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Bruce Reid

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of May 17

Director William Witney sits on the edge of the camera platform at Republic Pictures in Studio City, California, circa 1930s

R. Emmet Sweeney’s profile of William Witney goes beyond just signing on to Tarantino’s endorsement. He paints the picture of a young man lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time—when your coworkers could include Yakima Canutt, and a friendly visit to Busby Berkeley’s set could show you a whole new way to choreograph movie action—but ambitious and creative enough to keep pressing on for decades, tossing out inventive picture after inventive picture to no one’s particular notice.

Sweeney’s also over at Movie Morlocks, discussing five Delmer Daves films. Nothing wrong at all with his brief appraisals, but the Daves articles you must read are at Criterion’s website, where Kent Jones writes beautifully on Jubal and 3:10 to Yuma, finding in both a transcendentalist strain that speaks of the director’s “steadfast dedication and moving attunement to the very best in people.”

“Scott did not concentrate on set pieces so much as approach an entire film with a tonality that extended to cutaways and connecting shots, all of which were dealt with at the same register of glossy enormity, so the opening of a car door exuded the same visual verve and finesse as any larger action scene.” Joseph Bevan’s take on Tony Scott balances admiration for his expressionistic, experimental visuals with dismay at his callous disregard for narrative, character, or decency.

Now that they’re putting out a print edition, La Furia Umana is offering less content on their website, but what’s there is still often fine. The current issue pays marvelously schizophrenic tribute to George Cukor and Abel Ferrara; Dan Sallitt’s reprinted LA Reader obituary and Marilyn Ann Moss’s look at the lifelong friendship between Cukor and Katharine Hepburn are part of the former; Brad Stevens finds the latter offering his characters a respect and autonomy that’s positively Jamesian; and Daisuke Akasaka bridges the gap reviewing the commonalities between Two-Faced Woman and Dangerous Game. (The latter is one of those articles that betrays the multilingual journal’s occasional struggles with English translations.)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of May 3

“That’s why I’m spending so much time talking to you about the business and the money, because this is the force that is pushing cinema out of mainstream movies. I’ve been in meetings where I can feel it slipping away, where I can feel that the ideas I’m tossing out, they’re too scary or too weird, and I can feel the thing—I can tell; it’s not going to happen….” Proving again the futility of resistance when the internet rises as one to whine, Steven Soderbergh changed his mind and allowed the San Francisco Film Society permission to post his State of Cinema address. It is a pretty engrossing speech, with Soderbergh conscious of the potential to seem an old fogy even as he lays out the numbers to prove Hollywood has no idea what it’s doing. And what’s the director been up to in the week since? You know, posting a surreal, Robbe-Grillet-flavored spy story to Twitter, as one does.

Surf’s up

Some interesting reading in the new Bright Lights, including John Engle’s fine, poetically inclined survey of the surfing movie from Gidget’s safe but still open-hearted testing of countercultural waters to the genre’s current obsession with mythic coming-of-age stories steeped in Zen bliss (why yes, Milius’s Big Wednesday is considered a key transitional film); Roger Leatherwood’s look at what Ari Kahan’s exhaustive Phantom of the Paradise website has to tell us about archiving in these amateur-friendly internet days; and Angela Aleiss’s uncovering the fascinating history of James Young Deer, actor and technical advisor for D. W. Griffith, director for Pathè, who adopted one ethnic identity (falsely claiming membership in the Winnebago tribe) to obscure another less amenable to the times.

“This is not Italy!” For Sight and Sound, Pasquale Iannone rounds up a dozen crucial precursors to the post-war Neorealists, from Pudovkin and People on Sunday to the 1942 feature debut of Manoel de Oliviera. The BFI appends his excellent overview with a gallery of posters for the films.

Another combo KO from two of The Chiseler’s heavy hitters. First, Dan Callahan treasures the perseverance of Sylvia Sidney in so many masochistic parts: “She has the sort of face that looks like it knows the worst before it happens, and so when the worst does happen, it just confirms the anxiety in her eyes.” Then Imogen Smith nails the sincerity of Joan Blondell’s con artists, with particular focus on Nightmare Alley. (“What she brought to all these movies about rackets, about schemers and saps, was the ability to put over a con and let us enjoy her triumph, yet also to express, without sanctimony, the melancholy weight of too much knowledge.”)

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of April 26

Some marvelous audio finds from Cinephilia and Beyond. First, courtesy of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman work out the bishop’s kidnapping from Family Plot, the screenwriter cautious to fit the scene in to the movie as a whole, the director with the cathedral already constructed in his mind’s eye delighting in the possibility of “so many angles on this—so many shots.” (A transcript is also available.)

But it’s the website of Tony Macklin that’s the real treasure trove. Macklin, former editor of Film Heritage magazine, has been posting the (crudely captured, fair warning) recordings of his interviews here; the most recently posted, up just this week, is a dandy 1973 chat with Andrew Sarris; previous subjects include Altman, Eastwood, Peckinpah, Poitier, Sylbert, Head…. Just look; there’ll be somebody you’re dying to hear talk.

Children of Paradise

Matthew Spektor’s stint as a director of literary acquisitions (i.e., the guy who read and recommended books), starting with Coppola and DeVito, taught him that Hollywood does actually know what they’re doing; and what they’re doing is tossing the middle class on the scrap heap.

“Post-modernism before the fact—trash-mashing the ghastly with the frivolous, history and horror trumped by consumer products, the grim and the soothing, the high and the low together, sleeping in one Procrustean bed.” At This Long Century Mark Rappaport has a typically allusive, thought-provoking essay on the stills from Children of Paradise that beguiled him as a youngster, and the magazine he found them in: a 1945 issue of Life juxtaposing grim stories of the surrender of Germany with slick, bouncy adverts.

“Who is Pierre Etaix?” The question posed repeatedly at the end of the director’s documentary feature Land of Milk and Honey is answered exquisitely by David Cairns. Also at Criterion, a collection of Etaix’s sketches that reminds how multivalent his genius is.

Imogen Smith revels in the melodramatic (and actorly) pleasures of Lewis Allen’s So Evil My Love, wherein “theft, forgery, blackmail, murder, sickness, alcoholism, adultery, and betrayals that have no name corrode this world from the inside, like a drug that numbs as it kills.”

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of April 19

Shooting ‘To the Wonder’

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

You’ve certainly decided by now whether you find Terrence Malick’s filmmaking methods daring and exploratory or alarmingly shambolic. Bilge Ebiri’s account of the production of To the Wonder won’t change anybody’s mind on the subject, but it offers more evidence of a director who employs actors, cameramen, and editors in his own unique fashion. Ebiri links to a revealing interview with Emmanuel Lubezki by the ASC’s Jim Hemphill. (“Terry didn’t say this, but I felt that he was trying to separate To the Wonder from all the moviemaking that’s still connected to theater—from movies that feel acted, prepared and rehearsed.”) And inseparable from the sights of Malick are the sounds: composer Hanan Townshend writes briefly about his experience scoring the film.

Daniel Kasman’s ingenious reading of Melville’s Un Flic as “a picture that envisions the ruins laying beyond cinema’s construction of society, of masculinity, of modernity, of genre” depends upon three key shot/reverse-shots and a fourth close-up left hanging without its matching opposite.

“Watching, watching the street and the gate from the dark study window, Hightower hears the distant music when it first begins.” Jonathan Rosenbaum’s attempts to discern a link between Sátántangó and Faulkner’s Light in August get dismissed by Béla Tarr, but he finds some support in a quote from screenwriter and source novelist László Krasznahorkai.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of April 12

Stanley Kubrick directs ‘Paths of Glory’

DGA Quarterly presents a collection of on-set photos of Howard Hawks, the master showing John Wayne how to throw a punch, Charles Coburn how to flirt, and Angie Dickinson…no, well, he’s just taking in Dickinson like the rest of us. (Click through for downloadable .pdf.) Also in the new issue, interviews with Robert Zemeckis on (surprise!) technology, Sofia Coppola on the differences between her style and her father’s, and James B. Harris on working with Stanley Kubrick; Richard Schickel praises the unflagging fecundity of Raoul Walsh; and Richard Donner takes you through the process of making you believe a man can fly, 1978-style.

The new issue of the regrettably annual Movie has arrived; grand news (courtesy of Film Studies for Free), since the academic journal manages to deal with theory without getting bogged down in jargon or floating off into airy pretentiousness. Must reads include Donna Kornhaber’s marvelous defense of A Countess from Hong Kong as not a masterpiece, exactly, but “a culmination of everything [Chaplin] had learnt since the turn to sound”; Adam O’Brien on movement and travel in The Last Detail; and Ian Garwood’s appreciation of Hoagy Carmichael’s savvier-than-you’d-expect sidekicks. Part of the journal’s mission is a reprint of articles Robin Wood wrote for the Times Educational Supplement; five are presented here, on four Altmans and a pair of Mizoguchis. .pdf warning.

Also just arrived, the new Experimental Conversations. Many have been taken with Fergus Daly’s call for a new cinephilia as “a way of experimenting with perception, thought and the self,” and thus resisting The System; how stirring you find it may depend on whether you’re already on its wavelength. Elsewhere Tony McKibbin does a terrific job laying out Two English Girls’s secret concern with “the damage of time,” and how Truffaut employs color to suspend that constant erosion; and the latest installments of two valuable ongoing projects: David Brancaleone’s survey of Cesare Zavattini’s scripts, here Amore in Citta; and an alphabetic rundown of avant-garde Thai filmmakers.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of March 5

‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ – Woodcut by Guy Budziak

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Video: Last Monday, for the first time in its 42-year history, the National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture was given by a filmmaker. No prize for guessing Martin Scorsese. His presentation, a stirring call for visual language to be understood as vital and in need of education and preservation as any written one, can be viewed at the NEH website. With nearly as many film clips in support as you’d expect.

“Preminger’s city is one of the most bleak and somber in all of noir. It always seems to be the dregs of night, sour as boiled coffee.” Imogen Smith, brilliant as always, on Where the Sidewalk Ends (featuring a lovely woodcut illustration by Guy Budziak). Also at The Chiseler, and also excellent, Dan Callahan praises Brigette Helm, whose career could never live up to her robotic debut in Metropolis. And no, you won’t find a better GIF on the web anytime soon.

The new issue of Desistfilm can’t be accused of treading well-worn paths with such articles as David Phelps’s survey of Frantisek Vlácil; Tristan Teshigahara Pollack exploring the influence on Sufi poetry on Kiarostami; and a collection of poems by Ken Jacobs. Okay, maybe John A. Riley and Mónica Delgado’s interview with Alex Cox is on more familiar ground, though it still makes a good read.

Sarah Miles and Wendy Craig recount to The Guardian’s Steve Rose the making of The Servant, and their relief at having a director who seemed so assured of what he wanted he barely interfered when things were going right.

Andreas at Pussy Goes Grrr offers up his five favorite Casablanca quotes—and a fine job of breaking down both the truths behind them and the performances that make them so memorable. Via Matt Zoller Seitz.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of March 29

Seattle screenings and cinema events for the week are surveyed at Parallax View here.

David Bordwell’s been thinking about the many purposes of murder in 1940s suspense; which means, despite delaying the reveal behind an impressive collection of literary and cinematic antecedents, he’s been thinking about Hitchcock. Complete with an introduction cast in genially autobiographical (about his history with the genre, not the practice) mode.

Another fine survey of a movie genre and the literary roots to which it’s indebted comes in an excerpt from the late Eric Hobsbawm’s final book, tracing how the relatively multicultural, incident-free American West became the mythic stalking ground for that great Aryan loner, the American Cowboy.

Marker X 2 at the LA Review of Books: Jonathan Cushing looks at Marker’s changing attitudes towards the Olympic Games, from his first short Olympia 52 to the rather more troubling employ of Riefenstahl in The Owl’s Legacy; while Rebecca Ariel Porte reviews Susan Howe’s poetic threnody Sorting Facts, or Nineteen Ways of Looking at Chris Marker.

Fast Company’s Nicole Laporte introduces the New New Hollywood, profiling the tech-savvy producers and agents and early-adapting stars latching on to online sketches and interactive apps as the town’s latest saviors. (The real bosses, as they have for years, remain impatient teenage boys.) Laporte seems more convinced that things are really changing, now and forever, than the industry’s history would seem to support; but in fairness she also points out that the building used for YouTube’s new creative facility was where Hughes built the Spruce Goose. Via Movie City News.

“There was pre-mediation, lots of bared leg, insinuations of sex, but, according to Code rules, “comeuppance” for both at the end. Which is all to say it was not very Stanwyck. But Billy Wilder, crafty director that he is, asked the hesitant Stanwyck, ‘Well, are you a mouse or an actress?’ Stanwyck took the part, and the rest is noir history.” Anne Helen Petersen on the genius of Barbara Stanwyck, and the slippery way she avoided having one set persona for her fans to nail down.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of March 22

Mulholland Drive

The new Senses of Cinema has arrived. Among the highlights are Michael Pattison on the Surrealist bona fides of Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, and Tom Ryan (in what’s billed the first of a series) looking at Sirk’s employment of and struggles with genre in three of his “lesser” films: Taza, Son of Cochise, Captain Lightfoot, and Battle Hymn. For the journals Great Directors series, Anton Karl Koslovic explores some of the contradictions of Cecil B. DeMille, racing through his filmography with only 15 uses of the phrase “love triangle.”

The surrealists also pop up in the new issue of Scope, where Seth Soulstein looks back at the cult they formed around the films of Harry Langdon, and convincingly argues that the Little Elf had a greater influence than has been acknowledged on those seminal masterpieces Un chien andalou and L’age d’or. Elsewhere Sarah Artt makes note of Lynn Ramsey’s brilliant silences (timely irony noted) in Morvern Callar, and Peter Lester explores the backlash the IMAX brand suffered after their 2008 announcement that they weren’t about big screens, you know, if that was a hindrance to market penetration. Via Film Studies for Free. (Article links are .pdfs)

“‘She was still really quite beautiful and, if you could forget her connections, really very charming, and I would think that, to many people, very convincing in her intensity about her art, her love of the mountains, and winter sports,’ he said years later. ‘She was really quite a—quite an imposing piece of work.’” In Tin House, Bruce Handy has the fascinating story of Budd Schulberg’s postwar efforts in Germany to hunt down incriminating film footage, and the assistance he received, in good faith or otherwise, from Leni Riefenstahl.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of March 15

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Mad Magazine’s ‘Casabonkers’

“How gauche! Stop that fighting this minute! You want to wake up the audience?!?” If you recognized that as a line from Borey Lyndon, Grady Hendrix’s tribute to Mad Magazine’s movie parodies should prove right up your alley. Supplemented by interviews with editor-in-chief John Ficarra and artist Tom Richmond that underline how much the format has had to change in the current blockbuster-oriented, spoiler-phobic landscape. Also at Film Comment, Chuck Stephens’s short appreciation of Jay C. Flippen.

Generally overshadowed by his costars whether they were romantic partners (Lucille Ball) or antagonists (Richard Widmark), Mark Stevens still managed a kind of small-scale immortality as he rushed through noir pictures ever anxious and impatient about his future, onscreen and off. Mark Fertig offers praise, not least for his two turns as a director.

Absolutely indispensable tumblr Cinephilia & Beyond (which will pop up again later in these links) spots a pair of magnificent resources available to read for free on the University of California Press’s website. Backstory 2 and Backstory 3, both edited by Patrick McGilligan, collect interviews with screenwriters from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, including Leigh Brackett, Arthur Laurents, Curt Siodmak, Stewart Stern—and that’s only scratching the surface of the first volume.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of March 8

Nick Pinkerton, driving through the Midwest, thinks upon the region’s cinematic apotheoses; specifically, two Minnelli masterpieces and The Magnificent Ambersons.

Speaking of Pinkerton’s “pride of Kenosha, Wisconsin,” Joanne Hill Tarbox Styles, daughter of the headmaster at the Todd School for Boys, which Welles attended during his teens, offers a memoir of those years that reminds you there are two main reactions prompted by encounter with a genius as precocious, prodigious, and self-assured as Welles’s: enraptured bedazzlement, and the urge to throttle. Spotted by the Cinetrix.

Orson Welles on the set of ‘Othello’

And why not make it a triad, with Jonathan Rosenbaum reprinting (from a 1992 Sight and Sound) his takedown of the “restored” Othello, and offering a fine appreciation for how the film signified Welles’s break with mainstream moviemaking and his embarking on a new career as an independent filmmaker.

The path that led to Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise, as chronicled by Businessweek’s Devin Leonard, are rather less Joseph Campbell than your standard boardroom negotiations. Via Movie City News.

In the story above Lucas emerges, as always, as a rather glum technocrat; for a better sense of the flair and danger of capitalism rampant, try John Strausbaugh’s account of the rise and fall and (after he got into the movie business) rise and fall of Fox Film Corporations’s William Fox.

Faced with storage considerations David Bordwell gives up his 16mm collection, but not without fond memories of what the format meant to cinephiles in the days before home video.

The New York Times considers violence on screen, with A. O. Scott finding more accord between the fantasies of Hollywood and Wayne LaPierre than either party would probably admit, and Manohla Dargis reminding that movies were condemned for their violence pretty much from the moment they were born. (Alessandra Stanley and Chris Suellentrop tackle TV and video games, respectively.) Also at the Times, Tom Roston rounds up filmmakers praising invaluable advice tossed their way by Steven Spielberg.

Ian Christie remembers his encounters with Alexei German, and the unique post-Soviet thaw that finally made his masterpieces available to the west. Via David Hudson.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of March 1

The New Republic’s Jason Farago worries that Amour might not just chronicle a death but embody one, if it turns out to be the last, grand gasp of a European cinema whose state subsidies are drying up.

Emmanuelle Riva in ‘Amour’

Charles Barr takes the current resurgence in all things Hitchcock as opportunity to argue that the greatest of all cinematic oeuvres is insufficiently recognized as one that’s British, born and bred.

The above link comes from John Wyver, who also spots Henry Jenkins’s four-part interview with scholar Donald Crafton about how animation evolved from exaggerated lunacy into a “realistic” art of performance, indebted to Stanislavsky more than it ever was to the comics pages. Generously illustrated with cartoon clips. (Parts two, three, and four here.)

Speaking of Disney, Brad Bird and screenwriter Damon Lindelof have kept characteristically tight-lipped on details about their upcoming production Tomorrowland, originally called 1952. Recalling a tall tale about government agents and UFOs that legendary animator Ward Kimball loved to pass along, Disney historian Jim Hill thinks he might have sussed out the plot. Via Drew McWeeny.

“When co-star Walter Brennan saw Mitchum in his elegantly rugged costume, he declared, ‘That is the goddamndest realest cowboy I’ve ever seen!’” Imogen Smith on the dark pleasures of noir western Blood on the Moon, and its inspired use of Robert Mitchum’s mesmerizing but untrustworthy rambling spirit.

His review of Glenn Frankel’s new book on The Searchers allows J. Hoberman to consider the real-life events, and the national myths they became, that inspired Ford’s masterpiece.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of February 22

Anonymous Oscar ballot

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here. Spotlight this week is on Noir City 2013.

Even if Oscar predictions and politicking hold as little interest for you as for me, you can still relish the ballot provided by an anonymous director to the Hollywood Reporter. Not least for the way his explanations of the votes—some reasoned, some petty—ring out with the unexamined jealousy and casual rage of a true insider. Via Richard Jameson.

For decades, as Ted Scheinman tells it, slapstick “flirted with the notion of inflicting serious pain on the dainty female body without quite allowing it to happen.” But now Melissa McCarthy has arrived, and he’s anxious to see if her fearless leaps of knockabout will continue to succeed on her terms or instead be flattened by her crueler, misogynistic collaborators. Also at the LA Review of Books, Julie Cline interviews Errol Morris about Jeffrey Macdonald, the unacknowledged legacy of psychiatrist Hervey Cleckley, and “our almost unfettered ability to foster, create, engender error.”

“”Argus”—good name for a cinema.” In an engrossing bit of literary detection, David Brody hunts down the movie clues—Disney, Garbo—to explain what’s going on in Nabokov’s Laughter in the Dark, while simultaneously looking at the relative success and failure of some recent movies that attempt something like the “beautiful idea” of an animated tableau vivant that grips the novel’s protagonist. Via David Hudson.

In what seems to be a recurring feature now (a previous installment featured Janusz Kaminski) Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan sits down with Roger Deakins to explain the method and reasoning behind ten of his iconic shots—one of which, Fargo‘s opening drive, he’s gentlemanly enough to admit was second unit.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of February 15

I Know Where I’m Going

In the new Bright Lights Film Journal, Imogen Sara Smith offers a marvelous analysis of how Powell and Pressburger use narrative ellipses (and Roger Livesey) to very different ends in two different movies. Other highlights include Oren Shai’s tracking the changes of the Women in Prison genre, from silent-era message movies still experimenting with the form to the great ’70s run of knowing, politicized parodies nearly all produced by Roger Corman; and James MacEachern’s salute to Mickey Rooney, which nicely captures the almost incredulous amazement with which some of us apprehend the longest-active star in Hollywood history, and one of the best.

“You know, to a man with a heart as soft as mine, there’s nothing sweeter than a touching scene.” David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s analysis of The Man Who Knew Too Much—included in the first version of their textbook Film Art, dropped from subsequent editions—is presented by Criterion. Stimulated by its reappearance, Bordwell expands upon it at his own blog, touching on Hitchcock’s masterful use of set pieces and the film’s “vigorous reassertion of Englishness.”

Jerry Whyte’s long, circuitous survey of the influences on and critical reactions to Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc pays the best tribute one can to a masterpiece: an attempt to rip down the pre-conceptions that surround it, and marvel anew at the strange, lovely work that remains. Via John Wyver.

Richard Brody notes the horror that Birth of a Nation is so clearly the work of a great artist; with a lamentation towards the end that the same cultural forces behind Griffith’s racist imaginings kept any documentarians from picking up the new sound cameras and recording the testimonies of still-living former slaves.

Amanda Petrusich provides the story behind one of the more obscure recent additions to the National Film Registry: Melton Barker’s The Kidnapper’s Foil, remade in town after town for decades, the locals hit up for cash to include their children in the production. A cynical bit of hustle that’s emerged as an invaluable (and entirely inadvertent) record of forgotten small towns all across America. Several versions of the film can be viewed here.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of February 8

Richard Pryor in ‘Wattstax’

“Cuz the slave is a Negro in your cinema/In your cinema/In your cinema/Jamie Foxx plays this Negro in your cinema/He even blows White chicks away.” All due respect to Groundhog Day, February’s gladdest tiding for movie lovers is the annual return of Odienator’s Black History Mumf, with sharp, observant, and very funny pieces already published on Brock Peters, the oddly apt casting of Richard Wright in the 1951 film version of Native Son, and, inspired by BAM’s current retrospective, the peaks and valleys of Richard Pryor’s film career.

The contradictions of Richard Pryor—electrifying in concert films and Blue Collar, variously wasted, underutilized, or indifferent elsewhere—are on the mind of Colin Beckett too, who joins in Odienator’s applause for the underrated Bustin’ Loose. In the new issue of Brooklyn Rail, which also celebrates Jonas Mekas’s recent 90th birthday by soliciting salutes from some of his friends and collaborators, including P. Adams Sitney and Ken Jacobs.

At the bilingual film journal Transit, Adrian Martin beautifully lays out the case for teen movies, “the least sacred and the most secular of genres,” as unjustly neglected. His essay introduces some rectification of that slight, as Transit’s co-editor Cristina Álvarez López rounds up enthusiastic appreciations of everything from The Breakfast Club and Never Been Kissed to Wild Boys of the Road and The Aviator’s Wife.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of February 1

Joan Blondell in ‘Golddiggers of 1933’

“No other actress had quite the same ability to be simultaneously wised-up and unprotected, generous yet nobody’s fool.” In the first of a two-part series, this installment covering from her debut in Sinners’ Holiday to singing for her Forgotten Man in Golddiggers of 1933, Imogen Smith marvels at Joan Blondell’s endlessly arresting, electrically modern turns in a series of movies mostly unworthy of her talents.

Invoking the care, compassion, and magic of Cornell and Nabokov, Michael Chabon praises Wes Anderson’s omnipresent boxes as artifices containing wondrous truths.

Jonathan Rosenbaum argues for Michael Roemer as “the best Jewish director you’ve never heard of”; considering, as Rosenbaum reports, he made Malcolm X’s favorite movie, it’s probably a fair call.

“It makes a difference: when you have a crew of six people, you can be a director; when you have a crew of a hundred, catering trucks and all this, you’re not really an artist, you’re a general commanding an army, which is a different kind of work. Not necessarily evil work, just different.” A 2006 conversation between Thom Andersen and Pedro Costa on Huillet/Straub offers some insights on the pair’s working method, as well as enthusiastic praise from two fans. A related posting at Diagonal Thoughts, which is fast becoming an indispensable resource for this kind of thing, Philippe Azoury’s 2001 interview with Straub and Costa (and one line from Huillet which confirms Andersen’s observation that “He talks a lot, but in a certain way she has more to say.”)

“Jimmy was the kind of guy that rooted for bad guys in the movies.” Kim Morgan rounds up her 10 favorite performances by actors playing real-life gangsters, from Charles Bronson to “Warren fucking Oates.”

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