopian. Both Ivan’s Childhood & Vigil are harsh coming of age tales told from the perspective of young protagonists.
But in my opinion, it’s a little deeper...
We’ll never know for sure but I find it hard to believe that Ward wasn’t subconsciously (or directly) influenced by Tarkovsky’s work. Vigil comes off like it takes place in the same somewhat timeless universe of Nostalghia or Stalker. From the use of fog & trees (Nostalghia) to the hard working mother (The Mirror) & dilapidated surroundings (Stalker), I’m making an executive decision and adding Vincent Ward to the alumni of the school of Tarkovsky.
Let me know if you think this is valid or a reach.
|The Mirror / Vigil|
|Ivan's Childhood / Vigil|
|Andrei Rublev / Vigil|
|Andre Rublev / Vigil|
|The Mirror / Vigil|
|Nostalghia / Vigil|
|The Mirror /|
ZEBRAS IN AMERICA: EPISODE 65