David Lynch evasively answers some questions about Eraserhead in 1979

David Lynch continues to be the favorite director of weirdos everywhere, ourselves included. So much of his appeal is tied to Eraserhead, his terrifying, confusing 1977 feature film debut. Eraserhead still defies explanation and analysis, and fans have for decades attempted to work out the symbolism and meaning of characters like the Man in the … Continue reading “David Lynch evasively answers some questions about Eraserhead in 1979”

David Lynch continues to be the favorite director of weirdos everywhere, ourselves included. So much of his appeal is tied to Eraserhead, his terrifying, confusing 1977 feature film debut. Eraserhead still defies explanation and analysis, and fans have for decades attempted to work out the symbolism and meaning of characters like the Man in the Planet.

As the embedded video attests, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Two years after the film’s release, UCLA film students interviewed Lynch about his inscrutable masterpiece, only to come away perhaps even more puzzled. Lynch defers on many questions about the movie’s themes, which he points out are intentionally abstract and open to interpretation. Instead, he seems to prefer talking about stories from its bizarre production, like the time he got a dead cat from a veterinarian for a deleted scene.

The interview is notably the product of amateurs, and you can see Lynch’s bemusement as the students read quotes from reviews as discussion prompts. But this nearly forty-year-old clip offers a glimpse of the director talking at length about the intentional choices behind his most famous work. Just don’t expect too much clarity: when asked to clarify his description of the film as “a dream of dark and troubling things,” Lynch simply answered “No.”

A salute to Jacques Rivette, craftsman of the French New Wave

Last week, we quietly lost Jacques Rivette, one of the original filmmakers of the original French New Wave movement. As a filmmaker and a critic, Rivette advocated for a more natural, improvised cinema that the New Wave aspired to. Godard and Truffaut captured the spotlight, but Rivette’s films are often considered some of the most … Continue reading “A salute to Jacques Rivette, craftsman of the French New Wave”

Last week, we quietly lost Jacques Rivette, one of the original filmmakers of the original French New Wave movement. As a filmmaker and a critic, Rivette advocated for a more natural, improvised cinema that the New Wave aspired to. Godard and Truffaut captured the spotlight, but Rivette’s films are often considered some of the most involved and accomplished. His films are often only critical assessed long and complicated, but they offer more than that.

We’ll leave the eulogizing to Glenn Kenny at Flavorwire, who wrote an excellent tribute to a man who never labeled himself a director and preferred a credit for mise en scène. Give it a read.

Rivette’s films are often unusually difficult to find in the United States, but luckily, we have a few available to watch in the library.

Short film on Lumière et compagnieHU DVD 283
Who Knows? – DVD 314
Gang of Four – HU DVD 318
Secret Defense – HU DVD 530
The Beautiful Troublemaker – HU DVD 10599
The Nun – DVD 11306

Film’s great directors circled up and talked about their craft

Everyone has probably imagined a fictional conversation between history’s greatest leaders, thinkers, or artists. It’s a classic hypothetical situation, but unless you’re in a science fiction story, you can’t assemble centuries of historical figures together. Film is still a young medium, though, and many of the greatest filmmakers are still active. That meeting-of-the-minds can actually … Continue reading “Film’s great directors circled up and talked about their craft”

Everyone has probably imagined a fictional conversation between history’s greatest leaders, thinkers, or artists. It’s a classic hypothetical situation, but unless you’re in a science fiction story, you can’t assemble centuries of historical figures together. Film is still a young medium, though, and many of the greatest filmmakers are still active. That meeting-of-the-minds can actually happen, and The Hollywood Reporter did it.

In the above video, THR‘s Stephen Galloway presides over an hour-long roundtable discussion with some of the best working directors, including Ridley Scott and Quentin Tarantino. Their conversation zigzags across tons of issues in film, from working within studios to the lowest points in their careers. Perhaps the most interesting point of discussion is what Alejandro González Iñárritu calls the disappearance of “middle-class films” that sit halfway between micro-budget indies and blockbusters.

It certainly helped that all these filmmakers had films with skin in the awards circuit, but gathering them for an hour to muse on the state of the film industry is an absolute treat.

Need inspiration to watch more this year? Track it like Soderbergh

Several of us might have made New Year’s resolutions to watch new things – to see more films in theaters, maybe, or to stop streaming The West Wing on loop. There’s always that pull to be a more responsible, cultured consumer of entertainment, but committing to a quality movie or television show every week can … Continue reading “Need inspiration to watch more this year? Track it like Soderbergh”

Several of us might have made New Year’s resolutions to watch new things – to see more films in theaters, maybe, or to stop streaming The West Wing on loop. There’s always that pull to be a more responsible, cultured consumer of entertainment, but committing to a quality movie or television show every week can be a daunting task. A role model could help. Enter filmmaker Steven Soderbergh.

Since 2009, Soderbergh has published a list of everything he has watched, read, or listened to over the year. His roundup for 2015 is voracious: he watched at least a television show every day and tended to watch three or four films per week. For your own purposes, you might notice that Soderbergh picked a good mix of old and new, high- and low-brow. In the realm of true crime television, for instance, he watched The Jinx as well as Dateline.

Around Christmastime, Soderbergh watched twelve movies in a single week. You aren’t expected to match the pace of an acclaimed, prolific director. But maybe his tenacity will inspire you to keep a list of your own and be more conscious of what you watch.

RIP Wes Craven, master of horror

We wanted to start this semester off with a list of all the exciting titles we added recently, but we first need to acknowledge the very sad death of Wes Craven, horror director and producer extraordinaire whose slasher films defined and later deconstructed the genre. Wes Craven is best known, of course, for his creation … Continue reading “RIP Wes Craven, master of horror”

We wanted to start this semester off with a list of all the exciting titles we added recently, but we first need to acknowledge the very sad death of Wes Craven, horror director and producer extraordinaire whose slasher films defined and later deconstructed the genre.

Wes Craven is best known, of course, for his creation of A Nightmare on Elm Street and indelible horror movie icon Freddy Krueger. That alone would cement him as one of the most beloved figures in a genre full of cult personalities, but he also directed The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes and served as producer on their remakes. And in a terrific act of self-reflection, Craven also created Scream a series dedicated to dismantling the tropes and structure of the genre he helped popularize.

(He also directed a segment in Paris, je t’aime… which is weird.)

To honor Craven, we want to recommend not just his biggest movies but the love he put into his craft. So in addition to watching Elm Street and Scream, we suggest you watch three documentaries in which he offers a behind-the-scenes peek as his work and offers advice to upcoming filmmakers. Craven treated violent horror with artfulness and skill, and we’ll miss his presence in the genre.

Scream – HU DVD 6
Scream 2 – HU DVD 7
A Nightmare on Elm Street – HU DVD 864
Paris, je t’aime – HU DVD 3378

The American Nightmare – HU DVD 998
Getting Started in Tinseltown – Streaming video
Successful Teamwork in Filmmaking – Streaming video

What happened to the makers of Sky Captain?

The 2004 retro sci-fi caper Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was the first major film to shoot entirely on greenscreen. In an era when blockbuster movies eschew physical sets and use CGI wizardry as a crutch rather than a tool, that doesn’t seem like a groundbreaking or even welcome accomplishment. But no movie … Continue reading “What happened to the makers of Sky Captain?”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/film/sky-captain-and-the-world-of-tomorrow/kerry-kevin-conran-what-happened/

The 2004 retro sci-fi caper Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was the first major film to shoot entirely on greenscreen. In an era when blockbuster movies eschew physical sets and use CGI wizardry as a crutch rather than a tool, that doesn’t seem like a groundbreaking or even welcome accomplishment. But no movie – even the effects-heavy Star Wars prequels – came close to using virtual scenery to Sky Captain‘s extent. The movie flopped, but it impressed the film world and presaged today’s fantasy-soaked cinemas. So what happened to the filmmakers behind this milestone?

The Telegraph released a heartbreaking profile of Sky Captain‘s creators, Kerry and Kevin Conran, who saw their careers dramatically ascend and collapse in a few years over the anticipation and failure of their only feature film. Sky Captain started as an attempt to prove that independent filmmakers could create exciting blockbusters on small budgets using modern technology, but it ballooned into a massive, Jude Law-fronted boondoggle. Their innovations at one point caught the eyes of James Cameron, George Lucas, and other directors known for their technical wizardry, but they never earned a seat at the table in Hollywood. Kerry Conran continues to be crestfallen over this reversal of fortune and refused to participate in the article.

Given how little the Conran brothers created during their moment in the limelight, we may not know if they’re the greatest untapped film talents in a generation or just more indie darlings who didn’t work well on a bigger canvas. Their single shot fired, though, was a big one that is largely untold in film history. The next time a movie dramatically alters its setting without needing to reshoot, thank the Conrans for climbing that peak first.

Beyond Thunderdome, there was Happy Feet

 Director George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic Mad Max franchise this Friday, and early reviews indicate his latest movie is a total triumph, an admittedly surprising outcome given Miller’s thirty years away from action films. That got us wondering: what else was Miller doing in the interim? If you can believe it, George Miller – … Continue reading “Beyond Thunderdome, there was Happy Feet”

 Director George Miller returns to the post-apocalyptic Mad Max franchise this Friday, and early reviews indicate his latest movie is a total triumph, an admittedly surprising outcome given Miller’s thirty years away from action films. That got us wondering: what else was Miller doing in the interim?

If you can believe it, George Miller – the mind behind The Road Warrior – directed Happy Feet and Babe: Pig in the City.

Miller refused to be typecast as a filmmaker over his career. He easily could have coasted on low-rent action movies for the rest of his life after his initial successes, but he went in unusual directions, directing a television miniseries about cricket and writing family-friendly fare like Lorenzo’s Oil. The two Happy Feet movies were his only output since 1998, so he has been inactive lately, but we were still shocked that his CV includes so much unlike his most famous films.

In anticipation of Fury Road, walk back through some of Miller’s other films for a reminder that this director has more tricks up his sleeve than explosions: he also has talking pigs.

Twilight Zone: The Movie – HU DVD 3270
Lorenzo’s Oil – HU DVD 3324
Mad Max – HU DVD 6577
The Road Warrior – HU DVD 6578
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – HU DVD 6579
Babe – HU DVD 7221
Babe: Pig in the City – HU DVD 7222

Help crowdfund Orson Welles’s final unfinished film

In 1970, legendary director Orson Welles began work on The Other Side of the Wind, a film about a filmmaker attempting to fund an experimental comeback film. Welles never intended The Other Side of the Wind to be autobiographical, but his life mirrored the protagonist’s in eerily similar ways. Over the next six years of … Continue reading “Help crowdfund Orson Welles’s final unfinished film”

In 1970, legendary director Orson Welles began work on The Other Side of the Wind, a film about a filmmaker attempting to fund an experimental comeback film. Welles never intended The Other Side of the Wind to be autobiographical, but his life mirrored the protagonist’s in eerily similar ways. Over the next six years of production and the remainder of his life, Welles struggled to finish his film as well, stymied by obstacles including an unconventional improvised script, budget embezzlement, and most bizarrely the confiscation of the negatives by Ayatollah Khomeini during the Iranian Revolution.

Over forty years have passed since Welles started filming The Other Side of the Wind, and at long last, it may finally be released. A group of Hollywood producers have arranged to obtain the negatives and, based on extensive notes left by Welles before his death, edit and remaster the film as he intended.

This is an enormous undertaking with the full support of notable film industry figures, but they understandably need some finishing money to complete this. To finish the job, the production team has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to secure the $2 million necessary to complete the film by early 2016. That seems like a steep price tag, but as the team puts it: “What if Mark Twain lost a manuscript? Or if Mozart lost his sheet music for a final Sonata? Or a lost book of poems by Walt Whitman was discovered hidden away in a dusty attic? Would you want to see that art realized?”

We certainly would. Here’s hoping we can watch Orson Welles’s final film before the next election!

See sci-fi drama Ex Machina with director Alex Garland

Science fiction screenwriter Alex Garland makes directorial debut in theaters today with Ex Machina, a futuristic drama starring future Star Wars co-stars Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac about artificial intelligence. The movie has mostly glowing reviews so far, which bodes well for Garland’s transition from the writing desk to the director’s chair. If you want … Continue reading “See sci-fi drama Ex Machina with director Alex Garland”

Science fiction screenwriter Alex Garland makes directorial debut in theaters today with Ex Machina, a futuristic drama starring future Star Wars co-stars Domnhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac about artificial intelligence. The movie has mostly glowing reviews so far, which bodes well for Garland’s transition from the writing desk to the director’s chair. If you want to pry his mind a little, we have an opportunity for you…

Alex Garland will be at Landmark E Street Cinema next Tuesday for a special screening of Ex Machina. Although we don’t have details about what will happen at this screening, we imagine there will be a Q&A or guided discussion with the director. Garland’s career trajectory is putting him on the path to being a big name in science fiction film, so take advantage of this opportunity!

The event takes place at Landmark E Street Cinema on Tuesday, April 14th. Unlike many screenings that we offer passes for, you’ll have to RSVP for this one. Send an email to ExMachinaDC@gmail.com in advance to indicate that you’ll be attending. We’ll see you there!

Vanity Fair celebrates one century of vanity credits

gif via listal Earlier this week, we acknowledged the 100th anniversary of Birth of a Nation and the blockbuster style of filmmaking that create. But as Vanity Fair points out, Birth of a Nation also marked the start of directors declaring authorship for movies. D. W. Griffith was the first director to have a possessive … Continue reading “Vanity Fair celebrates one century of vanity credits”

gif via listal

Earlier this week, we acknowledged the 100th anniversary of Birth of a Nation and the blockbuster style of filmmaking that create. But as Vanity Fair points out, Birth of a Nation also marked the start of directors declaring authorship for movies. D. W. Griffith was the first director to have a possessive credit for his film (“Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation“), and increasingly, many directors are opting for a similarly authorial style. Many recent Oscar winning movies, for instance, describe themselves as  “A film by” rather than “Directed by.”

It’s a minor difference but one that asserts the auteur role of directors in a big way. Many screenwriters and other contributors (including their respective guilds) take issue with this type of credit, as it downplays the work of the rest of the crew. As Vanity Fair explains, this has become a contentious issue in film promotion; the Writers Guild of America even lobbied to remove “A Christopher Nolan film” from some screening copies of The Dark Knight.

The article is a great read for anyone looking for a glimpse into how minutia in Hollywood can change careers. You’ll probably have trouble reading movie posters the same way again.