Friday, June 28, 2019

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 97



Scott & I are back to talk about the latest from Carlos Reygadas & Rick Alverson.

Enjoy...

WRONG REEL EPISODE 467: A TRIBUTE TO SEYMOUR CASSEL



Not only is Seymour Cassel an icon of American independent film (and a damn fine character actor), but he's also kind of reason Rob Cotto & I became friends. On the latest episode of Wrong Reel, Rob & I join James to pay tribute to the late great Seymour Cassel. Click the image above or click here to go to the episode.

Enjoy... 

Monday, June 24, 2019

THE MOUNTAIN



A lot of early reviews compared The Mountain to The Master. I guess that makes sense on a very surface level. While I prefer something like The Mountain over The Master, both movies are loose adaptations about real people (and their controversial work) who take aimless younger protegees under their wing. They're also a look at the darker side of Americana.

There’s even a few visual similarities...

The Master / The Mountain

The biggest difference between The Master & The Mountain is that Paul Thomas Anderson made a film that he wanted people to enjoy somewhat. Not completely but somewhat. The Mountain is a cold, sparse, sometimes prickly, uncomfortable & intentionally aimless film. And I loved every bit of it. Really. I feel like the average filmmaker would hate their movie being described as such (especially right out of the gate in the opening lines of a review), but something tells me that’s part of what Rick Alverson was going for. I genuinely don’t think he cares if someone “enjoyed” one of his movies. Sorry to sound so pretentious but that’s just how I see it. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy elements about his latest movie. The framing of certain scenes, the score and overall visual style are all things that could be enjoyed & appreciated. Even the randomness & unpredictability of co-Star Denis Lavant’s performance are sure to make some folks chuckle. But from a subject matter standpoint - not many people are going to enjoy a movie that’s partially about the lobotomy. Take me for example. While this is one of my favorite movies of the year so far, this isn’t something I’d want to watch again the next day. I certainly want to watch it again but I’m not in a rush.

The Mountain isn’t exactly something you just stumble upon either. I think most folks will have an idea of what they re getting in to. Sure it stars Jeff Goldblum (the biggest/most recognizable “star” Alverson has worked with so far) which could bring about a few random strays, but Rick Alverson’s work does have to be sought out intentionally. No one just randomly watches New Jerusalem or The Builder. I mentioned those two films instead of his more popular/recognizable movies (The Comedy & Entertainment) because The Mountain has the same soul as Alverson’s first two features in my opinion. Minimal dialogue, extreme loneliness and a less colorful palette. The Mountain still shares some similarities with Alverson’s last two movies (everything he does has lonely characters in an existential crisis on the verge some kind of a breakdown). But no one talks about The Builder or New Jerusalem. And I get it. Those aren’t the easiest movies to see/stream in comparisons to Alverson's recent work, but it’s also not the most difficult task either. Now that Rick Alverson is on feature film #5 (with an additional handful of music videos and experimental films), perhaps it’s a good time to check out his early filmography because you can see the seeds of his latest feature in the DNA of his earlier/lesser known works.


The Mountain is an exclusive movie with a specific audience in mind for a few reasons. The first being its tone & ambiance that I described at the start of this review. This is a truly cold & uncomfortable film. The other reason this is an exclusive film for a specific audience is how it shows/"handles" mental illness. It's bound to frustrate a few folks or bring about debate at the very least. I absolutely hate how much mental illness is slowly becoming a funny meme or a YouTube video. If you’re on social media as much as I am then you know how often people post about their breakdowns, suicide attempts & depression like it’s a cute joke. I didn’t get that vibe from The Mountain at all. Mental fragility isn’t a gif. There isn’t much joy in Alverson’s work so I appreciate that he’s the one to convey this. It still wouldn’t surprise me if film twitter turned a gif from this movie in to a joke about mental illness down the road (I don’t think it can be argued that there is a quirky tone throughout the course of the film).

While The Mountain falls in line with every movie Alverson has done, this is still his first time tackling real subject matter. I guess one could make a case that Entertainment is semi-autobiographical but Walter Freeman (the character Jeff Goldblum loosely portrays) is an historical figure. In the film, Dr Wallace Fiennes (Goldblum) hires a recently bereaved Zamboni driver; “Andy” (Tye Sheridan) to travel with him as a photographer for his lobotomy procedures (we learn early on that Fiennes has a history with Andy’s family).

I’m really not going to argue that all the stuff I like about this movie could be seen as something negative. It's an acquired taste. If someone were to say they didn’t like this movie I’m not going to go “WAIT, WHAT?!?!”
So while this certainly doesn’t have the same type of energy & dark humor as The Comedy Or Entertainment (and it should be approached with caution), this is one of my personal favorite films of the year so far. Hopefully most of you reading this are familiar with my blog/taste and know what you’re getting in to.

Friday, June 21, 2019

THE SCHOOL OF MAYA DEREN PART EIGHT: DAVID LYNCH CONTINUED...

I may have actually squeezed everything out of the bottom of the barrel with this one. It's undeniable that Maya Deren's work rubbed off on David Lynch but there are still a few less obvious examples that have yet to be highlighted. Until now...

Enjoy...

also check out parts:

ONE
TWO

At Land / Twin Peaks

Witches Cradle / Inland Empire

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Inland Empire

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Inland Empire

At Land / Inland Empire

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Inland Empire

Meshes of The Afternoon / Inland Empire

Ritual In Transfigured Time / Dune

At Land / Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Witches Cradle / Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Friday, June 14, 2019

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 96



On this latest episode we talk about Brightburn, comics (mostly Scott) and some cool upcoming events. 

Enjoy...

AFTER MOVIE DINER: THE DEAD DON'T DIE


I'm back on the After Movie Diner to talk about Jim Jarmusch's latest film; The Dead Don't Die.

Enjoy...

Friday, June 7, 2019

SOLEIL O


While Soleil O is in part a transgressive & abstract look at colonialism in Africa (the first portion of the movie shows this), I was more fascinated by the chunk of the film that showed us racism & discrimination in 1960’s France through the eyes of a Black immigrant. This movie has certain specific things in common with stuff like The Story Of A Three-Day Pass (another film from the 60’s about a black man in Europe) and Putney Swope (the dark humor and intentionally chaotic editing). However those films are still from the perspective of Black Americans. Soleil O is its own unique monster because it’s specifically about the relationship between Black people from Africa and White people from Europe (specially France).
In my experience (and others that I have spoken to over the years), a lot of naive Europeans like to act as if because their brand of racism is “different” from America that it’s not as serious (as if to imply that because it’s different than in America that it isn’t as harmful). I’m not a patriotic person in any way but my patriotism comes out any time I hear or read a European act is of their country is above, past or beyond racism simply because they never had Klan rallies on their soil. There’s still this unspoken myth that because James Baldwin & various Jazz musicians were more welcome in places like Paris than in the Deep South that Europe was this ultimate haven for Black folks. Soleil O shows this and more. Not only does this movie delve in to racism between Blacks & Whites in Europe, but in only 100 minutes director Med Hondo shows racism amongst other Black folks and he even touches on the issues between Arabs & Blacks living in France. A lot of times non-Black-yet-still brown immigrants have this illusion of inclusion that because their skin is sometimes lighter that they’re “better than” until they get that wake-up call and see that they’re looked at the same as Blacks in certain scenarios (at one point in the film a sign that reads something along the lines of; “eradicate the Negro/Arab problem in France” flashes across the screen).

There’s quite a bit of jarring imagery in the movie but there’s also a lot of great standout/standalone moments (there’s even a few animated moments)...






The majority of the film follows a dark-skinned African immigrant trying to adjust to his new life in France and falls in to a form of culture shock when he’s quickly confronted with aggression from intolerant whites and signs that read; “Negroes not welcome” (sounds similar to older forms of American racism if you ask me). And when he isn’t faced with that kind of outright racism, he’s faced with the fetishization that some White women have towards Black men when it comes to sex. I wish more folks saw Nicolas Provost’s The Invader (2011), which, is a bit “problematic” in parts, but still swings for the fences in terms of exploring modern-day racism in Europe. The Invader is one of the few recent films that has the same spirit & energy of Soleil O and is also one of the better films that explores the relationship between Black men & White women in France outside of Claire Denis (No Fear No Die & I Cant Sleep are kind of cut from the same cloth as Soleil O).


If Denis’ films make people nervous—and they do—it is in part because they level the gaze of a white woman at black men - Amy Taubin

The Invader
Soleil O / Putney Swope


I find it strange that films like Soleil O & The Invader are difficult to come by. Both movies did the rounds of prominent movie festivals but fell in to obscurity afterwards. Thanks to the beauty of film preservation & rediscovery, Soilel O and the rest of Med Hondo’s films are being streamed, released & screened for the first time since they were released decades ago.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

ZEBRAS IN AMERICA EPISODE 95



We started recording and then we ran in to an old friend/previous guest.

Enjoy...

Saturday, June 1, 2019

THE SCHOOL OF MAYA DEREN PART SEVEN: NICOLAS WINDING REFN

Meshes Of The Afternoon / The Neon Demon

These comparisons could be forced (and I'm sure there's some of you reading this right now ready to prematurely call out how completely different you think my comparisons are), but I see quite a few similarities between the works of Maya Deren & Nicolas Winding Refn...
From the symbolism (Witches Cradle & Neon Demon) & tight spaces (Meshes Of The Afternoon & Fear X) to the exploration of the weirder/surreal side of Los Angeles (Meshes Of The Afternoon & Drive), I think things aren't exactly coincidental.

This all came out from a previous entry where I posted up a series of side-byside's between Deren's Meshes Of The Afternoon & Refn's Fear X...






After that I started to explore their entire filmographies and came out up with the following comparisons.

Enjoy...


Witches Cradle / Only God Forgives

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Fear X

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Fear X

Witches Cradle / The Neon Demon

Meshes Of The Afternoon / The Neon Demon

Meshes Of The Afternoon / The Neon Demon

Meshes Of The Afternoon /
Fear X

Witches Cradle / The Neon Demon

Meshes Of The Afternoon / The Neon Demon

Meshes Of The Afternoon / Only God Forgives

Witches Cradle / Only God Forgives


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