Film Activism: Film Forum Renovation

In my last post I said there’d be more site update news, but something more important came up, so I’m sharing it.

As any film lover who has been to New York knows the Film Forum is an institution. In my mind it is such a mecca that one time when I went on a bus trip to Manhattan with a number friends they mostly went to see Broadway shows and I went to the newly-restored complete cut of Metropolis at the Forum.

2020 will be the theater’s fiftieth year as a cinematic hub in New York. To commemorate, and let’s be realistic to remain relevant, they will be renovating the theater an adding a fourth screen next year. The Forum is a 501(c)(3), so they thrive and show outstanding repertory series and unique independent films thanks in large part to (tax-deductible) donations. This is a huge undertaking, so every little bit helps. Chip in to keep one of the places that truly puts the art in art house.

You can find more information at their website including a brief video, as well as the donate button. Anyone who had ever viewed a film there will welcome these changes I’m sure.

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Updates: 9/12/2017

For a while at the start of 2017 I had a backlog of posts I had scheduled that could tide me (and you over) while I was sidetracked on other projects. As you may have noticed that backlog vanished.

For the second time ever I blew a blogathon contribution. I will attempt to make up that posting that piece by an alternate means be it here or elsewhere.

There are things in the offing and I will take a few days to keep you abreast of them. I’ll do them one at a time to not overload you.

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The first thing that bears noting is that I am still tracking new releases viewed, you can track those best on my Letterboxd list. While I haven’t posted monthly or quarterly considerations lists The BAM Awards will be happening with the previously established deadlines in tact.  The potential contenders this year (and yes It is a strong one) have been bolstered as I am now using MoviePass and I love it.

There will be more to update you on tomorrow.

 

Short Film Saturday: Andy (2017)

It’s been a fairly long hiatus for posts on here (more on why that has been to follow). Today I happened to see a short I enjoyed and it’s Saturday, so I may as well bring back the Short Film Saturday theme.

It’s unrated but definitely NSFW, but tells a good tale of a vicious cycle of bullying. It also features Brendan Meyer whom I featured in my O, Canada! contribution this year.

 

2017 Swashathon: The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950)

Directed by Chuck Jones this Looney Tunes short is another that takes place on the Warner Brothers backlot. Daffy has a meeting in faceless studio head J.L.’s office (clearly modeled after Jack L. Warner). Part of Daffy’s desire in this outlandish pitch is to break out of what he sees as typecasting and play the role of a swashbuckling hero.

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Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of this short is how it deals with the concept of casting. In the framing mechanism Daffy is pitching a film to break out of the type-cast mold he feels he’s stuck in. Within the pitched story the Warner crew cast from their stable of stars to create a swashbuckling, animated version of The Scarlet Pimpernel called The Scarlet Pumpernickel.

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Daffy plays Daffy Dumas Duck, Porky Pig plays Lord High Chamberlain, Mama Bear plays a handmaiden, Henery Hawk plays a pageboy, Sylvester plays a Lord and groom-to-be, Elmer Fudd plays an innkeeper; and an obese horse not unlike the one in What’s Opera, Doc? also makes an appearance.

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This short is also a showcase for the music of Michael Maltese who is frequently the unsung hero behind the scenes of the Looney Tunes shorts.

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Aside from some visual flair like hanging off the underside of a cliff, a flood, the Pumpernickel using a parachute; it’s an absurd plot only animation could really pull off in such a short amount of time. As the commentary track on the DVD observes it packs in all the conventions of a swashbuckler with comedic effect, complete with jokes about Errol Flynn. Also, on the Golden Collection’s commentary track I learned that this was more of a showcase for Mel Blanc than usual as he voiced Elmer Fudd in this short as well though he usually didn’t.

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This is also one of the Looney Tunes shorts which has been the target of retroactive censorship and re-edits on TV. The short ends with Daffy putting a gun to his head, as his story ends with the Scarlet Pumpernickel killing himself. Daffy shoots, falls to the ground, then looks up (the bullet went through his beret) and says “It’s getting so you have to kill yourself to sell a story around here.” Edits dropped frames where the gun fired and cut straight to him on the ground. In my estimation it’s a useless edit as the implication is still there. Yes, the reality of suicide is more present in today’s world. However, the fact remains that art of the past cannot and should not be constantly altered to fit ever-changing mores and realities. They are what they are and are reflective of a time. It’s up to each successive generation to know better as the collective consciousness grows.

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As such, there’s not a moral to be learned from this short, it’s funny with jokes for audiences young and old, for people who just like animation or old Hollywood; but it’s not a morality play and an excellent quick parody of a genre.

Christopher Plummer Blogathon: Remember (2015)

Even when you’re as legendary and accomplished an actor as Christopher Plummer is there are certain themes you may be loath to revisit if it mirrors a bit too closely to one of your more famous roles. In Remember Christopher Plummer plays Zev Guttman, a Holocaust survivor living in a nursing home whom has just lost his wife and is dealing with dementia. Now entering a new stage of his life he can embark on his mission to avenge the death of his family at Auschwitz.

When the material is good enough and you feel it has something to say, the director you’ll be working with is acclaimed (as Atom Egoyan is), you will gladly participate in a film that may appear to share superficial themes (Nazism and World War II) to a film in your past you can’t seem to outrun (The Sound of Music). Furthermore, when you have over 200 credits to your name, and are in your late eighties (an age bracket that may as well not exist as a consideration in mainstream films) you may not be too picky. However, as some of Plummer’s more recent films like Beginners show he’s not just agreeing to a project because he read a script as some actors over a certain age may appear to.

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What is the most notable in this film is that Plummer is not merely the elder statesman in an otherwise youthful cast. Quite on the contrary Remember features impressive performances from fellow octogenarian Martin Landau and septuagenarian Bruno Ganz, and features but a brief supporting turn by the prodigious and prolific young actor Peter Dacunha. Not only are the older actors great but they feature prominently in the film. However, the film as opposed to the pre-packaged film for the older set it is one about characters and plot considerations that are specific, and can communicate to audiences of all ages due to the use of expertly employed suspenseful set pieces.

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While much of film acting is the ability to recreate emotional notes many times over owing to the need to shoot coverage, much of a film like Remember wherein a character must reabsorb givens as if it is entirely new information asks much more from an actor, director, and editor than a conventionally constructed film. In this film Plummer has to not only emote to have us engage in the repeated loss of his wife but also on more than one occasion have us fear that his only purpose left — as he sees it — will fail because he has either forgotten about the letter that now defines his reality or because in his travels it has become illegible.

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While a protagonist going brazenly into random encounters with other men of a certain age and asking them they are German, were at Auschwitz, and a blockführer does allow for a quiet thrum of tension throughout; there are moments of unexpected pathos. Zev has but a name (Rudy Kurlander) and a location to find each of the man who could be responsible for killing his family. One of the men has a number tattooed on his arm, which catches Zev by surprise.

“You’re Jewish?”

“Homosexual.”

At that moment Zev breaks down in tears, feeling remorse and offering his condolence. It’s a wonderful moment of empathy that is but an example of how this is a more layered emotional experience than one might expect going into it.

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There is a huge revelation that I will not spoil but it is the commitment to a performance that allows it to work. When the film is over and consider things in hindsight you will note the clues were there all along, but you didn’t even realize you should have been looking for them.
This film was distributed by A24 who is a company willing to go outside the norms and push the envelope even where we weren’t aware it should be pushed even lightly. It is available to stream for Amazon Prime subscribers and is worth checking out.

Film Activism: Beyond Terror Lucio Fulci Book & DVD

Typically when I’ve written about these crowdfunding efforts it has been about campaigns that have not been funded. This reissue of an expanded, gorgeously packaged book is happening but the stretch goals are coming fast and furious, and I suggest you hop on the bandwagon as I have. Here’s what this package about one of the members of the Italian Horror Trinity is about:

 

Here’s what the next stretch goal will add:

Having announced the addition of an illustrated booklet with the trailer DVD after surpassing the £55,000 milestone, here is what everyone gains if we can find more people who want to own the ultimate edition of the ultimate Lucio Fulci tribute package:

Just 30 to 35 more people will bring us to a total of £62,500 raised. If we hit this target everyone will receive a set of postcards featuring the four iconic 1980s British quad poster designs – The Beyond, City of the Living Dead, The House By the Cemetery and Zombie Flesh-Eaters.

Having already added one goal, they announced further add-ons:

£70,000 – Everyone’s package will include a stamped hard enamel badge with the Eibon symbol in black against a polished copper metal finish.

£80,000 – We go into a recording studio, where Stephen Thrower will record a commentary track for the trailer DVD.

Spread the word!

 

Updates: May 2, 2017

Recently two Blogathon posts went live here and here.

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Now, I have two other blogathons to announce that I will be joining. First, I will be discussing Remember in a blogathon on Christopher Plummer’s work on SeanMunger.Com.

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Next, I will join Movie Silently‘s Swashathon anew this time to discuss The Scarlet Pumpernickel!

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Also to come in June look for further announcements here on the podcast I will be cohosting with Myron Schmidt called Ancient Slumber Presents Guardians of the Beam which is about Stephen King’s Dark Tower and all its lore.

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More announcements as they may sense, in the meantime you should be seeing me around here more frequently!