Light Industry launched a campaign to raise funds to program their fall lineup. Donate at least $10 and receive passes for you and a guest to one of their upcoming events. So far, the Tuesday night events look promising. Already announced are the following events:
The weather in New York right now is very hot— the temperature has reached the mid-90°s on Tuesday and will continue through Thursday. And although it seems like I should be packing for the beach, the fall semester is upon us. This semester, I am teaching two classes: one at Queens College and one at Pratt Institute.
This class acts like a sequel for Media Technologies, where we survey various media forms. However, this class sets aside the mechanics and the history and instead focuses on the how contemporary media industries function. One theme that I hope to address throughout the term and across all the modules is digitalization and how that changes what we mean by “media.” It’s not like the record industry sells records, that people read newspapers on newsprint, and that television programs are necessarily watched on televisions.
This is the first time I’ve taught this class. When I was a cinema studies graduate student at NYU, I always wanted to teach a documentary film survey. Most of the classes that graduate students did were very narrowly focused—often closely related to his/her dissertation. I felt that this was a disservice to both undergraduates taking these class and the graduate students teaching them. It was unfair to undergraduates because they didn’t get a good foundation in cinema studies. And it was bad for us budding teachers because we didn’t get to develop classes that might be useful to teach after we graduated, especially if we didn’t get hired by a big film program.
Like a decade-and-a-half later, I finally get to do a survey of documentary film. However, as I’ve been working on this class, I can see why it’s tempting to avoid surveys. There is so much material to exclude. I literally have to prune my list of ninety-plus films to about twenty. I would feel a lot less guilty teaching a class like “Binging Truth: Documentary Films in the Netflix Age,” “Beyond the Interrotron: The Films of Errol Morris,” “WPA, FDR, and NYFPL: Interwar American Documentary and the New Deal.”
I remember an NYU professor teaching a whole semester’s seminar on the Hitchcock film Vertigo. Can you imagine how deep you could get with a topic like that? My class however is breadth over depth.
As I get older, I forget about some of the things I’ve done that not many others have. Case in point: I took two pornographic film classes as part of the my film studies curriculum.
The first was as an undergraduate at UCSB that was taught by Constance Penley, who Rolling Stone called a notorious professor in 1998. By the time I took the class, it had been taught several times and was not the hot-topic around campus as much as it was when it was first offered. Nonetheless, Penley ran the class as an historical survey of pornographic film, no different than any other professor would teach a survey of animation, documentary, or French cinema.
The second class was as graduate student at NYU, although our instructors were a bit sly about the subject matter of the class. They called it Explicitly Independent, insisting that we were studying experimental, independent film that pushed the boundaries of representing sexuality. This class was not meant as a broad survey of explicit film, as my undergraduate class was, but instead was meant to address a number of topics that our instructors were studying.
Both classes made clear a couple of facts about pornographic film:
it has been around a long time: about as long as motion pictures themselves have been around.
more people consume pornography than you think: it’s pretty much close to 100% of film viewers.
a stylistic history of pornography tracks closely to the stylistic history of cinema at large: the golden age of pornographic film is in the 1970s, which is the same decade as the golden age of New Hollywood.
Light Industry is presenting nine short films on Tuesday, February 20, beginning at 7:30 PM: a program they call The Smoker: A Brief History of the Stag Film. The term “smoker” refers to the smoke-filled rooms where men—and only men—would watch sex on film as part of some weird homosocial ritual to prove that each guy wasn’t “a homo.” If you ever wondered what your grandfather did with his buddies at an Elks Lodge meeting on a Saturday night, it was probably watching these films.
As someone who watched a lot of these kinds of films with an audience that isn’t there for sexual gratification, I will tell you will initially feel a bit awkward when you recognize the situation of watching porn while sitting next to strangers.
Light Industry seems to recognize this. They will screen the films silent in the spirit of historically accuracy. It was common for men to hoot-and-holler while these films played, and indeed, Light Industry’s website notes “in the spirit of smokers past, we encourage attendees to provide their own soundtracks.”
I would go a step further and encourage you to provide your own beverage, too. But, remember that this is the twenty-first century: there no smoking during these smokers.
Venerable repertory film theater Film Forum has been operating in New York since 1970. That’s no small feat when you consider the various challenges such an institution faces, including new technologies—from VHS to streaming—that compete for cinephiles’ attention and the commercial real estate market in New York, where the life of a business is largely determined by the length of its lease. As an example of the latter, two movie theaters closed last month in Manhattan because the landlords did not renew their leases: the Landmark Sunshine will be demolished and converted to office space, and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas will undergo some kind of structural renovation to the building—and may again house a movie theater.
Film Forum’s Director of Publicity, Adam Walker, gave a presentation in Utah at Art House Convergence, a gathering of film distributors and exhibitors, about the history of Film Forum. Film Forum posted the presentation on their website The presentation describes several milestones: the various moves that Film Forum undertook that culminated in their current home on West Houston Street, their expansion from one screen to two screen and ultimately to three screens, and the addition of personnel that has shaped their history. The presentation also explains why you often have to sit behind a column when watching a movie there and the origins of their distinct printed calendars.
If you prefer experiencing the presentation in a slideshow format, you can also see it as a slideshow on Indiewire’s website.
Spoiler alert: There was one happy note at the end of the presentation that I am happy to relay. Film Forum recently extended their lease to 2035. This means they’ll likely be around for another generation. And because of this newfound security, they have begun renovating their current space and plan to open a fourth screen.
The “Internet” gets riled up about a few things from time-to-time that, in the great scheme of things, don’t really matter. Earlier this month, the Internet got mad that Netflix was apparently closely examining its customers’ viewing patterns to produce this tweet:
To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
While I appreciate the point that @xor makes by reminding us that our VCRs and record players didn’t make fun of us, allow me to remind all these analog dweebs what it was like to visit a video store or a record store. Part of me dreaded visiting these kinds of stores because of the clerks who worked there, passing judgement on what I movie I was renting or what CD I was buying.
Perhaps, I should have been less self-conscious and been proud of my cultural choices. Or maybe were it not for those clerks, I would not have curated my hipster tastes more carefully.
Nonetheless, when I first got on the Internet and bought a CD through CDNow in 1995, I really liked this experience because…
the selection was much more diverse than what I could find at a local music shop, or what Chris Anderson refers to as the “long tail.”
there was an impersonal anonimity in that I could buy whatever I wanted
I don’t remember what I bought and if it was all that embarrassing, but I seem to recall that I was programming a radio show on KCSB at the time, which likely meant it was something hard-to-find in the Santa Barbara–area.
To be sure, I know that my personal preferences, listening and viewing data, and my shopping habits are all tracked by a multitude of companies. However, I also don’t remember those algorithms making fun of me whenever I brought something to the counter. And, as far as I know, no algorithm ever its friends that I would see around town about what I music or movies I like.
Finally, the whole Internet backlash against Netflix might have been overblown. I heard one theory that the @netflix social media team just might have fabricated that fifty-three people had watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past two weeks.
If that’s the case, it’s not creepy, it’s comedy.
However, Swarm/Foursquare did something similar and reported on some extraordinary streaks that its users have made.
Given that Swarm/Foursquare offers almost no benefit other than reporting check-ins, I would avoid annoying its users, lest they feel they’re being judged for liking donuts and sandwiches.
UnionDocs, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn–based center for documentary video production, is looking for interns who work in “some aspect” of film and video: curation, production, or film theory. Interns help with realizing UnionDoc’s mission to foster nonfiction media, programming, events, production, and storytelling.
Interns would have responsibilities that including:
It’s been a while since I’ve linked to an event at Brooklyn’s Light Industry. That’s partly because I don’t live within a two-minute walk, and I have an evening class on Tuesday nights, which is when their events are usually scheduled. If I can’t attend, how can I reasonably expect you to attend?
But this coming Tuesday, October 17, there’s a pretty special event. Celebrated film critic J. Hoberman will be at Light Industry to present three World War II-era film in a program titled “Against Riefenstahl.”
The first film is an abridged version of Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 cinematic love-letter to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis as they consolidated power in Germany. The notes on the website detail how the film reached the attention of American film viewers, including Iris Barry, the first film curator at the Museum of Modern Art. The films that Barry curated are considered the first canonical works of film scholarship. MoMA edited a 45-minute version—a kind of “documentary of the film itself”—that circulated throughout the US in the 1940s.
The film apparently caught the attention of Hollywood film director Frank Capra. According to the screening notes, Capra regarded the edited version of Triumph as the “most impressive propaganda movie he had ever encountered,” incorporating material from the film in his own Why We Fight? series of propaganda films made for the US military between 1942 and 1945 to train newly enlisted and drafted US soldiers.
The film also caught the attention of Charles Ridley, of the British Ministry of Information, who edited a print from the British Film Institute to create a satirical look at Hitler and the Nazis: The Lambeth Walk (1940). This short film that includes and manipulates segments from Triumph and sets it to a song from the time to create a humorous “dance” film, where Hitler and Nazi soldiers appear to “dance” the Lambeth Walk, a popular dance of the time. Having screened this film in class several times, the films retains its sharp comedic and critical bite, nearly eighty years after it was made.
The program will look at these three “derivative works” created from one of the most notorious films ever made: an extremely beautiful and well-made film that celebrates the most evil and murderous regimes in history.
As one of the most celebrated and prolific American experimental filmmakers Brakhage not only understood how to technically make films, he had a deep philosophical understanding on what he wanted to with filmmaking. Metaphors on Vision is the manifesto that explains the lyrical and profoundly personal filmmaking that Brakhage created throughout his life.
Republished by Anthology Film Archives and Brooklyn’s Light Industry, two institutions that I have often reference on this site and respect greatly, the new edition features the original book design by George Maciunas and many corrections and revisions overseen by renown film scholar P. Adams Sitney.
Anthology Film Archives is arguably one of the most important institutions for film in New York City, and with the back-to-school season upon us, Anthology Film Archives is offering a substantial discount on one book relevant to their mission as a home of experimental and avant-garde cinema.New and renewing members can purchase one of the following four books at a 50% discount:
Adolfas Mekas’s The Adolfas Diaries, Books 1 & Book 2 (now just $22 for both)
Support Anthology Film Archives, get free admission to Essential Cinema screenings, and enjoy discounted tickets to all screenings by becoming a member. Regular memberships start at $70 and student/senior membership cost $50. Also, student members will receive two bonus months of membership for free.
The folks at UnionDocs is offering a three-day intensive workshop on the essay film, called A Letter to the World: Experiments in Essay Filmmaking, between September 8 and 10, to enable artists to articulate their ideas and explore new methodologies in crafting their work. The workshop will be led by filmmaker Lynne Sachs and will feature guest instructors Alan Berliner, Akosua Adoma Owusu and Roger Beebe, with scholars Timothy Corrigan and Nora M. Alter, co-authors of the book Essays on the Essay Film.
The workshop is open to filmmakers, students, artists, scholars, etc.
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