Home Video Hovel: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, by Craig Schroeder

28 Jan

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Ava Duvarney’s Selma may be, at least to everyone who isn’t a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, 2014’s most prominent and powerful film about civil disobedience and injustice. But perhaps not its most vital. Unlike Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis and the other civil rights pioneers featured in Selma, the life and work of Aaron Swartz, the subject of Brian Knappenberger’s The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz , hasn’t secured a just place in the annals of history. And if the federal government has any say, it never will.

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The TV Room: Welcome to Shondaland, by David Bax

28 Jan

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ABC’s hit How to Get Away with Murder, returning to the air tomorrow, spent last fall teasing us with a flashforward sort of framing device. The first episode begins with a group of people in the woods at night trying to figure out how to dispose of a dead body. Then, a title card reads “Two Months Earlier” and we get the first story in the series, including our real introductions to the characters we just glimpsed, all law students in the same class. Each subsequent episode kicks off with a few more glimpses of that night and and a bit more information before flashing back to the story of the week. And with each occurrence, the amount of time on the title card contracts.

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New to Home Video 1/27/15

27 Jan

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Review

The Aesthetic Elements of Kracauer’s Theory of Cinematic Realism Present Within Pawel Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love, by Darrell Tuffs

27 Jan

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Siegfried Kracauer – born February 8th, 1889 – was a landmark film theorist, who in 1960, released his expansive book on film, Theory of Film. The book outlines and explores cinema as, “The Redemption of Physical Reality,” as described in the book’s subtitle. Kracauer, like Andre Bazin, was interested in viewing cinema from a realist prospective. However, where as Bazin’s ideas where more focused on cinema as a means to capture a reality already existent, Kracauer’s attention was centred on cinema’s ability to redeem reality, one lost within our unconscious to the world of modernity, and found by the camera’s gaze in the world of the cinema. Where as Bazin’s approach to realism was focused on the question “what is cinema?” Kracauer, in his theory, attempts to answer a slightly different question, in discovering what is “cinematic”. In which, “physical existence” must be established, and used effectively, to allow us to view the world properly.

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Home Video Hovel: The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, by Scott Nye

27 Jan

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Films adapted from stage plays that stick close to the text are often accused of feeling too stagebound, not “cinematic” enough in translation. Indeed, there is something stagey about Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant, which takes place entirely in the apartment of the titular character, over the course of several months during which she seduces and eventually debases herself before a young married woman. Adapted from the semi-autobiographical play by the filmmaker himself, the film does leave one yearning for the physicality of the stage, just as, too, the stage might leave one yearning for the perspective Fassbinder guides in the film. The apartment seems to transform over the course of two hours, from humble and a bit worn to theatrically lustful to claustrophobic to, finally, an unfillable void. Without “expanding” the text, Fassbinder has expanded his world.

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WTF Are You Watching? Mad Max

27 Jan

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In this episode, Kyle and Lincoln discuss the Australian classic Mad Max.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

Monday Movie: Pitfall

26 Jan

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Every Monday, we’ll recommend a movie. It could be a classic, an overlooked recent treasure, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, you’ve only got till March 1st to make it to Light & Noir at the Skirball Cultural Center. This past weekend, I (along with BP contributor West Anthony) checked out the exhibit on the émigrés who came to Hollywood and helped define the film noir genre. We also took in a double feature. One of the films was Robert Siodmak’s violent and bleak (even by noir standards) Criss Cross. The other was André de Toth’s Pitfall. Both were great but it was Pitfall that surprised me and left a deeper impression. It’s the story of a smart but cynical insurance man named John (Dick Powell) whose boredom with the job/wife/kid routine leads him to stray. Complications arise, as they must. First, it turns out there’s a psychotic PI (Raymond Burr) who already has his sights set on the woman, Mona (Lizabeth Scott), with whom John dallies. Furthermore, Mona has a husband, Bill (Byron Barr). Bill’s in prison but, wouldn’t you know, he’s just about to be released. Instead of having these volatile elements carom off each other, though, de Toth throws them in the pot and lets them simmer. The dialogue is lively and cutting (“Your breakfast is on the table, dear.” “Where else would it be?”) but the pacing is naturalistic and all the more tense for it. We’re not watching an explosion; we’re watching the wick burn down to one. John’s bad decisions, one after another, play out with such realistic logic that once characters start speaking the simple truth to him at the end, it’s like being startled awake. We’ve been roused from an alluring nightmare of moral fog. What could be more noir?

EPISODE 410: artist profile of PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON

26 Jan

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In this episode, David is joined by Susan Burke and Matt Peters to discuss the career of director Paul Thomas Anderson.

Home Video Hovel: Memphis, by Dayne Linford

26 Jan

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Memphis moves much like a city does, or perhaps as the kaleidoscope of the divided mind of its main subject, a version of Willis Earl Beal, the up and coming blues musician – a film splintered, divided against itself, showing one side down one street and another down a separate contour of the brain. At its simplest, it follows Beal after signing his deal to record his first album, which everyone knows how he should feel about but him. Most accurately, however, the film simply wraps itself around his psyche, attempting to divine his artistic ability as he attempts to reclaim it. The camera lingers ahead and behind of him as he wanders Memphis’s streets, drinking, fighting. It watches him stilly as he composes a quiet piece in his attic, one just for him. But it never seems to do more than keep that distance, allowing him his space but also keeping us from feeling it with him.

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DEFEND YOUR COLLECTION!: Punisher: War Zone, by Craig Schroeder

26 Jan

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This is an ongoing series that will explore the perceived anomalies in the DVD collections of BP writers. These are movies that may give someone pause when they browse your movie shelf, but we’re here to tell you why they belong in any film lover’s collection.

To my friends and fellow cineastes, no film in my collection is more baffling than 2008’s Punisher: War Zone. Having had the outrageous misfortune of following one of the worst comic book adaptations of all time – 2004’s The Punisher was a woefully miscast mountain of shit that turned Marvel’s most dour and menacing anti-hero into an impotent sadness-robot – and coming at the heels of two wildly successful comic book films in Iron Man and The Dark Knight, Punisher: War Zone never seemed to have a chance. Grossing only ten million dollars world-wide (worse than Howard the Duck) and a Rotten Tomatoes score of twenty-seven percent (only one point higher than Blade: Trinity), Punisher: War Zone was a commercial and critical disaster. A film remembered only as a punch-line. But Punisher: War Zone is in on the joke, a self-aware mixture of camp and fun that captures the very essence of its source material.

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