Editor’s Corner: Recent Highlights from Keyframe on Fandor

Terri (dir. Azazel Jacobs)
Terri (dir. Azazel Jacobs)

I recently did a count of all the writers who have contributed to Keyframe at Fandor, and was pleased to discover that over 50 different contributors have lent their insights in just the past six months. I’m hoping to expand that number considerably over the rest of the year, with more content of different kinds, from articles to videos to round-table surveys and so on.

As editor, I try to help each piece to become its best and try not to play favorites. But I can’t deny that there are certain entries that are especially satisfying to have on Keyframe. So I thought I’d share a few from the past several weeks that I consider to be standouts:

– “Four Times Truer Than Life: Four Thoughts on Lillian Gish”, by Farran Smith Nehme.  Quoth the Self-Styled Siren:

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that Gish isn’t sexy, considering that she spent her entire silent career playing women (and, in Broken Blossoms, a child) who are desired by men, and often wind up seduced and abandoned. It’s no harder to get past Gish’s thin lips and flowing hair to her beauty, than it is to overlook Garbo’s eyebrows or Clara Bow’soddly drawn mouth.  Do those who find Gish a “silly, sexless antique” (Louise Brooks’ sarcastic phrasing of such criticisms) wonder what the male characters are after? Nowadays, are innocence and purity so despised, or so transient, that no trace of their appeal remains? Surely not. Perhaps in our day, those qualities are so firmly relegated to childhood that modern audiences aren’t comfortable with an erotic attraction to innocence–or, in The Wind, with how a young virgin’s terror of sex can coexist with an equally primal yearning for it.

– Terri is a recent film that I really like, sort of like Wes Anderson without trying to be too twee. We were lucky to have this interview with director Azazel Jacobs, in which tells Nick Dawson what it was like to be schooled in movies as a kid (esp. when your dad is a famous avant garde filmmaker and film school professor). And you can also watch his previous film, Momma’s Man, on Fandor.

– Filmmaker (though I like to think of him as a “cinematic instigator”) Alejandro Adams has started issuing a monthly column on Keyframe, appropriately named “Noisemaker.” In “How You Can Be A Better Filmmaker than Terrence Malick” Alejandro talks about the ways that co-opting movies by audience members can lead to acts of creation more inspired than the original works.

– A month has passed but I’m still thinking fondly of the surge of activity around Fandor’s digital premiere of David Holzman’s Diary. There was a noticeable uptick in the undervalued status of this classic, highly influential but still underseen film, thanks, I dare wager, to the extensive coverage Keyframe lent to the film.

There were many highlights, but the communal centerpiece was a poll of 25 film critics on the best films about filmmaking, with results that had the right blend of “right” and “surprising” (Sunset Blvd. and 8 1/2 are obvious, but Beware of a Holy Whore and Close-Up? Wow!) Perhaps just as good were the personal passion picks expressed across the full listing of the ballots, where everything from Inland Empire to The Last Action Hero got a vote of confidence (and really, aren’t those two films essentially one and the same?)

But there were also a few stand-alone thought pieces on David Holzman, and my favorite was Tom McCormack’s essay that tied the film’s vision of narcissism posting as art into today’s all-encompassing social network echo chamber.


I also enjoyed Brian Darr’s tribute to Douglas Fairbanks, Michael Joshua Rowin’s discovery of the first baseball movies, and Dan Callahan’s appreciation of the “very horny cinema” of Claude Chabrol’s A Double Tour.

More delights are in the works for August. In the meantime, Happy reading, and happy viewing!

“Living the Dream”


and if I want too many things
don’t you know that
I’m a human being

– New York Dolls

So, it’s been a while. I was meaning to post a follow-up to the free screening that closed out the Shooting Down Pictures project. But one thing happened after another to forestall my bringing due closure to this grand, 3-year venture in film blogging and canonic completism. First, it took me a couple of days to get over the hangover of that evening caused by an after-party involving several hours of drinking and karaoke singing of album rock standards. Then, I quit my job and spent the summer in a mythical land where WordPress is blocked (I could only wish that all the spammers who post junk messages on this blog could be sequestered in that country…).  Then I returned Stateside and entered a completely new routine of blogging for a new site, working as an ambassador for Chinese indie cinema and taking what little time remained to edit my own film. And so here we are, two days into the new year. All this time this blog has been lingering in the back of my mind like an old friend I’ve been meaning to check in with but never get around to, which further compounds the feelings of procrastinatory guilt accumulating over what is surely a simple exercise. So at last… let’s do this.

Continue reading ““Living the Dream””

Best Week Ever

ebert screengrab

I love that Roger Ebert’s Twitter wallpaper is the last shot of one of my all time favorite films. But of course, it was his writing that turned me on to it.

I’m grateful for his acknowledgement, and even more grateful for the article that drew his attention, on, of all places, The Wall Street Journal. Thanks Eric Kohn for deeming my efforts newsworthy.

And update on Thursday’s screening: half the seats have been reserved, so if you’re thinking of coming, you might want to let me know to put you on the list, just in case…

If you happen to be in the Philly/Swarthmore area…


On Tuesday March 30 at Swarthmore College, Vice President of Programming Kevin B. Lee will speak about issues in contemporary Chinese cinema and his work with dGenerate Films.

Following Mr. Lee’s talk will be a screening of Fujian Blue, a 2007 film by Weng Shouming, that has played in various international film festivals and won the Dragons and Tigers Award at the 2007 Vancouver International Film Festival.

The China Film Journal writes that the film is “an absorbing narrative of deeply felt characters, a trenchant social commentary, and a tone poem to a nearly-lost generation.”

Admission Free. Sponsored by SAO as part of the APIA Heritage Month, Film and Media Studies program, FFS, Movie Committee and FOTS.

Location Information:
Science Center, Room 101
Swarthmore College
Swarthmore, PA

Announcing the Winner of the Shooting Down Pictures Fansub Challenge

I’m pleased to announce that the Shooting Down Pictures Fansub Challenge has a winner. Peaceful Anarchy answered my call to produce English fansubs for the mile-a-minute dialogue for Luis Garcia Berlanga’s Placido, and has thus earned the $150 prize ($10 more than I advertised! I really need to pay more attention to my own blog).

You can download the .srt file by right-clicking here. It’s also been uploaded to some movie file share sites, which are where you can find the movie itself. Feel free to give feedback on both the movie and the subs – I think this film is an absolute masterpiece and hope that others feel the same.

A Belated report from Berlinale

My, it’s been quiet here for some time. What have I been up to? I guess things fell off on this blog about the time I went to Berlin – so maybe I should link to my coverage for The Auteurs. You’ll note special attention paid to the films of Yasujiro Shimazu and to the Forum Expanded installations, both of which were the most exciting things I saw in Berlin. Here’s a video I shot of the James Benning installation Tulare Road (hope he doesn’t mind), which is particularly amusing for one German infant’s interactive participation with it:

Cassavetes’ LOVE STREAMS next Monday, March 29


LOVE STREAMS (dir. John Cassavetes, 1984)

WHEN: 6:45 pm, Monday 29 March 2010
WHERE: Room 471, 20 Cooper Square (Bowery and East 5th)
ALL WELCOME.  Refreshments – stiff, copious – provided.

“Making a film has been compared, by many good directors, to a love affair.  What hasn’t been said is that this film, the recipient of the love, is the victim of an organized orgy.” (Cassavetes)

LOVE STREAMS is John Cassavetes’s last film.  He made it as he was dying of cirrhosis of the liver.  Critically disavowed, yanked off screens after just a few weeks, only briefly available on video in the States, it’s the story of the close relationship between Robert, a feckless lush (played by Cassavetes) who’s “writing a book on night life”, and Sarah (Cassavetes’s real-life wife Gena Rowlands), who describes herself as a “very happy person”.  Both are alive, lonely, lost.  Both, in their different ways, are quietly howling with grief.  Then comes the goat.

John Cassavetes’s films, Jim Jarmusch has written, are about “love, about trust and mistrust, about isolation, joy, sadness, ecstasy and stupidity”.  For that reason, their stylistic distinctiveness, and for their fierce and galvanic independence, they’ve long been touchstones for equally fierce, equally galvanic directors such as Claire Denis, Olivier Assayas and Pedro Almodovar.  LOVE STREAMS, in its rawness and desperation, its wild-eyed confrontation with human isolation and need, is hard to watch and equally hard to look away from.

LOVE STREAMS will be presented by Kevin B. Lee, a critic, filmmaker, and programming executive for dGenerate Films, a digital distribution channel for Chinese independent films. He contributes to ‘Time Out New York’, ‘Cineaste’, ‘The Moving Image Source’, and his blog Shooting Down Pictures, among other publications.

Part of the series THE SPEED OF YOUR HAIR: A series on love. Organized by Sukhdev Sandhu and The Colloquium for Unpopular Culture.

The Shooting Down Pictures YouTube Film Festival

To think that it’s been over a year since the YouTube shakedown of 2009, when I temporarily lost my account during a particularly zealous effort to manage the content on YouTube containing copyrighted material, such as my video essays.  Well here we are a year later, and if anything there is even more copyrighted stuff to be found on the site – and we’re not just talking videos like mine that re-appropriate media, but entire feature films.

Continue reading “The Shooting Down Pictures YouTube Film Festival”

100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films

<i>Fantasmagorie (1908)</i> by Émile Cohl
Fantasmagorie (1908) by Émile Cohl

100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films:  Background

This list of 100 important directors of animated short films was assembled in late 2008 to serve as a complement to “Brief Encounters,” a proposed list of 250 great short films (both animated and live-action) which was to be developed by the folks at the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? website.  Unfortunately, that 250-film list is in limbo, leaving our list without a home.

The “100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films” list is not intended to be comprehensive.  These are simply 100 directors whom we feel are important and deserving of increased recognition by film lovers.  For each director, we selected three “highly recommended” movies.  In addition, we included a category of “TSPDT 250 Greatest Shorts” to highlight any of these directors’ films which were tentatively slated to place on the abandoned Brief Encounters list.

This project was facilitated by Lee Price (lee-109) on the IMDb Classic Film message board.  Project team:  Lee Price, Robert Reynolds (Illtdesq), Jorge Didaco (jdidaco), Bill Kamberger (bkamberger), and Rob Tomshany (RobT-2), with additional input from animation fans on the IMDb Classic Film message board. Continue reading “100 Important Directors of Animated Short Films”