reply to scorsese vs marvel

wanted to get some quick notes down about the scorsese vs marvel discourse currently going on. you can read it here. nothing super formal, just wanted to get my voice in before it’s washed away by whatever disney+ controversies we get.

 

-scorsese’s films are not from earth to alpha centauri when it comes to marvel movies. i have no idea where he got this notion from, especially because he knows the movies that are actually in that vein. a lot of scorsese’s comments here confuse me for similar reasons because he’s aligning himself as the opposite to marvel when this comes across as complaining of a system that brought him up and then left him to rot (except, that didn’t happen at all) when it’s mostly a similar system as before, just with different tastes. i acknowledge that the cultural landscape has absolutely changed, though scorsese still sits at a pretty standard midpoint by any recognizable definition. but i guess being that rich for that long can make you lose perspective a bit sometimes.

-something i see a lot of in a the comments of certain anti-MCU people is a certain preference against a “cinema-of-attractions” approach to the medium.  scorsese kinda sets himself up for the “not everything needs to be Citizen Kane” strawman here. it’s one thing to say that the movies lack depth, another to say that movies which lack depth are necessarily worse than those that do. how many masterful cult films are there that get brushed aside in favor of these terrible films? probably far more than the type of “adult” projects that scorsese seems to favor, and i would argue that the two are way more comparable as far as broad filmmaking goals go.

-scorsese speaks of the cultural importance of projection, and repeats this a couple of times to solidify his notion. this is a waning demand however; it’s his one like “ok boomer” moment where he veneers into the territory of seeing the movie house as the monolith when everyone who gets hardcore into art cinema knows their way around a VPN by the time they’re out of high school. this is important because many of these people never even go to theaters normally; for them, the cinema is their laptop screen. i don’t see the cinema as being whatever happens to play on a metroplex for $12 near you – the advent of streaming is what will assist cinema, even if it ruins “cinema.”

-not falling for his “i had to go to netflix” sob story lol, waaah only one media conglomerate would give me 9 figures for my oscar bait

-the financial situation is brutal for small theaters not just because of indirect forces like everyone only seeing disney trash but also directly because of extremely harsh, borderline illegal theater policies that disney themselves employ. i wish scorsese would have brought this up – someone with his sway and clout speaking against that practice could do some popular good.

-i think in parts of his article, his notion of success is directly linked to “is it playing on a theater screen for millions of people.” it conflates financial success with cinematic success, which as someone who has had a lot of the former, seems to come from a biased position. obviously he doesn’t entirely mean this should be taken all the way – as evidenced by him, you know, hating superhero movies – but i do see this line of reasoning a lot and think it’s kind of unhealthy.

-it’s good that someone with some iota of clout is saying these things even if the points are a bit rough around the edges. i generally agree with his thesis, just believe we need to have more carefully crafted criticism on the subject.

gems of september and october

spent a lot of the month watching Twin Peaks, the rest watching makino. then i got back into melee.

Harakiri (Kobayashi, 1962) – was in a bit of a movie slump prior to seeing this and i’d been saving this movie for a day like that. i knew i would at least find it solid but it sorta exceeded expectations and became a favorite of mine. my first kobayashi and i want to definitely check out his other classics at the least, and maybe dabble in his deep cuts as well.

virtually everything i saw at the Show and Tell exhibit for takashi makino would rank as either a highlight or a bonafide masterpiece, but i’ll give a special shoutout to At the Horizon which, upon my first watch, seems like it could be the greatest non-narrative film i’ve ever seen. words really can’t do it (or other makino films) justice; it really needs to be experienced to be believed.

Homework (Kiarostami, 1989) – this endures as one of kiarostami’s more direct and “simple” films, which is hardly a mark against it. its examination of how generational norms can be transposed to the younger ones (albeit in a specific framework that never feels anything other than universal) is well-crafted and builds to a classic kiarostami finale, ripe with his ever-present humanism.

Finished (Jones, 1997): a great find by remi. labyrinth tale about a man fixated on someone who struck him, a kind of obsession i think most people can occasionally relate to. one of the only films that has a similar vibe to Los Angeles Plays Itself in how it’s constructed as an essay film of sorts. definitely a huge film even when it admits its own shortcomings outright.

Twin Peaks as a whole: well, i finally bit the bullet and finished S2 (which wasn’t very good), excitedly devoured Fire Walk With Me (which was great) and then plunged into The Return (which, will maybe a bit overhyped, is some fantastic movie-making). lynch is a master of these intricate, guilt-ridden tales, and the best parts of this series are when he meshes this with his knack for striking imagery. i’m down for more of it now that i’ve actually gotten through the S2 slump.

Super Inframan (Shan, 1975): unbridled fun. like seriously, you are not ready for how fun this movie is. sets, oversatured cinematography, action editing, costumes (especially the costumes), SFX, stunt choreography, everything is designed for maximum campy excellence. can’t believe i don’t hear more about this.

Cleopatra (Bressane, 2007): i haven’t seen anything by bressane and have really no idea what his other movies are like, which makes analyzing what is already a pretty difficult film to analyze even more difficult. i can say at least that i get heavy straub-huillet vibes, manoel de oliveira in baroque mode, and India Song. i really don’t have enough to say about this in terms of analysis, but really like the sets, the purple prose, and the ardent sexuality of it.

Dusty Stacks of Mom: The Poster Project (Mack, 2013): i’d known about this and its acclaim for a while but never actually had an idea of what it would be like. as it turns out, it’s Crashbox for art thots. yeah.

The Amazonian Angel (Klonaris & Thomadaki, 1992): i think the closest reference point i have to this would have to be Salome by hernandez. like that film, i’m drawn to how impressive and dreamlike its imagery is, although in this there’s a bunch of dialogue that very dissociative and reminds me of abstract poetry. it’s a combination that clashes occasionally but the end product is one that works well for me, and i would love to see more of these directors’ work.

Every Single Night (Tsao, 2019): it confirms not only tsao’s consistency but also his range; where Utah was a well-shot, well-edited direct cinema sort of documentary, the artificiality of Every Single Night‘s construction and the setups of its concept scream an entirely different idea altogether. always attempts to re-invent itself in unique ways, homerun with this one. look forward to producing what the director manages next.

Lake Mungo (Anderson, 2008): i somehow entirely had mis-categorized this film in my head. i thought it was supposed to be some slower slasher film, when in reality it’s a mockumentary that feels like reverse kiyoshi kurosawa; something which starts creepy, seems to suggest that the world is creepy enough as we know it, and then pivots into unusual lynchian directions. some of the most effective horror of the last two decades and an easy favorite for me.

Bliss (Begos, 2019): out of the 6 horror movies i saw at the horror marathon, this was the only one that really knocked it out of the park for me. takes some obvious cues from ferrara structurally and from a laundry list of films stylistically but begos has the control of a seasoned director in how he synthesizes these many styles and ideas. a great gem to find, one i probably never would have seen if not for the screening.

Milla (Massadian, 2017): an indie film which is so careful about sidestepping negative indie conventions that it ends up becoming somewhat toothless by the end of it, though it’s still an engaging watch with some beautiful moments to it. reminds me of costa more than anything, who i like but have rarely seen as a personal favorite (seems to be the case with this film too). would love to check out some more of massadian’s work though.

gems: july and august

Two Lovers (Gray, 2008): gray is a solid 3 for 3 right now, an immersive dramatic director whose deft navigating of melodramatic and adventure archetypes reminds one of, say, a 60s hollywood director making 40s hollywood pictures. can never quite pin down what makes him good, it’s likely a mixture of his ear for dialogue and impressive cinematography which treads the line between dull and flashy. as his other two have done, builds my excitement for Ad Astra.

Offering (Caldini, 1978): this movie’s only like 3 minutes or something, just go watch it. great non-narrative.

Surrender (Kopko, 2019): manages to pull off lo-fi VHS retro-vaporwave aesthetics in the decade where that mode of creation seemed to die and rebirth at least three times already. kopko’s eye for inorganic imagery and sounds, surely influenced by her immense knowledge of the medium, is what propels this to the forefront of the modern avant-garde to me.

Jane (Christensen, ???): adore the music in this, adore how un-pretentious this film is in its portrayal of a teen who demands to be taken seriously while acknowledging the paradox in this sometimes. other people are probably going to hate the dialogue in this, and its trashy-ness certainly encourages that to an extent, but it’s something that has a really profound appeal to me, hokey as it can be. a fantastic gem in the rough.

The Deadly Spawn (McKeown, 1983): it’s something that i can’t quite call a masterpiece because i generally prefer my shlocky genre films to go really far in some political or vulgar direction, but as a lean, mean 80s horror it’s pretty much as good as it gets this side of tobe hooper. not too much to say, pick it for your midnight movie sometime.

The Last Film (Martin & Peranson, 2013): alex ross perry taking the piss out of every white person who’s ever been to latin ruins for an hour and a half is a surprisingly fun way to use an hour and a half

The Death of Louis XIV (Serra, 2016): been meaning to get to this for a while, and i felt with the fact that his other Louis films are going to be easier to get ahold of, now was as good a time as any. doesn’t quite hit the maximum height that slow cinema is easily capable of; think of it like a more baroque van sant if that’s your fancy. and it obviously doubles well with rossellini’s film too. leaud can do no wrong etc.

Rumble Fish (Coppola, 1983): had no idea what this was gonna be like going into it, and nobody really thought to call this Tetro 0.5? man, film criticism is a dead art. anywho, some beautiful vignettes, generally up to snuff with his other great-not-masterpiece tier work. the central visual motif/metaphor here is surprisingly well-done even if it seemed like slam poetry at first.

Cyberella: Forbidden Passions (Garth, 1996): remi’s extremely good at finding these giga-obscure SOV/genre/no budget/sleazecore type films that end up becoming favorites for me. this is among the best of those types; 90s softcore about the afterlife and learning that sometimes the most difficult thing to do as a woman is being able to demand more for yourself from misogynists. the dredges of being a manic pixie dream girl, set to dialogue that would sound corny in a sega commercial. masterpiece because of it though.

Up, Down, Fragile (Rivette, 1995): it comes off to me as a minor rivette in the way that, idk, Love on the Ground does (or that Secret defense doesn’t). good thing jacques is incapable of making bad movies, or even movies less than really good in most cases. pacing god.

La flor (Llinas, 2018): the best film of the last 5 years for my money. i was impossibly hyped for this movie and my hype still couldn’t have prepared me for how much i unabashedly adored this mammoth feature. it’s always fresh, funny, entertaining, inventive – this is really just what the movies were made for. reminds me of that jimmy neutron episode where he engineers the perfect movie – this one’s got like everything in it i could ever want. lifetime subscriber to the church of llinas.

Chain (Cohen, 2004): while its aesthetics only touch the vaporwave movement, the influences seem very akin to that aesthetic, and the notion of late capitalism swirling together the entire working class into this depressed day-to-day “there has to be more to life than this” is done beautifully. makes me interested in what else cohen has to offer. great fake-doc feel as well, legitimately thought it was a real documentary for most of the time (though i suspect a lot of it is very true to life).

Esophagus (Fotopolous, 2004): not a genre you hear of everyday, this fotopolous flick combines noisy soundscapes, lo-fi digital, and repetitive sequences into this scifi-horror-experimental fusion. works perhaps a bit better in concept than in execution at times but there are moments that are beautiful and moments that are horrifying and it’s paced well for an outing of this nature.

The Secret Garden (Solomon, 1988): i saw several solomon shorts at a screening and they were all good to varying degrees but this was the biggest highlight. something so nostalgic and primal about it, especially in the like subtitled dialogue that was extra zoomed in with almost a christmas-y filter going on. would love to see this one again soon!

The Black Tower (Smith, 1987): structuralist horror of sorts but still lighthearted enough to not feel like it’s too tryhard-y. great stuff, fun little picture. go watch it on youtube it’s just a short!

The Sticky Fingers of Time (Brougher, 1997): the poster and name had me thinking this was gonna be some like lighter campy scifi when in reality it was quite funny but in a sort of rivette way, there’s a humor to it that sort of extends in unusual directions. i always like scifi concepts even when it’s just the same type of time travel, this one has a great allegory for it, and the pacing is on-point for the majority of the runtime. cool little gem for sure.

thoughts on animation

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been meaning to make a post like this for a while and i’m only now getting around to it. but here we are, the dreaded animation discussion. in this post i’ll attempt to lay out my philosophy for my approach to animation as a tool in film, its limitations, and what i believe is pushing the medium forward.

i’ll start this off with a perhaps-needed disclaimer, which is that i fully believe animation to be capable of the heights of live-action film. if anything, mixed media formats are going to have an even more important role in time as technology to utilize either one (and, thus, synthesize them) will see an uptick, and socialized filmmaking has always been a good thing. there are already concrete examples now, of which i’ll list ten, of films that i believe utilize animation to a progressive degree that i don’t believe can be done with live action.

this isn’t the same as saying something would be different if made in live action or that it couldn’t be done or what-have-you, although this is probably true as well, but rather that these films advance the medium of animation (and greatly heighten my rather meager opinion of it). this could be from their juxtaposition with live-action, their style lending to a more substantial thesis on behalf of the film at large, an important thematic role for the animation to begin with, or excel at making animation look aesthetically pleasing or immersive in some way.

these are…

Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees by david blair

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Persepolis by vincent paronnaud and marjane satrapi

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Waltz with Bashir by ari folman

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*Corpus Callosum by michael snow

Corpus-Callosum

After Last Season by mark region

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Avatar by james cameron

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It’s Such a Beautiful Day by don hertzfeldtimages-w1400

12 oz. Mouse by matt maiellaro

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Dog Star Man by stan brakhage (among others)

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and Tower by keith maitland.

tower

these are not necessarily the animated films that i believe are best (calling some of these animated is dubious at best anyways), but rather ones that actively give me encouragement that the medium isn’t entirely dead. these are films which meaningfully utilize the plasticity, variation, and contrasts that animation has the capacity for, and don’t settle for merely drawing cartoons that could end up being compelling or not depending on if the screenwriting is.

while i don’t want to get too exhaustive with this list, i do want to at least briefly illustrate what i mean when i speak of this sort of progressive-ness. there are many ways a film can be aesthetically progressive. eisenstein famously spoke about the plasticity of early disney, in a sort of childlike adoration for the new capability of cinema. this is something which has surely happened to many of us over time – seeing something brand new which just totally knocks us back – but i believe this initial hype must inevitably be answered with some form of payoff. childlike wonder is an interesting concept to build a film around, but variation in themes and tones is something i tend to value above an exclusive approach.

obviously, you say, not all animation is about this sense of childlike wonder. but i do have to question this to some extent. due to the way that our cultural zeitgeist has been set up, there are inherently different visceral reactions one gets depending on the media they consume. as a child, one who either prefers live action or animation, seeing the “other” medium will trigger a desire to return the more recognizable, comfortable, soothing one. these notions have the potential to become cornerstones of their developmental taste, which progresses into adolescence and some people just never seem to really move on past there. the way that our culture is set up, though, is that there will always be that innate sense of wonder based somewhat on comforting nostalgia that i think surrounds our reactions to seeing animation as opposed to live action.

this is psychology 101, surely, but i need to address the “childlike” aspects of animation. the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of animation is tailored towards young audiences. this shouldn’t stop us, however, for there is countless animation out there which isn’t (predominantly) going for that age group (and for the revisionists who sincerely believe something like The Incredibles is part of that group, well, stop reading now i guess). so what’s the problem?

i think these two somewhat self-evident truths coalesce into my general theory of animation, which is that it attempts to humanize adolescent tastes – be those by the people who created the film, or the viewer. i understand that this is culturally not true everywhere and that the rep of animation largely depends on your habitat, but from my western perspective it stands to reason that this call to animation is, at its core, a call to nostalgia, to going back. this medium which is capable of the infinities allotted by your HDTV screen, customizing each and every one of the 4096 lines that show up there, has its primary appeal relegated subconsciously towards a longing for simplicity. as a viewer, it’s something i have little to no interest in. the only animated film which moves me in this way is My Neighbor Totoro, which is an all-timer for me and sort of makes anything going for this broad type of appeal irrelevant for my personal viewing.

there are other sorts of appeals that one can have, though, but i have rather dismal views of those as well. lots of animation goes for cheap psychedelia or attempts to utilize the plasticity of the medium to create surrealism, a concept that surely blew the mind of sergei eisenstein 80 years ago, but has long become tired and only interesting in contrast with other cinematic elements, not as a lone goal.

the films that i’ve mentioned above are films that, while they may flirt with these notions, approach them from an ironic distance or contrast them to a reasonable extent such that the final product is one of subversion rather than strict adherence to a nostalgic beckoning.

one such example of subversion is Persepolis. in this work, the ironic distancing is achieved by the non-realistic style; the heightened, childlike proportions and view of the world that the protagonist encounters are meaningfully portrayed in a film about learning from these experiences and ultimately rejecting many of them. in a feminist move, it employs the stance of criticizing not necessarily your own past, but the world that you have matured from, that which you no longer feel like you belong to. this form of rebellion is successfully shown alongside a medium which we subconsciously relate to our adolescence.

satrapi’s usage of minimalism in the animation of Persepolis grants it a more universal appeal, de-colorizing the world and even the people so as to not have the viewer be overloaded on specifics and more interested in the ideas and feelings that her character has. while there was surely a massive amount of time that went into the production of Persepolis, the movie’s stripped down style and aesthetics acts as a counterbalance to this – it is a film where your self-insertion is encouraged because it is a film that wants you to accept, on some level, a rejection of your past. the narrative engine in coming-of-age films being maturity is facilitated through these contrasts in intelligent ways here.

the limitation to satrapi’s approach is that the film is devoid of the catalyst for most narrative payoff: faces, glances, gestures. her minimal approach doesn’t even attempt to reconcile this – sure, characters are created with generally acceptable human proportions, but the distancing effect is ever-present. while we may self-insert as marjane, we never feel as though this is our world, these are our friends, that this is truly happening in a concrete sense; it’s purely in the cinematic that the catharsis in Persepolis lives.

to some extent, all of the films i’ve listed here are like this. the only two you could really make a case against would be Avatar – which is really just the cinema of attractions for the modern era – and Waltz with Bashir – whose central themes of PTSD and trauma meaningfully climax in a switch to live action, a pivot which far too many animated films are afraid to utilize.

the rest of the films i’ve selected are ones which accept the irreality of the animated world and, in their own way of minimalism, maximilze the brechtian distancing effect that’s possible with pictures. you can self-insert as a stick figure, but you will never believe the stick figure is truly you or having your experiences – the goals of these films are entirely different to both most of the animated canon (constantly attempting to live up to the best of live action or utilizing century old plasticity) and the live action (which oftentimes is focused on verite in some fashion).

many of these films acknowledge the differences between the two media and utilize their respective aspects properly. in It’s Such a Beautiful Day, the live-action bits bring us from self-insertion to the potential of that stick figure really being us, the bridge from sympathy to empathy. in After Last Season, the animated segments serve as a contrast to the sterile, artificial environments – they provide childlike wonder and bafflement in a world that appears clinical and cold for most of the time. even when there are murders and ghosts afoot in this world, in some ways, it is more acceptable than the reality of live action.

for me, the existence of plasticity is only a small fraction of the appeal to animation. it’s something which can give it purpose at times, but reliance on it simply exposes us to tired surrealism. the existence of animation’s irreality can doom it to preying on nostalgia that i have no interest in digging up again. these two engines are those which seem to be the ones that continue to drive animated works forward; the canon is filled with them. this is my primary issue with animation – where there are boundless possibilities, there is boundless laziness. a desire to keep returning to the same roots and choices that past masters have done, with little to build upon them in the form of meaningful analysis or recontextualization.

so much of animation is painfully, painfully limited in what it attempts to do. there is no rhyme or reason to the creative choices made – and i don’t mean which color signifies what or analysis of this sort, but more decisions on entire media – why is something animated instead of just shot normally? budgetary constraints are usually not the issue. even as large of an advocate for 3D as i am, i am still in the stage of requiring some method to the madness when it comes to using that as a device.

i’ll conclude by saying that plasticity’s modern counterpart is almost surely the avant-garde (brakhage and snow have more meaningfully contributed to the notion of physically malleable cinema than any studio has in the last 50 years) and that there is hope for animation yet. i just wish there was more to the canon than what we currently have.

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 3 (“branch out”)

the foreboding laugh react when you post your top 4. the unnerving silence of the comments. maybe a sympathetic “I love Drive!” in the comments, coupled only by a “bro you just posted cringe!” reaction image shortly after. you’ve made a fool of yourself online for your taste, something you’ve put hundreds of hours into. where do you go from here? how will you ever recover?

there are, fundamentally, two paths you can take. if you’re experiencing this phenomenon for the first time. you can continue to see stuff your coworkers know the names of, blissfully trekking on in your endless swaths of multi-million dollar products, maybe even take up funko pop collecting on the side. while i think this is a terrible decision, ultimately, you are you. you’ll face scorn from people no matter what your hobbies are.

this is, unfortunately, not a series on how to be a pleb for the rest of your life though. anyone can do that – maybe i’ll do it on how i’ve yet to expand my tastes in music for the 22 years i’ve been on this planet. this series assumes that you’ve taken the second path. you’re determined to do better than this. you want people online whose names you can’t pronounce to admire and fawn over your every letterboxd entry and the friends and family you’ve had all your life to awkwardly make small-talk with you when they try to merely mention the word “movies” in your presence. in short, you want to be a patrician.

i’ve already covered the basics of this in my other two “patrician” posts in terms of the social aspect (tl;dr make friends who understand your tastes as opposed to algorithms that try to predict them) and the physical ones (tl;dr SEED YOUR TORRENTS) to becoming a patrician, but i think that some people might miss the “why?” aspect of it. i’ve clearly been a bit light-hearted about this above because i need to contrast how one might perceive the art of becoming cultured. a descent into film-dom might be romanticized in media as seeing the classics and crying to Schindler’s List, but the reality is that the exciting part of it is finding yourself, finding some hidden gem that nobody’s heard of, that kind of a deal. and while many of the canon flicks will understandably astound you with how great they are, many of them will also underwhelm you. that’s the nature of the game.

so why would you ever choose this time-consuming, antisocial habit? all for the name of some dopamine hits online and some street cred when you shill some forgotten fassbinder movie?

partially yes, though i think there is more. the primary issue i see with being a “basic” viewer is that you’re much more susceptible to burnout. it makes sense, you know; there is practically an infinite amount of rainer kohlbergers, jon josts, and kiyoshi kurosawas out there – not to say that these filmmakers are anything but singular, just that there are filmmakers with directly similar appeal to these sorts. for as long as i’ve been watching 200-300 movies a year, i’ve always been able to find stuff that interests me and new corners to explore – mostly due to the new discoveries i’d made just a few months prior. i have no earthly idea what cinematic obsession i’ll have in a year – a director, a movement, a genre, etc.

for the blissful path, there are only so many edgar wrights, 70s coppolas, and steven spielbergs. sure, these directors have all made some great films – however, if your palette is only extended to such creators who operate on budgets like this, then you’re going to be physically limited by the market already. though we may joke about how marvel has taken over the industry (which financially is true: boycott disney and all that), in reality, if all you watch are superhero movies, your pool is pretty shallow at the end of the day. even today, you can manage what like, 6 movies to get excited about per year? 8? rookie numbers.

if movies are a part time curiosity to you, it’s not a big deal. people burn out of their part time interests all of the time to mutually beneficial ends; it’s happened to me, anyways. so many people these days, however, seem to lack a passion. they lack something they can really dig into and get obsessed over. they kinda meander through a number of “easy” fields – video games, netflix, budget fashion – but never get super deep into any of them.

that’s always a concern on my end. it pains me to see or hear about individuals that seemingly have no direction or obsession or something of this sort, as if these short term gratifications are all they have to live on. so although i mock the patrician crowd for that dopamine craving on letterboxd, i don’t see it as being very different from the hit that people who aren’t living fulfilling, passionate lives get when they watch Shaun of the Dead for the 7th time, thinking silently to themselves that it seems just a bit worse this go around than the 6th.

i know that it’s possible for me to burn out on movies someday – it’s possible for anyone. i don’t think it’s possible that the mentality i have about movies is going to let me do that though, so unless that changes, i’ll pretty much always have an active interest in them. there is just so much out there that i’d love to see, and that’s only 2019 erik reeds. 2020 erik reeds will have even more he wants to see, in spite of having seen more of the stuff that 2019 erik reeds wanted to see, and 2021 erik reeds will want to see even more than the 2020 one and so on and so forth. it takes 100 minutes to watch a movie, but only a few seconds to add it to my watchlist.

so the “broaden your horizons” accompanied with some other mocking comments, in addition to being a way for patricians to finally flex their e-peens, is something that could genuinely assist you in the long run. there are a lot of things to love in this life, but if you’re going to go with movies, why not go about them in a way that’s rewarding over time AND gratifying now? are you really missing out from those small talks at family reunions about the last disney HD remaster?

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 2 (equipment)

we’re living in the 21st century, doin something mean to it (by that, i mean hotboxing outside of dennys at 2am). i mentioned in part 1 of this series that the modern world of cinema has many concrete advantages, the primary ones being that there are more restorations than ever, and that there are more ways to build connections than ever. well that’s awesome, it’s great, but how do we take advantage of this new tech?

the first thing i would recommend is, if you’re just really really new to this stuff, getting a program to play movie files. the primary thing you need here is something that has good subtitle capabilities. i’ve used VLC for years and i also use MPC as well when i have issues with that one. they have pretty good documentation online for whatever you may need with them, but if you’re just casually watching movies then there shouldn’t be any fancy tricks you have to pull off most of the time.

so where do we go to get the movie files, now that we can play them?

if you’re not on any private trackers already, i recommend asia torrents and cinemaz. they have open registration sometimes, usually during the summer, so be on the lookout then. it’s great to have a resource like this because it allows you to request films you may be looking for.

the regular torrent sites are a great resource. openload and novamov as you see fit. another excellent resource is hawkmenblues. i’ve linked to the site index with directors whose name starts with “j” but just change the url to go to the appropriate director you want. this is an excellent resource – don’t let the sketchy links put you off. most of the canon is available for free here. note that the films require a password to unzip, but the password is always available on the site so just type it in to unzip everything.

you also have rarelust, which is great for more obscure gems, ubu, which is great for older avant-garde stuff, festivalscope, which is cool for random new festival stuff, mubi, which gives you a great small selection for a low price (free for students), kanopy, which gives you a huge selection and can be used with a library card, tao films, which is a hub for slow cinema, and the various mainstream streaming platforms that all have noteworthy films on them.

again, making friends is going to be another great way that you can expand your resources. maybe someone has a karagarga account and can hit you up with some r bruce elder films. maybe you  have an asia torrents and can hook your buddy up with the extended cut of Love Exposure.

some additional tips/tricks:

-seed your torrents if you’re on a private tracker, like, obviously. seed your torrents that don’t have a lot of seeders already. self-explanatory, but a lot of people just delete.

-VPNs are good, but i haven’t done much research into em for a while. research them on your own time – a lot of ISPs don’t care if you’re torrenting phil solomon films or what-have-you, but if yours does, there are relatively easy ways around it. just don’t go for brand new stuff unless you’re using a VPN – you can sometimes find those more new mainstream stuff on sites like openload anyways though.

-remember to always google search for english subtitles if you can’t find them – if you have one of the video players i downloaded, you can easily patch them to the movie afterwards. it won’t always work, but it’s generally a good try.

-maintaining your ratio on any private tracker can be difficult, but it’s difficult for everyone the first time around. read the rules carefully as they’re all different. the most important thing is to let everything seed until you start uploading past your initial download – pretty much every site is going to be cool with you if you do that. don’t just delete it after a couple days of it not uploading at all – this is common. some of my torrents take weeks to get any traction.

-share your stuff. if you’re shilling some sick film from an unknown director, put it on youtube! mega! google drive! let people have a way to see it if it’s not otherwise readily available. if you were passed something, make sure that you have permission to pass it around too, and respect that person’s wishes. everything becomes available within a couple of years after you hear about it, and even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty else out there for you to watch.

-although many films that you scour the net for are out of print or otherwise unavailable, a good deal of them are up for purchase by their directors. if you’re financially equipped, i highly recommend using your movie allowances in this way; you’re directly supporting the artist in exchange for their film, all using the world wide web. most of them don’t charge inordinate prices for their films or anything, so it’s not a huge commitment. plus, in many cases, the director will be happy to interact with a potential fan!

-many of these sites have features, like movie of the day or lists with a lot of movies available on the site of a certain theme, etc. if you’re unsure of what to watch for the day, check out some of those – can’t hurt!

-the sites i provided are just what i’ve gotten the most use out of. explore for yourself for alternatives – and feel free to tell me about them too. all about helping each other in this world.

the erik reeds guide to becoming a patrician: part 1 (“how do you find out about these movies?”)

hello everyone. i’m planning this as a series of posts to attempt to educate people into how they can get deeper into film, with a heavy emphasis on the practical methods, the new tools at our disposal, and finding ways to enrich your general cinephilia.

as many know, i’ve spent far too much time on movie forums and in movie spaces online. most of this time i’ve regretted in some way, but i guess i have gleaned some good things from it over the years. people often ask me variants of the question in the title: just how do you even find out about most of the stuff you watch? the answer to this sort of question depends on who’s asking it, but since i presume the readerbase here is going to be tech-savvy budding movie-lovers, i’ll try to address it in a way that’s most beneficial.

my go-to recommendation for someone who i don’t particularly get an “artsy” vibe from is generally the imdb top 250 (is it still at 250 now?). over the years, of course, its usefulness has run its course on my end, but it remains a nice list for having immediate access to entry-level filmbro stuff. someone who sees 200 movies on there will likely not be very refined in their tastes, but they can begin to grow the seeds of what exactly they want to get out of their movie watching experience. and it’s also an initial time commitment too; if you can’t get through films like Batman Begins and Se7en, i struggle to think of where else you can go that would be rewarding at that point.

i’ll harp on this quite a bit in this post but i can’t stress the importance of finding your own identity when it comes to your viewing habits. we all have generally the same lists to look at – the letterboxd top 250, they shoot pictures top 1000, sight and sound’s top 250, etc. not everyone is going to end up seeing all of those movies though. me personally, i wanted to complete the TSPDT list by the time i was 25, that was around what i estimated when i was 16 or 17. this is now a feat that i could easily do with my consumption averages, but my desire to see the last 200 some odd movies on the list by now has dissipated more and more. i just can’t see myself ever wanting to endure more bunuel films if i don’t absolutely have to.

but the cool thing about movies is that you’re rarely forced to do these things. movie culture as a whole doesn’t really have a stigma against people who haven’t completed lists or anything; i doubt the people whose opinions i respect the most care at all about their progress on the sight and sound lists. so are these lists useless, if they are rarely ever completed?

certainly not! lists like these offer homogenized perspectives that are great as diving-off points. after you’ve sped through the various bergmans, ozus, and godards on lists like these, you’ll likely begin to get to a point of where you can broadly identify what types of movies you like and what types you don’t.

i’ve mentioned elsewhere that i’m fundamentally against the notion of needing to be “open-minded” when it comes to art, especially in an information era where we have access to tens of thousands of films at any given time. the idea that you need to continually reinforce your negative preferences in some sort of (usually futile) need to expand your horizons is something that can be done with more enjoyment if one simply continues to explore by watching movies they believe they’ll actually like. if you’re watching over 200 movies a year, odds are that you’re probably broadening your horizons plenty; how much you want to get out of that comfort zone is up to you, but as someone who almost exclusively stays in theirs, i wouldn’t say it needs to be demonized much.

at the end of the day, everyone takes risks with their viewing habits. i never really know if i’m going to like something when i begin watching it, but i would almost always prefer to like it. i’ve seen plenty of bad movies on accident to the point of where i wouldn’t want to watch them on purpose. but enough on this.

when you begin to develop your identity (this could be based around a myriad of topics and themes, such as: musicals, political films, silents, ensemble works, classic hollywood, new bollywood, experimental film, etc.), this is where your viewing habits are going to begin to diverge from something that people can really give you a flowchart or a generalized list for. you’re not some algorithm, you’re you! you have opinions! dreams! desires! you can’t possibly stomach another werner herzog movie, and you’re dying to see more things like The Wind! another canon list can only “help” so much (by help, i mean: allow you to discover or become interested in things you weren’t before).

this is where the social element to movie watching gets important, and, along with the obvious easy access to kazillions of movies, one of the primary benefits i think of when i examine how the internet era benefits film fans. i’ve joked before about how i don’t care about quality because i “grew up in the early 2010s as a rivette fan.” i have a dvd of Out 1 Spectre i bought off of a bootleg website that is the movie recorded off of a camcorder recording a TV playing the film which was recorded onto tape in the wrong aspect ratio with italian hardcode subs. nowadays, you can find this film readily available online, in pristine quality.

when i first saw A Brighter Summer Day four years ago, it was off of a dark, hazy laserdisc recording that had become widely available to potential viewers. just recently i watched the 50 gig blu ray rip of it from criterion and almost couldn’t believe my eyes at the difference.

point is, i haven’t really even been in the game that long comparatively. though Out 1 being on netflix is always going to top the list of things that “never would have happened in my days,” there are countless restoration miracles like this happening year by year. every time criterion restores a batch of films, i normally don’t care about most of them, but i usually care about one or two, and down the road i’ll probably care for a few more, and the list of films to watch just expands more and more at an exponential rate.

but even these incredible advances are somewhat meager in comparison to how much interacting with other people can aid you in venturing out in the film world more. because, the truth is, if i didn’t have people recommending me stuff or rating it 4.5 on letterboxd or what-have-you, all the criterions and arrow videos and kino lorbers in the world wouldn’t matter – i wouldn’t have any idea of where to start. the most important thing you can do for your film viewership after you’ve begun to see what you do and don’t like is: find people who agree with you! you’ll find plenty that don’t, but there are always going to be film fans that have those same hot takes and goals for their film viewership like you do.

growing up in rural texas, there wasn’t really anybody in my day to day that i could say was realistically watching films in the same wavelength as me. this isn’t a bad thing, but it’s something that many people are likely to encounter. they go into their film class and feel just a complete lack of connection with anyone. they go to a kalatozov screening and shudder at the boomers complaining about it exiting the theater. for a lot of people out there, there really is nobody that can help guide you on your journey.

that’s where the net comes in though. first thing’s first: make a letterboxd. find reviewers you like – oftentimes i go to films i like with not a lot of views and see people who liked them and check out what else they’re into. comment on stuff. review everything you see – even if it’s just 2 or 3 words, put something on there, because other people are going to be doing this too. we go on social media (especially for interests) to gain something, people like seeing your thoughts on movies if they trust your taste or value your insight. comment on other peoples’ lists and reviews, get a sense of everybody’s taste, as this might be how you find your own more.

i’ve often been disappointed when i try to find IRL film groups because the people who happen to live within a few miles from me are likely not some of the few hundred people in the world i feel really connected with on a cinematic level, but with the net at your disposal, there’s no such thing. i know people with extremely idiosyncratic tastes; 80s action films and structuralist shorts and jesus franco joints. there’s always going to be a way to find like-minded individuals on websites where everyone’s ratings and rants are publicly available.

it isn’t just letterboxd; scour the whole net for these people if you don’t feel like that site provides you with enough. i spent a year on r/movies largely as a test of this very theory, and, surprise surprise, i met some people that i genuinely clicked with pretty well. there are always going to be some people that you can connect with, and this increases as you find yourself. if you don’t know what you’re looking for in movies, other people can only help you so much.

that’s…pretty much all the advice i can give here. i don’t know everyone, i can’t reasonably vibe with everybody’s sensibilities. people educated in film may have tastes that are just antithetical to what i search for in film. this is just part of the process though, because there are so many people who have similar tastes as me that have helped me discover things i didn’t know about or wasn’t as educated on.

you may have complaint here with how i’ve set this up as “find people that are exactly like you,” but that’s not the case. nobody is exactly like you. the people that i follow on letterboxd and get recommendations from and read academic reviews from are from various backgrounds that we have overlap on but i still have huge differences with. one of my friends is huge on shorter, more transcendent abstract avant-garde films. one of my friends is big on no-budget SOV horrors or romances or other such genre flicks. other are big on political films. others are big on vulgar auteurism. some are just the “classical” TSPDT enthusiast types whose favorites from those circles align with my tastes. some of them are populists that i consider to look at films in a progressive or intelligent way. but that’s just me and my own circles; you yourself are going to find your friends, your admirers, the people that you’ll go on to stan.

but we all have to do the grunt work. at least try to go through some of the canon lists, unless you have other lists that you’re going to use instead (which is fine too!). engage with people and get recs based on your taste. some people can jump entirely into the deep end and binge lav diaz but most people aren’t wired for that. take it slow. watch the normie stuff, when you’re done with that, you can work your way into the more difficult material on the sights and sounds or they shoot the pictures or those sorts. don’t just watch mindlessly! you’re going to watch Jules et Jim or something and think “wow this is absolutely terrible, do i just have bad taste?” and the answer to that is: maybe, but maybe someone else will have bad taste too. and it’s up to you to find them.