Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The AFI is Mocked Again (good!!)

To go along with my recent rants (and subsequent quotiness in the newspaper) against the AFI and their annual inspid list-mongering, here is a little someting from ReverseBlog, the Reverse Shot Blog.

In other news, I'll be heading to New York on Thursday and I'll bring back reviews on Lower City from Brasilia and The Forsaken Land from Sri Lanka - as well as maybe some random thoughts on Austrian-born avant-gardist Peter Kubelka (all six of his films will play at Anthology Archives on Thursday).

Friday, June 16, 2006

I was quoted in the newspaper...that proves I'm important dammitt!!

A few posts back, I put up my response to a question of what I thought of the AFI, and their annual lists. The entire diatribe can be read HERE. The results of that e-mail can be seen in several quotes in a recent article published in our local rag, The Harrisburg Patriot-News. There are also quotes from Caleb Smith and Todd Shill, both local Film Experts (and friends). Here is the whole article, written by Colin McEvoy.

AFI: 'Most inspiring films' list inspires some local dissent

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

by Colin McEvoy of The Patriot-News

Whether through an underdog boxer from the streets of Philadelphia, a man on a bench with a box of chocolates, or Julia Roberts fighting the powers-that-be in a push-up bra, we've all been inspired by the movies at one point or another.

In its ninth annual series celebrating the first century of cinema, the American Film Institute will honor the films that have emboldened and invigorated with "100 Years...100 Cheers," a list of what it calls the 100 most inspiring movies of the last century.

"'100 Years ... 100 Cheers' will celebrate the films that inspire us, encourage us to make a difference and send us from the theatre with a greater sense of possibility and hope for the future," said Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI director, who will be retiring next year.

The list, to be televised at 8 tonight on CBS, will feature such film figures as Steven Spielberg, Jane Fonda, Sally Field and Sidney Poitier presenting, in ascending chronological order, the movies selected by a jury of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians.

While local film experts are mixed in their response to the AFI and its latest list, all agree with the motion picture's capacity to inspire.

"Films that inspire me are those that take the audience to places where people act differently, think differently, and have a different perspective on world events," said Todd Shill, founder of Harrisburg's Midtown Cinema. "Those films remind you that our corner of the world is very small and that there is always a different point of view."

And while some films -- "The Wizard of Oz," "Schindler's List," "Rocky," "It's a Wonderful Life" -- are all but guaranteed a spot in the top 10, some fans of cinema are hoping at least a few more contemporary films make the bill.

"There are many newer films and filmmakers who are going beyond the filmmaking boundaries in both image and storytelling," said Caleb Smith, program director of local arts organization Moviate, citing such movies as "Magnolia" and "The Royal Tannenbaums".

"[These] are two examples of modern inspiration, people dealing with inner turmoil and public issues, and then learning from their experience and overcoming problems."

But these films, as well as others Smith mentioned including "Lost in Translation" and "Broken Flowers," were not among the 300 films nominated for the list.

Kevyn Knox, a local film critic and operator of thecinematheque.com, said this is typical of the AFI.

Knox said the main purpose of the list programs are to sell DVDs and that the Institute ignores independent and lesser-known but worthy films in favor of Hollywood products.

"The AFI gives no regard for many of the obscure great films and filmmakers of American cinematic history," Knox said.

"Everyone knows of 'Star Wars', why do we need to hear about it again? But not many have seen 'Greed,' so why not let them in on that little secret bit of cinema?"

AFI officials defended the list series, saying that the AFI itself does not choose the movies, but that they are selected from a jury of more than a thousand "leaders from the creative community," who may also register write-in votes for films not among the 300 nominees.

The Wednesday program will be the ninth in the AFI's "100 Years..." series.

Previous lists included "100 Years of Film Scores," "100 Movie Quotes," "100 Heroes & Villains," "100 Passions," "100 Thrills," "100 Laughs" and "100 Stars" and "100 Movies."

Something to chew on !!?

A few weeks back - actually over a month ago - I saw and then reviewed the film Silent Hill. At several points in the review I made mention of how I perceive those "gamers" that the film was styled toward. It wasn't exactly a glowing perception, in fact what I said was:

Silent Hill is just about everything one might expect from a movie based upon a video game - a style over substance exuberance fit perfectly for the rather philistine mindset of those who typically play video games - and I am sure the genre itself would not allow anything else. Silent Hill also fits in perfectly typical Christophe Gans style - as in his previous film, Le Pacte des loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf) - all guts and no glory - a visually stylized slap in the face with no real meaning or essentiality behind said slap.

I also said, in closing:

Never understanding people's fascination with video games - I realize I don't enjoy mindless entertainment, but I can never fathom why others do - I suppose I'll never truly be enthralled by things such as Silent Hill, and that is just alright with me.

I never said I wasn't a pompous ass.

Anyway, I had gotten a short e-mail response to said review, which I will reveal here (name of author removed to protect the innocent (or guilty)):

I'm not exactly sure what type of interaction you have with individuals that identify themselves as "gamers" but being a person who regularly plays video games and regularly talks with other "gamers" I find that most are not typically smug or ignorant, at least no more than those who watch film. Despite that small gripe with your Silent Hill review I enjoyed reading it along with your other reviews. I'm also interested in seeing what films you select for your greatest films section. Hopefully it doesn't disappoint. ;)

Anway, I have no particular reason for showing this - I have no beef with the remark - I just thought it should be chronicled for any possible future archivist to easily unearth and put into The Collected Works of Kevyn Knox, Volume 3: Critiques of the Critiques.

I told you I was a pompous ass.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Will it be as good as the first ??

I got to see the long-anticipated Clerks II earlier today and I have got to tell you...

Well, actually, thanks to professional courtesy, I can't actually tell you what I think until at least 24 hours prior to the film's release - which in this case is July 21st, 2006. So come back on the 20th and I'll tell you all about.

A teaser you ask? Okay, here goes: It sure ain't no Jersey Girl. There you go, see you soon!!

Meanwhile, check out other new reviews such as Lemming, Cavite, Changing Times and La Moustache - all coming sometime (hopefully) to-morrow night. Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion can be found on my site right now.

Bye bye for now...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

AFI my Ass !!!

I was recently asked for my opinions on the upcoming AFI Cheers List - the 100 Most Inspiring Movies - for an article in our local paper here in Harrisburg Pa (have I mentioned how eager I am to get the fuck out of here in into New York?!). Anyway, here was my e-mailed response:

As to the whole idea of the annual AFI lists in general, I must profess a rather strong distaste for them. Now don't get me wrong, I love making and compiling film lists - just look at my site (http://www.thecinematheque.com/) and you will see that - but the way the AFI goes about it is nothing short of a media-whored frenzy of marketing aimed directly toward those who know little or nothing about the art of cinema. Jonathan Rosenbaum, critic and resident film historian of the famed Chicago Reader, has said about the organization and it's lists: "...given its egregious industry ass kissing throughout its existence, I'm tempted to conclude that its only substantial contribution to film culture--American or global--was producing David Lynch's Eraserhead at its film school.".

You see, the whole idea of AFI's lists are to sell dvds. Every single title on every single AFI list so far is available on a studio-run dvd distribution company - every single one. I am not saying that many of their picks on previous lists are not good films (many are on my own personal Top 100 list), but their main problem is they ignore almost any cinema that is not Hollywood focused. Even the independents they choose are films like Pulp Fiction and Fargo, made substantially with Hollywood funding. I am also not saying that nothing good ever comes out of Hollywood, just look at Casablanca, The Godfather, Singin' in the Rain and On the Waterfront for affirmation of Hollywood's filmmaking prowess. What I am saying is that the AFI gives no regard for many of the more obscure (at least obscure to the common filmgoer) great films and filmmakers of American cinematic history, instead opting to tout those films - both good (Chinatown, Vertigo, All About Eve) and bad (Forrest Gump, Titanic) - that are already known to just about everyone in the modern world.

Where are filmmakers such as Cassavetes, Sturges, von Sternberg, King Vidor, Buster Keaton? Where are true American classics such as Intolerance or Sunrise?
Where are those films and filmmakers who are unknown to the masses? The same films and filmmakers that the AFI should be awarding with some sort of prestige, not just for their greatness - for that is a highly subjective thing anyway - but for the mere fact that they are relatively unknown to the masses. Everyone knows of Star Wars, why do we need to hear about it again, but not many have seen Greed, so why not let them in on that little secret bit of cinema?

To go back to Rosenbaum once more, in a statement he wrote on the occasion of the original AFI list (which aired in a spectacular pomp and circumstance extravaganza on CBS back in 1998): "Is the list simply a commercial ploy dreamed up by a consortium of marketers to repackage familiar goods, or is it a legitimate cultural contribution that's somehow supposed to improve the quality of our lives? (Are we still capable of distinguishing between the two?) If it's the former, then surely it qualifies as front-page news only if we're living in the equivalent of Stalinist Russia. If it's the latter, then why does the list contain so many movies that lie--about Vietnam (The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now), about racism (The Birth of a Nation, Taxi Driver, Pulp Fiction), about countless other matters? And why are so many of the entries aesthetically bland or worse while recapitulating all the worst habits of Hollywood self-infatuation, liberal (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) as well as conservative (Forrest Gump)? Shane is bad enough, but why did Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid make the cut, along with (choke) Dances With Wolves? I yield to no one in my love for James Cagney, but did he ever make a less bearable picture than Yankee Doodle Dandy, the only Cagney vehicle on the list?".

So, I suppose I am saying that I have no desire to delve very deep into the waters of the AFI. I suppose if I were pushed into a corner and asked which films I believe would top the list (and I must admit to not really being all that sure what the AFI means by "inspiring movies"), I would have to go with Casablanca, The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Schindler's List, Forrest Gump, It's a Wonderful Life, Titanic, High Noon, The Sound of Music and Rocky - some of which I liked, some of which I disliked and a few of which I hated (including one that I would have to call the worst film ever made - go ahead, guess which one).

As for my own personal Top 10? Off the top of my head, at 9:35 on a Tuesday evening, I would say (and I am sorry but I just can't leave it at American films only) Ordet, Ugetsu, La Passion de Jeanne d'arc, Sunrise, Gertrud, The Bicycle Thief, Wild Strawberries, The 400 Blows, A Man Escaped and The Gospel According to St. Matthew.

Other than that, I don't know what I can add. I realize this wasn't what you were looking for and it probably was just a way for me to soapbox about the woes of modern cinema and the dumbing down of America, but there you have it anyway.

If you ever want to talk about cinema (and I really do like many Hollywood films, no matter what the above rant may preclude) or do an article on foreign film and/or just film in general, please give me a ring/e-mail and we will converse about such things.

Until then, fin.

Kevyn Knox

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Start spreading the news....

Let's talk about me for a while, shall we?
Last December I began going to Philadelphia for press screenings - seeing, among others, Brokeback Mountain, The New World and King Kong - but ya know what...Philadelphia is a dead city. So my next logical step - especially considering my desire to pack up the wife and three cats and head up there - was to go to New York. Home of the Yankees (currently sitting atop the AL East by a half a game by the way) and pretty much anything else you could ever want.
Well now it is my new stomping ground for press screenings. My first such screening was Hou Hsiao-hsien's Three Times (his best film since Flowers of Shanghai) at the IFC Center. This past Thursday I discovered the Magno Review house (just off of Times Square). It is a wonderful place. All the critics hang out there. There are two theatres and a lounge overlooking 50th street. It has the potential of being my very own Algonquin Round Table, but I suppose I am romanticizing the whole thing a bit too much.
My main point is, that I am being added to all the invite lists for NYC screenings - thanks to some online diligence and the help of people such as Brad Balfour, the editor of timessquare.com, where I might have some of my reviews published in the near future - albeit in a somewhat dumbed-down version - I do tend to get rather obscurantist (that was how I was described recently). So let the fun begin. Next Thursday I'll be seeing Les Temps qui changent (Changing Times), the first film in over twenty-five years to pair Deneuve and Depardieu, and Vers le sud (Heading South), the new film by Laurent Cantet.
Meanwhile, my reviews are now coming at an alarming rapidity and I am at work on several essays (for hopeful publication in Film Comment, Film Quarterly and some other outlets) and also at work on my first book (about Béla Tarr). It looks as if my life as a critique/essayist is swimming along rather smoothly.
My goal? I want to be living in New York (with my lovely Poetess wife and three cute-as-kittens cats) and working as a film critic, Essayist + Historian full time (without having to have a "day job" like now) by my fortieth birthday. My fortieth birthday? July 2, 2007.
Well, enough about me. Go out there and rent a movie. My suggestion: Andrei Rublev.