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(Holiday) Movie Traditions

‘Tis the season, right? The holidays are a time of tradition, and so many local folks are revisiting their annual tradition of seeing the British Television Advertising Awards (Today is the final day!) here at the Walker. As the year ends, we start to see everyone and their uncle posting top ten lists and the […]

‘Tis the season, right? The holidays are a time of tradition, and so many local folks are revisiting their annual tradition of seeing the British Television Advertising Awards (Today is the final day!) here at the Walker. As the year ends, we start to see everyone and their uncle posting top ten lists and the likes around the end of the year. Instead of going in that direction, I asked some of my colleagues here to write about their movie traditions, be they holiday-related or not. (The traditional holiday plague kept me from getting this posted last week, but it is still the holidays, no?)

My own tradition, and millions of others I’m sure, is to watch A Christmas Story every year. It’s nearly impossible to miss, if you turn on the television. I know, it’s not a very original tradition, but the fact of the matter is that no other movie depicts and discusses the mortal fear of breaking one’s glasses as well as this. As I grew up with a little brother who liked to pick fights, it happened many times over. (I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 7, around the same time my brother decided we should be constant opponents.) I suppose there are a lot of things in that movie that I respond to. I just can’t help it. It doesn’t feel like the holidays if I don’t catch it just once.

Michèle Steinwald, Performing Arts Program Manager
The Sound of Music – I watched this movie on tv with my mom every year until I was probably in my mid-twenties. We always seemed to happen across it even after I moved out at 18 for college. I don’t know if it still plays on tv every year anymore, and even though I haven’t seen the whole movie in years, it still feels like a yearly part of my routine. It is probably somehow embedded in my dna.

Jenny, Film/Video, Program Manager
Here’s my now-defunct tradition:
Back when the Oak Street Cinema was still the old repertory-based Oak Street, every year at the holidays they used to show Ernst Lubitsch’s THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, the 1940 Jimmy Stewart / Margaret Sullivan film about two people in Hungary who unknowingly fall in love through their pen pal letters. It was very regrettably remade into YOU’VE GOT MAIL -and I don’t need to tell you that Tom Hanks is no Jimmy Stewart. At any rate, ever since, when the holidays roll around, I toy with the idea of renting the DVD. No way could it compare, though, to the warm feeling of being in a packed house of an aging single screen theater, watching this smart and sweet classic. A true joy–one of the most pleasurable movie experiences of my life.

Courtney Gerber, Assistant Director of Education, Tour Programs in the Education and Community Programs Office
My tradition – Nearly every year since the movie was released on DVD, my family and I have enjoyed a slapstick Christmas Eve with Chevy Chase, Randy Quaid, and others in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The oblivious but well-meaning Clark Griswold gets me every time. After the belly laughs I often turn to Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient around the holidays. This film for me captures Michael Ondaatje’s story, which explores the unwieldiness of human experience. We’re witness to tenderness, anger, passion, joy, deprivation. Juliette Binoche is heavenly. I’m enraptured by each actor’s interpretation of Ondaatje’s characters. Ah, I think I may have to watch it tonight!

Allison Herrera, Program Manager, Education and Community Programs
I would have to say Casablanca. I love that movie. It’s sentimental, it’s suspenseful, It’s political, and it’s got Humphrey Bogart! Everybody is always having a glimmering cocktail in that movie! I watch it at least once a year and not necessarily during the holidays. Although it is a good holiday movie! There will never be movie stars like Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, or Peter Lorre ever again. And, the film is so well written, and the subject matter is kind of covertly political in a radical way. Humphrey Bogart was basically smuggling arms for the Spanish revolutionaries in Africa! Plus, the outfits! There’s no glamour in Hollywood anymore! Everybody’s either too busy having children, quitting smoking or rotting in re-hab! Bring back the fur wraps and cocktails at noon! Except make the fur wraps fake!

The British are coming! Again!

As you indulge in our annual dosing of British culture at the 2008 installment of the British Television Advertising Awards (There are still some tickets available, but they are going FAST!), it seems a propos to mention yet another British invasion that will be gracing our doorsteps in the coming months. The Walker launches a […]

Ray Lees Siren

Ray Lee's Siren

As you indulge in our annual dosing of British culture at the 2008 installment of the British Television Advertising Awards (There are still some tickets available, but they are going FAST!), it seems a propos to mention yet another British invasion that will be gracing our doorsteps in the coming months.

The Walker launches a four-part series UK Performance Now! bringing the latest in British talent live to the Twin Cities. UK Performance Now! includes Tim Crouch (art gallery tour with a heart) January 22-24, Ray Lee (original music and sound environment) February 19-21, Gary Stevens (British comedy with very few words) March 18&20-21, and Hoipolloi Theatre (play/lessons on life and death) May 28-30. Be sure to catch these performances in the British Television Advertising Awards off-months to fill the void left until next December when the British (Television) invasion returns.

Also of note is the Elizabeth Peyton exhibition opening in February. She may be an american, but many of her works focus on figures from British Pop Culture. She’s painted portraits of everyone from Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols) to Liam Gallagher (Oasis.) The preview party for the exhibition on February 13th should be smashing!

Michel Gondry wants you to make your own movie

Michel Gondry‘s career has had some interesting twists and turns over the years, taking him on fantastically odd tangents through Rubik’s Cube themed internet videos and art installations. There’s a definite trajectory that can be traced through all of it though, and it becomes most apparent when you look at the last few years. The […]

Michel Gondry

Michel Gondry

Michel Gondry‘s career has had some interesting twists and turns over the years, taking him on fantastically odd tangents through Rubik’s Cube themed internet videos and art installations. There’s a definite trajectory that can be traced through all of it though, and it becomes most apparent when you look at the last few years. The community aspects of Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and the DIY imagineering in The Science of Sleep mated to bring Be Kind Rewind into the world. like some of the projects that preceded it, Be Kind Rewind has evolved into much more than a feature film. Last February, Gondry worked with Deitch Projects to recreate the video store from the film in their gallery space, complete with a back lot with a number of movie sets, allowing visitors to create their own remake in the vein of the those in the film. He has now taken that mentality out of the movie, beyond the gallery, and (he hopes) into your backyard. This month, he published a manifesto of sorts, called You’ll Like This Film Because You’re In It: The Be Kind Rewind Protocol. It offers insight into Be Kind Rewind and the projects that came out of it, and also seeks to inspire people and communities to make their own movies, work together outside of the commercial world, and build a network of creativity. For more info, and a great interview, head over to Ain’t It Cool.

In The Realm of Oshima Moves On

Like an old friend that came for an extended visit, but left too soon, the In the Realm of Oshima series has moved on to the Harvard Film Archive (and several other North American stops), leaving us happy for having had the films here, but sad that they’re gone. We couldn’t have been more pleased […]

Nagisa Oshima

Like an old friend that came for an extended visit, but left too soon, the In the Realm of Oshima series has moved on to the Harvard Film Archive (and several other North American stops), leaving us happy for having had the films here, but sad that they’re gone.

We couldn’t have been more pleased with the series. Some of the prints were nothing short of sublime, the audiences were incredibly dedicated (There were several people that did not miss a single one of the 16 films!) and engaged, and the films provided a rare glimpse into the world one of the greatest filmmakers.

A number of writers picked up on the series, providing a running commentary on the films. Here are a few that have been on my radar:

I’m sure there are many more that haven’t crossed our desks here yet. We’d love to hear from other writers and some of the dedicated folks that spent so much of their November with us here in the Cinema. Please feel free to comment below and or link to your own blog posts on the Oshima series. There were so many incredible conversations that spilled out into the lobby after the screenings. We would love to see them continued here.

Forty Years Ago Today: Oshima in ‘68

Times of monumental change, such as the world observed last week, are enough to excuse anyone who hasn’t yet made it to the Walker for its retrospective of films by Japanese director Nagisa Oshima – himself no stranger to history in the making. Impressionably teenaged at the end of World War II and passionately engaged […]

Boy

Times of monumental change, such as the world observed last week, are enough to excuse anyone who hasn’t yet made it to the Walker for its retrospective of films by Japanese director Nagisa Oshima – himself no stranger to history in the making. Impressionably teenaged at the end of World War II and passionately engaged in student activism during the 1950s, the Japanese New Waver behind Cruel Story of Youth – fatherless since the age of six – spent the earthshaking year of 1968 with two films in release and another in production. Evincing Oshima’s radical energy in full flower, all three of these–Death by Hanging, Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, and Boy – remain difficult to see in the United States, and their screenings (in new 35mm prints, yet) lie just ahead in the Walker series. Thus latecomers to “In the Realm of Oshima” hardly need to worry that they’ve missed the highlights.

“Provocations directed at the spectators,” as Japanese critic Hideo Osabe aptly put it, Oshima’s films met the late ‘60s like Molotov cocktails hitting valued property. Death by Hanging, which the

Death By Hanging

Death By Hanging

director yanked from the ‘68 Cannes fest by way of greeting the French “events of May,” draws a hard line in its very first minute, with title cards that ask, “Do you support or oppose the death penalty?” and “You, the 71 percent [in favor of it], have you ever seen a public execution?” Hanging (November 16 at 2:00 p.m.), albeit a black-comic satire of forceful persuasion, gleefully gives its audience two hangings for the price of one. Diary (November 23 at 2:00 p.m.), hot off the press, uses the summer riots in Japan to contextualize the scorching sex between a young make-believe thief and the woman who pleasurably catches him in the act. Boy (November 12 at 7:30 p.m.), the one film of this trilogy in color, vividly observes the effects of criminality on the titular 10-year-old, whose parents “work” by faking public accidents and snatching up guilt money.

In these searing critiques of societal absurdity, the audience is made to appear accountable – along with corporations, the state, the nuclear family, and the characters’ animalistic hunger to capitalize on one another. Near the bitter end of Death by Hanging, the marked man – a Korean known only as “R” – comes to ask an essential question of his legal executioners: “What is a nation?” The answer is, uh, left hanging. Maybe the nation is only distinct from the individual for getting away with murder. Oshima’s stark, documentary-style tour of Death Row punctuates the narrative rituals of state execution – last supper, last cigarette, last words, et cetera–by way of exposing the fatal cruelties of convention. “R,” whatever his crimes, doesn’t stick to the script: Miraculously slipping out of the noose in the film’s first minutes, he appears heroic–or at least compared to his ethical army of assassins.

Diary of a Shinjuku Thief

Diary of a Shinjuku Thief

If Oshima has a definition of the word “responsibility,” it’s this: Break the rules. “Let’s steal something,” the lovers of Diary of a Shinjuku Thief decide early in the course of their film-long flirtation. The erotics of theft are foregrounded in this, a sexy movie that, aptly enough, steals from Bonnie and Clyde by way of Breathless. Yet, appearing almost apocalyptic at times, Oshima’s film is uniquely unsettling, not least through camerawork that’s severely shaky even by Dogme standards. In ’68, Oshima’s cinematographic flailing must’ve looked crazy–or else perfectly normal. Indeed, all of Earth seemed to be quaking simultaneously, as Diary acknowledges from the start, with title cards that spell out the exact times of day in New York, Paris, Tokyo, and other cities. Above it all is our hero, Birdey Hilltop(!), for whom chaos is mere foreplay. Whatever the would-be revolution succeeded in bringing to radicals, Oshima suggests, it at least added a smidgen of experimentalism into the sex lives of bourgeois types.

On the evidence of Boy, whose story Oshima ripped from the headlines, societal tumult may have given even the nuclear family license to act out. Stepping in front of cars, accusing the drivers of reckless endangerment, settling out of court, then going out to dinner in a nice restaurant: All in a day’s work for the middle-class clan of Boy. This, in ’68, is how radicalism trickles up the food chain – to settle as a placemat on Mom and Dad’s dining table? Or has conventionally well-off family life always been predicated on such deceitful exploitation? Both, right? And neither?

Nothing is black and white in Oshima’s films, not even the monochromatic ones. As if to make at least that much clear, the director periodically bleaches Boy‘s color in images of the family home, cutting within sequences between shots that match not at all. Leave it to Oshima, who grew up grieving his father, to strip the illusion of stability from the very complexion of Boy, a family movie like no other. Forty years on, this filmmaker’s style must appear even more revolutionary than it did in its own radical time.

arthouse filmmakers/arena rock style

I had seen a couple of these before, but our old pal Paul over at Eyeteeth, pointed me toward the source of some incredible t-shirts that meld the names of some of our favorite filmmakers (Even some Regis Honorees) with some of the most iconic rock, punk, and metal logos.

I had seen a couple of these before, but our old pal Paul over at Eyeteeth, pointed me toward the source of some incredible t-shirts that meld the names of some of our favorite filmmakers (Even some Regis Honorees) with some of the most iconic rock, punk, and metal logos.

Coming (very) soon: I’m Not There with Greil Marcus

An Evening with Greil Marcus featuring a screening of I’m Not There Saturday, November 1, 7 pm $8 ($6 Walker and IFP members) Cinema, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis “[Greil Marcus'] kind of creative imagination, and the way he’s converted his own medium into something you can’t even categorize, is something I do […]

An Evening with Greil Marcus featuring a screening of I’m Not There

Saturday, November 1, 7 pm

$8 ($6 Walker and IFP members)

Cinema, Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis

“[Greil Marcus'] kind of creative imagination, and the way he’s converted his own medium into something you can’t even categorize, is something I do feel inspired by, and something I hope I can do as a filmmaker.”-Todd Haynes

Renowned music writer Greil Marcus will introduce a screening of I’m Not There, Todd Haynes’ film inspired by the life of Bob Dylan and the work of Marcus, including his books The Old Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes and Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads. Following the screening, Marcus and film curator Sheryl Mousley will engage in conversation about the film and the life and work of Bob Dylan.

I’m Not There Film Description:

Inspired by the life of Bob Dylan, Todd Haynes’ stunning directorial achievement brings together six actors playing characters who craft a unique response to the elusive artist in different phases of his life, career, and persona. Cate Blanchett, in an Academy-Award nominated performance, and Christian Bale (the literal Dylan), Richard Gere (Dylan and Billy the Kid), Heath Ledger (an actor haunted by the legacy of Dylan), Marcus Carl Franklin (Dylan in Woody Guthrie mode), and Ben Whishaw (Rimbaud as Dylan) are set in the political and cultural reality of the era, and filmed in the cinematic styles of the 1960s. Award-winning I’m Not There is “a profoundly, movingly personal film, passionate in its engagement with the mysteries of the recent past.” (New York Times) 2007, 35mm, 135 minutes.

Greil Marcus Bio

“Greil Marcus’ work is very likely the most imaginative criticism being done, but it’s more than that: it’s a light in dark times.”-New York Magazine

In 1968, Greil Marcus began publishing criticism in Rolling Stone, becoming the magazine’s first record review editor. Best known for being a pop music critic, Marcus has also written extensively on literature, art movies, and politics in such publications as Artforum, Interview, the New York Times, Esquire, Salon.com, and Village Voice.

Marcus’s first book redefined rock criticism. Mystery Train: Images of America in Rock ‘n’ Roll Music (1975), was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism and is widely considered one of the finest and most scholarly studies of rock music ever published.

Other books authored by Marcus include: Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the 20th Century (1989); Dead Elvis: A Chronicle of A Cultural Obsession (1991); Ranters & Crowd Pleasers: Punk in Pop Music, 1997-1992 (1993); The Dustbin of History (1995); Invisible Republic: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes (1997); Double Trouble: Bill Clinton and Elvis Presley in a Land of No Alternatives (2000); The Manchurian Candidate (2002); and The Shape of Things to Come: Prophecy and the American Voice (2006).

Marcus served on the Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle Award (1983-1989). He has taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Princeton and the New School, has lectured throughout the United States and Europe, and is currently the Winton Chair Fellow at the University of Minnesota, teaching the seminar “The Old Weird America.”

Take our blog survey, win an iPod Shuffle

Every so often we like to take a survey of our readers to see what you think. Our last survey was in March of 2007, so it’s time for a new one. The questions are focused on the blogs and a little demographic information, which you can skip if you like. We’re sweetening the deal […]

Every so often we like to take a survey of our readers to see what you think. Our last survey was in March of 2007, so it’s time for a new one. The questions are focused on the blogs and a little demographic information, which you can skip if you like.

We’re sweetening the deal this time. If you take the survey, you can enter your name into the pool and we’ll select one person to win a 1GB iPod Shuffle.

Take the survey.



Photo by bluetsunami.

Sound Unseen 9

Some incredible and unique things happen in the twin cities, and the annual Sound Unseen film festival is among my favorites. A film festival dedicated to music movies (not to be confused with musicals) is right up my alley. The 9th iteration of the festival got underway last night with a pair of screenings at […]

Some incredible and unique things happen in the twin cities, and the annual Sound Unseen film festival is among my favorites. A film festival dedicated to music movies (not to be confused with musicals) is right up my alley. The 9th iteration of the festival got underway last night with a pair of screenings at the Riverview Theater. Tonight, the festival moves over to the St. Anthony Main theater, and there’s no shortage of excellent programming.

Here are a few recommendations:

Sonic Youth: Sleeping Nights Awake - I’ve been waiting for this one for quite a while, and finally caught up with it last night. It’s showing again this evening. It’s basically a SY concert film interspresed with interviews with the band. The project came out of a program in Reno, Nevada called Project Moonshine that basically teaches teens how to make moves. Sleeping Nights Awake was entirely shot by the kids in the program, and they put together a pretty great film. It caught up with the band on the Rather Ripped tour, and they sound fantastic. There’s an amazing performance of “Shaking Hell” that shouldn’t be missed.

Sigur Ros: Heima - If you’re a fan of the band, this one is a bit of a no-brainer. This documentary follows the band on a tour of their native Iceland in which they played free shows as a thank you to their homeland and fans. They set up in deserted factories, expansive fields, and
virtually anywhere they could be had. The music is sublime, and the film paints a beautiful portrait of the Iceland that roots Sigur Ros’ sound. It’s as much about the landscape as the music. It’s incredibly well done from all perspectives.

Low: You May Need a Murderer - I think I’ve seen three different docs on Low at this point, and this one is clearly the best. Low’s music is there, but the real interest here is that the filmmaker caught the normally introverted Alan Sparhawk at his most open and generous. It gets into the core of what Low’s music comes out of. Sparhawk offers insight to own battles with mental illness and addiction, and goes deeper into their family life and religion. Its honesty is refreshing and goes to really heartbreaking places.

Dead Man – This one’s not necessarily a music film, but the movie is forever connected to the score by Neil Young, thus fits in very nicely with the festival. That said, who cares. Any reason to bring this film back to a cinema screen is fine with me. It’s easily my favortite Jarmusch film, and the experience of seeing it projected on a big screen from a 35mm print is unparalelled. Do not miss this chance.

Rust Never Sleeps – Following Dead Man, this is an excellent second half to a rare Neil Young double feature. I was able to preview this print, what might be the only 35mm print left of this film, with Sound Unseen director Rick Hansen, and it’s a treat. They don’t make concert films (or live records) like this anymore, and it’s a shame. It captures a full Neil Young show from a stop on his 1978 tour. The set is half solo acoustic and half electric with Crazy Horse and features a crew of dancing jawa stagehands.

There are a bunch of other great programs as well. The festival covers a wide musical spectrum and offers something for everyone. Check it out, and support one of the most unique and innovative film festivals around.

In the Realm of Oshima–Clips and Trailers

Enjoy some sneak peeks of the upcoming retrospective, In the Realm of Oshima: The Films of Japanese Master Nagisa Oshima Boy (Shonen)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn0L_z02oXw[/youtube] Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun zankoku monogatari)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMynWmGTj3Q[/youtube] The Sun’s Burial (Taiyo no hakaba)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eRs5sCAjz4[/youtube] In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no corrida)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RGxCEh8lwA[/youtube] Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Furyo)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JTroFovUXw[/youtube] Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Shinjuku […]

Enjoy some sneak peeks of the upcoming retrospective, In the Realm of Oshima: The Films of Japanese Master Nagisa Oshima

Boy (Shonen)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn0L_z02oXw[/youtube]

Cruel Story of Youth (Seishun zankoku monogatari)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMynWmGTj3Q[/youtube]

The Sun’s Burial (Taiyo no hakaba)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eRs5sCAjz4[/youtube]

In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no corrida)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RGxCEh8lwA[/youtube]

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (Furyo)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JTroFovUXw[/youtube]

Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Shinjuku dorobo nikki)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYWIoebPd4E[/youtube]

Violence At Noon (Hakuchu no torima)[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUjTMMNBiLY[/youtube]

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