The Video Archives Podcast with Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary

“The iconic filmmaker teams up again with “Pulp Fiction” co-screenwriter and fellow former Video Archives coworker Roger Avary to discuss the classic collection of cult films. The duo met back in 1983 when working at the famed video rental store in Manhattan Beach, California. The long-closed shop housed close to 8,000 VHS tapes and DVDs, which Tarantino purchased in 1995, the same year he and Avary won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “Pulp Fiction.”

Now, in “The Video Archives Podcast,” Tarantino and Avary rewatch the original tapes from the Video Archives collection, featuring movies like “Dark Star,” “Moon Raker,” “Demonoid,” “Messenger of Death,” and “Piranha.” The podcast launches July 19 and is produced by SiriusXM subsidiary Stitcher.”

-Samantha Bergeson, “‘Video Archives Podcast’ Trailer: Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary Rewatch Cult VHS Tapes.” IndieWire. June 3, 2022.

A podcast where Quentin Tarantino talks about cult films? Yeah, I’d listen to that.

Edited By

“A survey of two hundred and six editors who invented, developed, fine-tuned, and revolutionized the art of film editing.”

http://womenfilmeditors.princeton.edu/

“A momentous event in online film culture went mostly unnoticed earlier this year [2019]: the unveiling of Edited By, Su Friedrich’s large and invaluable web resource devoted to women film editors. Friedrich, a renowned experimental filmmaker with a body of work spanning over four decades, tells the story of coming upon a film history book, turning to the editing chapter, and finding that each reference to a film mentioned the director—but never the editor. Looking up the cited films on IMDb, she discovered that most of them were edited by women. Out of this seed of curiosity grew the enormous research effort that has now resulted in the website.

Edited By is global in scope, even if the majority of its entries are devoted to American women. Friedrich points to the unjust lack of attention to editors everywhere, contrasting their relative invisibility to the much greater awareness of directors, writers, and even cinematographers that exists in film culture. “It’s time to stop imagining that ‘it’s really the director’ who does the editing,” she writes. This neglect applies to both male and female editors, but it has had a special impact on the latter by occluding the fact that women have a rich but little-known history as editors, especially in American cinema.”

-Giresh Shambu, “Hidden Histories: The Story of Women Film Editors.” The Criterion Collection. September 12, 2019.

Thanksgiving Movie: The Last Waltz

Robbie Robertson – Guitar: [Last lines] The road was our school. At the end it was our sense of survival. It taught us all we know. There’s not much left that we can really take from the road. We’ve had our share of, or, maybe it’s just superstitious.

Martin Scorsese – Interviewer: Superstitious in what way?

Robbie Robertson – Guitar: No. You can press your luck. The road has taken a lot of great ones. Hank Williams. Buddy Holly. Otis Redding. Janis. Jimi Hendrix. Elvis. Its a goddamn impossible way of life.

Martin Scorsese – Interviewer: It is, isn’t it.

Robbie Robertson – Guitar: No question about it.

The Last Waltz

Probably can be said of any way of life. It’ll teach you everything you know, and it will kill you, if you let it. My preferred Thanksgiving movie, although Planes, Trains & Automobiles is also a worthy choice.

Letterboxd

“What is Letterboxd?

Letterboxd is a global social network for grass-roots film discussion and discovery. Use it as a diary to record and share your opinion about films as you watch them, or just to keep track of films you’ve seen in the past. Showcase your favorites on your profile page. Rate, review and tag films as you add them. Find and follow your friends to see what they’re enjoying. Keep a watchlist of films you’d like to see, and create lists/collections on any given topic. We’ve been described as “like GoodReads for movies”.

https://letterboxd.com

New to me. IMDB doesn’t really do this that well. So, hopefully, this will be an improvement.

Phil Tippett’s Mad God

“One of Hollywood’s leading visual effects designers since the 1970s, Tippett has just spent three decades directing his first feature film: Mad God, a gruesome animated fable wherein a mysterious spy must infiltrate the lower depths on a dangerous mission. It starts with one of the shirtier quotes from Leviticus, the Bible’s angriest book, before plummeting to the depths of a gory, dripping underworld. Think Dante via Ren and Stimpy, or Pasolini with stop motion animation…

…“When I was a young film-maker, Miloš Forman gave me the best advice I ever got, which was: ‘If you want to take a good shit, you’re going to have to eat well.’”

-John Bleasdale, “‘I wouldn’t take my kids to this’: Star Wars’ Phil Tippett on his hellish animation Mad God.TheGuardian.com. August 20, 2021.

Backfilling…

“Instead, you watch this film to luxuriate in the exquisite grotesqueness Tippett dreams up and executes through a barrage of old-school filmmaking techniques: mixed media, stop-motion animation, modeling, silhouettes, and puppets—you name it. The sound design includes squishy noises as a sinister surgeon digs into intestines, and the cries of a genuine infant give voice to an alien baby in distress. Each subtle creak of our adventurer’s leather gloves and every measured breath through their gas mask sticks with you—the sound design equivalent of an earworm, I suppose. And sitting through this film on your couch (or in your theater seat for some lucky few) is like being guided through a gallery of lavish kinetic art pieces. The zoomed-out environments themselves are wallpaper-worthy whether Tippet has created a war-torn landscape midstorm, a speeding-by universe, or a room full of giants strapped to electric chairs being zapped to the point of soiling themselves incessantly. That last sequence is truly gross if you stop and think about it, but the sound design and visuals are stunning in the moment.”

-Nathan Matisse, “Mad God: What happens when the best practical VFX artist, ever, writes a film?Ars Technica. September 4 2021.

Film Review: Cruella

tl;dr: Derivative, thin plot but with inspired acting, visuals and costume design. Not recommended, but there are worse ways to spend 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Generally speaking, I think it is best to offer reviews for things that are excellent or in exceptional circumstances, advice to avoid something terrible. Cruella is neither of these things. It has some really brilliantly executed shots. But, it’s mostly a pastiche, a mishmash of moments that don’t work to tell a fundamentally interesting story. If I had to list the problems with the film, it might look like this:

  • Cruella is another example of Disney recycling old content and preaching “family” values
  • Cruella is a comic book villain, someone who wants to make coats from Dalmatian puppies (in the original)
  • In this version, Dalmatians are like Dobermans or German Shepherds, except for the inconvenient fact that American Animal Hospital Association writes about a study that puts them in the bottom five breeds for bite risk
  • Cruella’s superpower is fashion in the service of narcissism, which is sympathetic because we are comparing her to someone worse and it is more relatable in an era of self-absorbed “influencers”
  • The relationship dynamics in this story are ridiculous, e.g., the Butler.
  • There’s also an underlying theme that genetics are fate and that somehow the real choices she is making aren’t defining who she is more than her parental lineage

And I could go on. Ordinarily, I’d give a film like this one a pass on all of these defects because it is a “popcorn” movie. The whole point of watching it is to enjoy the action sequences. But, man, something about that greasy Disney touch, with the moralizing while constructing a story that makes horrible behavior look sympathetic revokes that free pass.

You might also argue, and you’d have a point, that the fact that it gave rise to this kind of reaction might suggest that it has artistic merit on those grounds alone, a kind of provocateur. Maybe. But, it’s still a pretty mediocre movie.