Monday, May 21, 2018

Margot Kidder, A Brief Memorial

There are a lot of "Lois Lanes" out there, seven by my count and the numbers will likely rise going forward. But Margot Kidder was the "You've Come A Long Way Baby" Lois Lane, career-centered, liberated, a achiever on her way to achieving more until Superman alighted on her penthouse rooftop (what city beat reporter could afford a penthouse in 1978??? Kidder was the envy of every newsroom from San Diego to Bangor on those grounds alone). If you ever get a chance, check out the audition tapes on the "Superman the Movie" Deluxe DVD, Kidder never smirks or condescends to the material, she knows exactly where the line is between wit and toneless camp, she never steps over it. You can see instantly why she got the part (although clearly Stockard Channing made it a tight camel race to the end), Kidder threw down her endless aces effortlessly...aspiring actresses should watch Kidder's auditions there is plenty to be learned therein. In the end, Margot Kidder was a leather lunged scrapper, she happily entered into a tacit three way alliance with Superman Director Richard Donner and her costar Chris Reeve to prevent said movie from degenerating into a Campy Burlesque, and their efforts paid off. Would to God those three ever got a script they could all invest themselves in...that would've been a Supermanfor all times. She had her challenges, psychiatric, financial,marital...like a lot of actors that did comic book movies back in the day it was certainly not the sort of resume builder that would get her up on the "A-List", but she worked and worked, and when necessary she signed autographs for money at conventions. I once saw her from a distance at a convention a few years ago, she seemed alert, lively & interested in everything, clearly she had gotten the help she needed. If anyone deserved to die peacefully and painlessly even if all too soon, it was Margot Kidder.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Proof Positive that the Somerville Theatre is Doing the Lord's Work...

lies in the fact that they are still screening "The Death of Stalin" AND Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs", varied films to be sure, but two out of my top ten for 2018 to be sure. Of course, Channel Zero (that redoubtable film and video franchise, now in it's improbable twenty third year) has all sorts priors with The Soviet Union's Premiere Genocidal Uber Tyrant.... Over at the Coolidge Corner we screened the documentary "I Was Stalin's Bodyguard" to a sold out audience, and later on at the Somerville Theater we screened the CPSU's official "obituary propaganda movie" "History's Great Loss" which is literally the last gasp of "High Stalinism" over the leader's corpse. It also features selections of the politburo's eulogies which were in turn recreated in the current film. And yes Lavrenty Beria really did look like Boris Badenoff up there on Lenin's Tomb.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Channel Zero Proudly Presents: "Smile Til It Hurts; The Up With People Story" (2009)

Director Lee Storey examines the story of the music group “Up With People”, that relentlessly Upbeat Singing Bulwark of TV Variety Shows in the 1960’s, & 70’s. Seemingly perpetually “On Tour” for Decades this Peppy Youth Choir was embraced by everyone from Billy Graham to Richard Nixon & was a Super Bowl Half-Time Mainstay! But behind the scenes, cult-like conditions are alleged!! Arranged Marriages!, Bumptious evangelical "moral rearmament", Shady Corporates Sponsors & Weird Politics! See the documentary that dares to tell the whole truth behind “Up With People”! The Somerville Theatre (Micro Cinema) Friday May 4th
 8pm (sharp!) 
55 Davis Square Somerville Ma
 617 625 5700
 Admission: $8.50 (cash only, tickets on sale thirty minutes before showtime in front of the downstairs micro-cinema) One Night Only, A Full Cinema Experience! If there was a musical vaccine for youth rebellion in the 1960's, it was "Up With People", this is a story worth seeing!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

It did my heart good to sit with a sold out audience

at the 7pm screening of "Isle of Dogs" last night @ the Somerville Theatre. I loved this movie...and I'm a tough sell on "Dog Movies", maybe its the faux stop motion animation, or the improbable all star cast, or director We Anderson's weird mixture of magic realism & Karel Zeman. Ah Karel Zeman, a filmmaker of the first rank, literally Communist Czechoslovakia's answer to Walt Disney, Dr, Suess & Ray Harryhausen all in one go! I am convinced with his emphasis on "radical unrealism" that Wes Anderson has screened such uber rare Zeman films as "The Stolen Airship" & "Off on a Comet" (both based on works by Jules Verne) wherein live action was incorporated with animation derived from the original illustrations. Someday Channel Zero will screen one of those obscure Karel Zeman science fiction titles, we won't sell many tickets, but it is a truism among us that the necessity to screen certain films is in no way conditioned by the potential audience. Wes Anderson doesn't have that problem a humorist, a stylist, an artist perfectly unafraid to make a "dog movie" and at least last night sold a shit ton of tickets as well....

Sunday, March 04, 2018

2018 Oscar Predictions (last minute and incomplete)

Best Actor: Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour". Lacking any limey disease porn from Eddie Redmayne, this immersive impersonation of Britain's Wartime PM will have to do. It'd be tantamount to treason for the Academy's Famously United British Block of Voters to go anywhere else. The only counter scenario in play is a split in that block between Oldman and Daniel Day Lewis in "Phantom Thread" but so far that "BritBlock" has never split and likely won't with A Winston Churchill In Play. Just remember, this is a great historic impersonation, but so was Woody Harrelson in "L.B.J" and Woody is likely watching the broadcast from home tonight. Best Actress: Margot Robbie, this is personal prejudice on my part, Robbie made a champion catastrophe like Tonya Harding completely sympathetic to me, that is the essence of acting IMHO. Sally Hawkins may pull off an upset, but she was working mute in the world's first Kalju-Human Interspecies Love Story...that strikes me as a reach for the Academy. Frances McDormand has an outside shot but it's more on grounds of her overall "body of work" to date than anything else. Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer in "All The Money in the World", this is "Academy Politics" at work, voting for Plummer rebukes neatly the gruesome sexual escapades allegedly perpetrated by the film's original star Kevin Spacey. Moreover, Plummer is past eighty years of age, and reshot all those scenes in under six weeks...for stamina alone he deserves the Oscar. Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney in "I, Tonya"...As good as Robbie's Tonya Harding is, the film reaches Grand Guignol like levels of nastiness whenever Allison Janney's "Skate Mom from Hell" heaves onto the Screen....Besides when is she ever gonna be in that room again? Best Picture: This one is tough, but I am thinking "Darkest Hour", that BritBlock is pretty hardcore, they could again split their vote with "Dunkirk", but the performances in that film were more akin to neorealism, no other acting nominations were derived from it. Thus I think the race may actually be between "Darkest Hour" & "“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, the latter being more of a "message movie" suited to Academy Prejudices. "Get Out" is "The Stepford Wives" for African Americans, and as such will likely fall afoul of the Academy's default resistance of horror-sic-fi-fantasy driven material, something that will likely keep Sally Hawkins and Daniel Kaluuya off the podium entirely.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Apropos of this week's screening of "The Siege of the Alcazar" (1940)

but its almost a cliche' to note that the salient single factor that seems to unite all the 20th century's "A-List" tyrants is a manic obsession with...movies. You name em' Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Mao...all had a imbedded notion that movies could "form opinions" in the audience's collective mind thus encouraging certain desired behaviors and deterring undesirable activities. Propaganda as defined by Jacques Ellul is a species of cost effective police supervision based on a sound theory that if the flow of facts & news to the masses is thoroughly controlled, then attitude formation can be achieved thru an atmosphere of exclusivity. The one thing that unites, all the Marxists, Fascists & Nationalists cited above is a common sociological notion of the masses as uncritical "Receivers"of state sponsored propaganda. This is pretty much Jacques Ellul's formulation but it has a hidden flaw only regimes at the height of their powers can make successful propaganda, declining regimes wracked by economic issues & foreign policy disasters can never make useful propaganda, the tide of factuality has "come in" so to speak and is washing them away. And so in the mid 20th Century the newest shiniest art form was cinema, Lenin, Hitler Stalin (the latter two watched a film every day when they could) all of them were wild about movies and also absolutely convinced that thru movies, were the masses ruled. Hitler put Leni Riefenstahl on the map, Stalin was so taken with the movies that he laid down a patently insane decree after World War Two that "All" Soviet Films must be "Epic in scope". Mao Zedong wrote unsigned movie criticism for the "People's Daily"that succeeded in getting a classic film called "The Life of Wu Xun (1950)banned for thirty five years & Mussolini rebuilt Italy's film plant while his appalling son Vittorio acted as patron to a gaggle of future Italian Neorealist filmmakers. There is a funny thing about tyrants, they demand orthodoxy, and complete obedience but they are also willing to sponsor stylistic innovations in cinema, Eisenstein, Riefenstahl and Vittorio Mussolini's pet neorealist. As I said, "obsessed" in all these despots there is more than a little "thwarted movie producer" present. "The Siege of the Alcazar"(1940) is therefore political hype work, Mussolini wanted war, only by choosing the right side in a General European War could he hope to grab off millions of square miles in North African Colonies at the Conference Table. That was his real goal in 1940, control of the Mediterranean freedom from the guns of the Royal Navy, both huge gambles, sufficient even to make the most cowed populace quail. The solution was simple, crank up the grievance machine, hype Italy's status as an underdog in Europe and build up the Marxist menace. All this was vitally necessary as the Italian Masses were completely war weary from a campaign of "pacification" in Libya, to the conquest of Ethiopia down to their intervention in support of Franco in Spain. In 1940 Italy was already militarily spent even before the war declarations, situations like this cry out for the intervention of propaganda...hence our next film. So please tell your friends, as once again Channel Zero has gone to a very obscure film title for what we think are very sound reasons. “The Siege of the Alcazar” (1940) Directed by Augusto Genina The Somerville Theatre (micro cinema) Friday February 23rd
 8pm (sharp!)
 55 Davis Square Somerville Ma
 617 625 5700
 Admission: $7.50 (cash only, tickets on sale thirty minutes before showtime in front of the MicroCinema)

Monday, January 29, 2018

"The Siege of the Alcazar " (1940)

a seminal work of Italian Fascist Propaganda is Channel Zero's inaugural screening for 2018 Next Month, Friday February 23rd.... We hear a lot of talk about authoritarianism being on the march out there, so Channel Zero thought it instructive to screen an authentic example of film propaganda from the 20th Century's First True Totalitarian Regime, Mussolini's Fascist Italy. Here the regime seeks to hype a skeptical population on the need for "Fascist Solidarity" with Franco's Dictatorship in Spain, depicting the seventy day defense of the Alcazar Arsenal in Toledo by Nationalist Troops against the "Republican Hordes". Director Augusto Genina's style could be summed up as "documentary fiction", he seamlessly dresses up a real event in the early days of the Spanish Civil War with real & amateur actors, facts are interwoven with pure dramatic invention, plain people are very much in the historic spotlight, the earliest flicker of the neorealist school can be discerned. Roberto Rossellini made a close study of "L'Assedio dell'Alcazar" in the lead up to his own directorial efforts on behalf of the Fascist regime, Michelangelo Antonioni LOVED "The Siege of the Alcazar", praising it's innovative technique to the high heavens in "Cinema" magazine (a film journal that was a veritable neorealist "petri dish" under the overt patronage of Vittorio Mussolini, the Duce's semi barbarous oldest son). It can therefore be inferred that that there was a certain amount of cinematic experimentation going on in Italy in the 1937 thru 1943 period. This was ongoing, even as the Regime started investing in "positive propaganda films" designed to persuade an already war-weary Italy on the vast territorial gains to be wrung from an aggressive European conquest at Hitler's side. The film experimenters of the 1937 - 1943 period in Italy one and all shed their fascist regalia and became some of the biggest names in Italian Cinema after the war...almost none were proscribed or disbarred from filmmaking after the war. "The Siege of the Alcazar " remains an interesting testimonial to the contradictions of the time, a stylistic advancement in many ways, but also a film itself dedicated celebrating fascist violence, grievance politics & the Cult of the Leader. Jacques Ellul teaches us that propaganda has many functions, implantation and perpetuation of certain ideas, cost effective attitude policing, both persuasion & dissuasion, "L'Assedio dell'Alcazar" is an example of an "idea replicator"summarizing the regime's own restrictive view of the Spanish Civil War (where Mussolini would ultimately commit seventy five thousand troops to fight for Franco)and the vision for a future that could be won only thru aggression & violence. The Somerville Theatre (micro cinema) Friday February 23rd
8pm (sharp!) 
55 Davis Square Somerville Ma
 617 625 5700
 Admission: $7.50 (cash only) Tickets go in sale thirty minutes before showtime in front of the micro-cinema.