August 23rd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I haven’t seen director Andrew Bujalksi’s earlier films, but as far as I can tell, this singular film cannot be considered similar to any film I’ve ever seen, and surely that includes Bujalski’s own oeuvre as well.
COMPUTER CHESS is the perfect lead in to our celebration of dead video formats (lots of great VHS docs and VHS film rarity presentations just on the horizon, if you hadn’t noticed). Shot entirely on vintage B&W analog video equipment, this film achieves a look that no other film has ever done. Of course, much of that has to do with the immaculate production design and costuming that makes you believe 100% that you’re looking at home video quality footage circa 1980.
What also lends the film incredible atmosphere is the superbly subtle and underacted characters that populate this world of chess masters and computer programmers. Combining two of the perhaps geekiest hobbies/professions, Bujalski still manages to craft performances that dance around the tropes that your average director would throw at you (D&D, pit stains, speech impediments, etc). The humor is delicate, dry, and, with few exceptions, almost imperceptible. Throw in a sub plot that may or may not involve the birth of artificial intelligence, and you have a master class film.
This film was one of the most unique films I saw at SIFF 2013, and it was lost in a wash of Baumbachs and Gordon Greens in among the New American Cinema films. This film won the Alfred P. Sloan award at Sundance; if you’re feeling adventurous, give this film a try. You’ll never see anything quite like it.
—computer chess, as on the nose as a title gets, dan
August 9th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’ve seen ’em before, and I saw ’em again.
These were the JURASSIC PARK and INDIANA JONES of the day. I know I would have been lining up for matinees of these fantastic flicks were I a kid in the 50s or 60s, instead my Ray Harryhausen was Stan Winston.
But I know where it started and I know the score. You don’t get to Winston and Spielberg without Harryhausen, and I will make the pilgrimage from time to time. The pure artistry of Harryhausen’s models and practical effects put even some 21st century technicians and CG modelers to shame. The skeletons, oh the skeletons! In traditional Hollywood fashion, you have to up the ante. Thus the single skeleton from the end of 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD becomes seven skeletons at the end of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.
There’s a sense in Harryhausen films of the truly wondrous. He had a true respect for mythology and fantasy and fairy tales that came through in the films, and his stop motion models had the spark of life and personality about them.
And I gotta say, it’s nice to tribute a real Hollywood auteur with 35mm print presentations. Only at the GI.
—cyclops, rocs, and hydras, oh my, dan
August 2nd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Look I’ll be straight with you. It’s my birthday, and I haven’t had any time for fun yet. So I’m making the executive decision to make this one of my briefest blogs ever.
What do you need to know about this week’s movie, GRABBERS? It’s a pretty damn good time, and proves the Irish have a pretty good sense of humor about themselves and aren’t afraid to take a national stereotype all the way. Which stereotype? I think you know which one I’m talking about. This movie’s premise? The only way to survive against blood-sucking space squids is to GET BLOODY DRUNK!
This is a pretty fun flick, filled with British and Irish character actors you’ll recognize if you see a regular number of productions from the other side of the pond. If you are a fan of our late night programming (this is another IFC Midnight film), this is the movie for you. With one of my SIFF 2013 Midnight Adrenaline faves COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES, another spectacular British genre film, playing across town this weekend, this is the week to be be an Anglo/Celtic and genre film fan!
—GI forever, dan
July 27th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I finally understand. My girlfriend’s been telling me for year(s). I get it now. WILLARD, his album, it hadn’t clicked. Now it has. Now I know.
Crispin Glover is straight up Crispy in these Trent Harris films. I love it. I love him.
RUBIN AND ED. THE BEAVER TRILOGY. PLAN 10 FROM OUTER SPACE.
Trent is my boy. Crispin is my boy. I’m straight up loving this.
Look, it’s like this. I ain’t see LUNA MESA. I ain’t seen PLAN 10. Here’s the cold hard truth: I don’t need to in order to wholeheartedly recommend Trent’s whole oeuvre. I think only a couple is really needed to say “Hey! Something good’s going on here.” And something good most definitely did.
THE BEAVER TRILOGY: great. RUBIN AND ED: even better. The rest: you know what’s comin’: Goddamn good.
Look, I ain’t gonna keep coming back to this. You’re going to have to make up your own damn mind. Trent Harris has made a handful of films in the last 30+ years, all perfect. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to come watch them at the GI this week. PLAN 10 is 16mm for chrissakes! RUBIN AND ED, 35mm! In a world of DCP, this is the last bastion of true analog! See these films in their original format before it’s too late!
—Danalog, double the analog, dan
July 19th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
One of the very best music docs of SIFF 2013’s Face the Music lineup is exclusive to the Grand Illusion this week!
Perhaps because I never worked at a record store, I wasn’t privy to the whole 90s rediscovery of Big Star, but I sure do know the theme song to “That 70s Show.” Maybe if Big Star had a song on a mainstream television show during the actual 70s, things might’ve turned out differently for the band.
This has a been a great year for rock docs about bands not properly appreciated during their brief lifespans. Between this film and A BAND CALLED DEATH (also from the 70s), I’ve heard a fair amount of earth-shatteringly good music that I want to know why I’ve never heard it before. You almost feel cheated in a way, but it makes the discovery that much sweeter. Now, Death never had the exposure that Big Star did, so the comparison isn’t quite the same, but the emotional punch of both movies (and the kick-ass soundtracks) made them two of the rock docs this year (along with THE PUNK SINGER for the trifecta).
You know we always strive to bring you the freshest and best in music and movies at the GI, and this week we’ve truly done it! And with live sets by Red Jacket Mine following our 8pm Friday and Saturday shows this weekend, music and movies go hand in hand!
—excited for all our VHS films coming up soon, dan
July 12th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Come on, you knew that was coming.
I gotta give it up to Elijah Wood for continuing to try new roles and push envelopes post-LOTR. I know I’m painting myself as less of a horror aficionado then I think I am when I say I haven’t seen the original, but I think I can safely say this is a homage/remake done right. With original MANIAC filmmaker William Lustig on board as producer, I think I can even more safely say this Aja (HIGH TENSION) co-written and co-produced film is truly singular. I mean, he already proved he can do top-notch remakes with PIRANHA and THE HILLS HAVE EYES, both of which are grade A in my book.
I know you’ve seen some POV recently in horror filmmaking, but this is no found footage franchise waiting to happen. This are some delightful mise-en-scene moments with perspective to get you in the mind of the serial killer without breaking the mood or moment, and it is at once unsettling and utterly simplistic. Basic camera techniques and well-timed character movements create the perfect low-budget, editless mindscapes.
This film was not overpraised. Rarely have horror homages/remakes pleased the hardcore (generally only pleasing newcomers born 20 – 30 years too late to have appreciated the original), but I think we can safely classify MANIAC as one of the rare few to take on that cherished mantle.
And no, I haven’t seen V/H/S/2 yet, our late-night found footage sequel (yes, perhaps the perfect antonym to MANIAC). What I have heard from all who saw it (including a number at SIFF’s recent Midnight Adrenaline showing), is that is as good if not better than the original. Hopefully the camera will be a little less shaky, as I’m still queasy when I think about V/H/S.
A good weekend to be a horror fan in Seattle. Wait a week to see PACIFIC RIM and I’ll bloody well join you, let’s pause a bit and give some great horror a chance in this over-CGed summer blockbuster season.
—thank Jeebus for Aja, dan
July 5th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I remember Napster. The real Napster. I found it just in time before the RIAA started flooding the service with junk MP3s and folks had to get real creative with their band name spelling to pass filters. I maybe downloaded 50 songs altogether, none of which I still have anymore. Most of the songs I was trying to find after I had heard them on the radio, and maybe wanted to hear something else by the artist or the same song again before I committed to buying a whole CD. I was in junior high at the time, and plopping down $15 on anything was a big investment at the time.
Digital file quality has gotten a lot better since then. iTunes has driven down the cost of albums (while individual song costs have gone up). I have since paid for digital files through eMusic, iTunes, Amazon, and directly from artists like Radiohead. Pandora and earlier streaming services still provide the opportunity to hear tons of new bands and also pay for subscription service (the model Napster now follows). The biggest way I financially support the artists that I enjoy is by GOING TO BLOODY CONCERTS.
Seriously, if anyone really wants to support the artists they enjoy, go to a show. If you pay $10 for an album, you know how much money actually goes to the band? $1, maybe $2 if they’re lucky. Probably less than that depending on the label or the music service. If you pay $12 or $15 or $20 or $25 for a show, they’re going to get three or four times that amount. That’s where the money is in the music industry nowadays. No one’s going to sell 10 million copies of an album (probably) like they used to, in fact hitting 1 or 2 million if you’re not Kanye is pretty much out of reach.
With even newer direct funding sources like Kickstarter people are having an unprecedented connection to the artists they enjoy to directly fund the creation of more music. Huge mainstream musicians like Beck are putting out music through printed sheet music, opening up the opportunity for thousands of people around the world to interpret his songs and put them out on videos or MP3s or perform them live. The music industry is still around, the artists are still around, Napster didn’t kill anyone.
It bothered me then and it bothers me now, why is it Dr. Dre and Metallica who yelled the loudest about being damaged by Napster, when they already had MILLIONS of dollars? Need a few million more boys? Even harder to sympathize with these 1%ers in our post-Occupy world.
Enough about me waxing on about my personal journeys through the music industry and my annoyances with the super rich. I haven’t really talked about the movie much. Here’s what you need to know: it’s a great postmortem on the internet digital music and P2P revolution. Napster took the bullet for iTunes to make Apple incredibly wealthy and powerful, and for all sorts of other great P2P follow. The movie surprisingly doesn’t touch on Napster’s new life as a subscription service, consequently sold by Best Buy to Rhapsody.
Anyway, if you’re like me and were an early adopter of music through the interwebs, you should see this movie. There, that about says it.
—I don’t mind taking a nap, sir, dan
June 28th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Vitriolic is probably the first word that come to mind.
I was but a wee lad during Downey Jr.’s late 80s television career, and I’ve gone all these years up till now unaware of his existence. A flash in the pan of TV careers, but its effects are still felt today. I certainly was raised by a father who listens to conservative talk radio programs (Hannity, Limbaugh, etc), so I’m no stranger to over-the-top talk show hosts. Watching footage from the show, especially later during the show’s lifespan, it made me think more of Jerry Springer than anything. Just the sheer bustling energy of people yelling and the absurdity of the guests, though Jerry doesn’t yell at and insult his guests.
It’s all show business though, and I appreciate the honest depiction of created persona. It’s a little more obvious to educated audiences nowadays, with the winking satire of Stephen Colbert on four nights a week, but listening to Morton Downey Jr.’s fans gush about him being “real” and “the only one telling the truth,” maybe we’re not that much past that era. I know I lose respect for people when they claim an on air personality as genuine and the only correct viewpoint.
For chrissakes, pretty much all cable news is just shouted opinion nowadays!
Anywho, see where it all started this film. Where it all started on TV for real anyway, I couldn’t help but think about NETWORK while watching.
—informed and aware, dan
June 22nd, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It is a splendid thing to see such a profoundly personal and autobiographical film that elevates its author to the universal everyman. Anyone who was ever unlucky in love can identify with Terence Nance, the man who deftly weaves his admittedly transparent love letter of a short film to the Girl (whose name is blurred out in the titles and letters, but who is blatantly named in all the credits in chapter title cards) into his newer filmic musing on all his past relationships to create a feature length film-within-a-film.
The different music (including a favorite of mine, Flying Lotus), animation sequences, voice overs, and other cinematic tools and techniques don’t feel cliched or contrived. There is no hint of a disgenuine use of anything. The aural and visual collage becomes less cinema and more Def Poetry Jam or stage monologue. Truly an arthouse film experience, but almost not a film at all, much to Terence’s credit.
I wouldn’t really say this is hip-hop cinema (I think we’ve already seen what that looks like, RZA), cinematic jazz, or any number of other African American cultural art form metaphors. As much as I hate to admit it, Charles Mudede is on to something when he says it “may be the first feature film that successfully expresses a cinematic black aesthetic.” Damn you Mudede for making me say you were right!
See this film. It is not a narrative film, not a documetnary nor an experimental film, it may be the start of a brand new cinematic movement: a new African American cultural touchstone. Watch out, Spike Lee.
—good to be back, dan
April 26th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
That might become a new word for how you feel after watching this two-lovers-on-the-road-on-the-lam. Amy Seimetz has a talent for putting two unlovable and unwatchable leads on screen and make them hypnotically and oddly compelling for an hour and a half. Like a TLC reality show through an auteur’s lens, this film wades into hillbilly Everglades with wide-eyed fascination for the trysts and the tourist trap kitsch that color the landscape. There’s no B-roll of gators in them there swamps; the only monsters the desperate, human kind.
What have you seen by the end of the film? You’re not quite sure. Pushing the boundary means sometimes you’re going to fall, but for God’s sake be graceful. And Seimetz dances the line like a goddamn ballerina.
—SIFF 2013!, shameless plug, dan