Monday, September 19, 2022

Sorry to Bother You (USA: Boots Riley, 2018)

 





Sorry to Bother You (USA: Boots Riley, 2018: 105 mins)

Abdurraqib, Hanif. "Blackklansman and the Art of Code Switching." Pacific Standard (August 20, 2018) ["Beyond tics in dialect, code-switching often requires a shift in ideology."]

Anderson, Katherine J. "On the Absurdity of Ethical Capitalism." Public Books (May 3, 2019) ["Some critics have categorized Riley’s film as “over-the-top-madness,” deciding that it devolves into the “preposterous” despite its strong start. What it shows us, though, is fundamentally real. The problem, as ever, is whose life gets to count as real, and whose does not. In the same way the Western literary canon defined “realism” as a tidy linear narrative about everyday middle-class white life, and dismissed the stories that didn’t fit that narrative as something else—magical realism (postcolonial literature), Afrofuturism, multiethnic literature, and so on—some have characterized this film as absurd, in the sense of “ridiculously unreasonable” or “extremely silly.” What many others have rightly noted, however, is that Sorry to Bother You should be considered in the tradition of absurdist fiction, which depicts the world as having no rational or orderly relationship to human life, often through satire. That is, though Riley’s film relies on an absurdist aesthetic, its relationship to human life is entirely rational, because it narrates the precarious reality of certain lives as a logical and very real extension of Western capitalist history."]

Archer, Ina Diane and Nicolas Rapold. "Sorry to Bother You." Film Comment Podcast (July 4, 2018) ["'Audiences will enjoy Sorry to Bother You in one go, but the film invites and can stand up to multiple viewings, in much the same way that complex rap lyrics benefit from repeated plays and familiarity gained from memorization,' Ina Diane Archer writes in our July/August issue. “Boots Riley is, by his own definition, a storyteller—a socially conscious, political artist, communist, proud Oaklander, and the beloved front man of The Coup.” Riley’s scabrous satire tracks a telemarketer (Lakeith Stanfield) on the rise in a company engaged in some nefarious labor practices that bring corporate malfeasance into a surreal realm. For our latest episode of The Film Comment Podcast, Archer joined me in a discussion of the feature and the many layers she unpacks in her essay."]

Benton, Michael Dean. "Sorry to Bother You." Letterboxd (July 28, 2018)

Chang, Justin. "Boots Riley’s ‘Sorry to Bother You’ is an arrestingly surreal satire on class rage and cultural identity." Los Angeles Times (July 5, 2018)

Cummings, Janae and Jon Vickers. "Boots Riley Interview." Profiles (December 23, 2018) ["Mobilizer, instigator, and artist Boots Riley is a prolific poet, singer, songwriter, producer, humorist, and screenwriter. He is a director of films, music videos, and television. He is also a community organizer and public speaker who weaves his social activism and engagement into all of his creative work. Never afraid to speak his mind, or even to challenge his heroes, Boots Riley found politics and activism at the age of fourteen. He is heavily involved in the Occupy Oakland movement, and is one of the leaders of the activist group, The Young Comrades. His directorial debut, Sorry to Bother You, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2018, and opened in theaters nationwide in July. Boots Riley has also been recording hip-hop and funk music for over 25 years as the songwriter and lead singer of the bands The Coup, and Street Sweeper Social Club. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed collection of his writings and lyrics, called Tell Homeland Security-We Are the Bomb."]

Enzo and Eve. "Wakanda Deferred." Hammer & Camera #16 (July 12, 2019) ["Enzo and Eve of the Marxist "propaganda circle" Unity & Struggle to discuss their article, "Black on Both Sides: Grappling with BLM in Movies", and to review the past year of Black cinema. Among the films discussed are Black Panther, Blackkklansman, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, and Us."]

Goldberg, Michelle. "Pop Culture Gets Radical: Sorry to Bother You and Dietland offer something we need at this moment." The New York Times (July 27, 2018)

Gray, Briahna. "You Say You Want a Revolution? The Anti-Capitalist Film Sorry to Bother You Shows the Way." The Intercept (July 25, 2018)

Hudson, David. "Sundance 2018: Boots Riley's Sorry to Bother You." The Current (January 24, 2018)

Kelley, Robin D.G. "Sorry, Not Sorry." Boston Review (September 13, 2018)

Koski, Genevieve, et al. "Sorry to Bother You / Putney Swope (1969), Pt. 1" The Next Picture Show #138 (July 24, 2018) ["Rapper-director Boots Riley has said he hadn’t seen Robert Downey Sr.’s 1969 satirical comedy Putney Swope when he made the buzzy new Sorry to Bother Your, but the films share so much on both a surface level (white men providing the literal voices of black characters) and deeper thematic ones (concerns about capitalism, race, and what it might take to burn down an unjust system) that we had to put them in conversation with each other. In this half, we try to make sense of the fascinating mess that is Putney Swope, considering how it works as both satire and comedy, and whether Downey’s choice to overdub his black title character’s voice with his own is an asset or a liability."]

---. Sorry To Bother You / Putney Swope (1969), Pt. 2" The Next Picture Show #139 (July 31, 2018) ["As with Robert Downey Sr.’s 1969 satirical oddity Putney Swope, there’s a lot going on in Boots Riley’s new Sorry to Bother You, which takes a similar anything-goes approach to the intersection of race and capitalism. In the second part of our “white voice” double feature, we dig into the anti-capitalist philosophy that unites Riley’s work and keeps Sorry to Bother You on the rails, then we look at how the two films compare in their views of race and capitalism, and their use of satire and surrealism."]

Mooney, Shannon. "Sticking to the Script: Constructions of Sonic Whiteness in Get Out and Sorry to Bother You." Supernatural Studies 7.2 (131-154) ["This article places Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) into conversation with Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You (2018) in order to explore how both films represent whiteness as a penetrative sonic force that can be both heard and recognized. I explore how these two films challenge the popular notion that whiteness, unlike Blackness, is an empty and neutral signifier; instead, these films present whiteness as a racial category that possesses distinct sonic registers. Through their engagements with neoslavery, minstrelsy, and racial passing, these films parody the ways that Blackness has become socially and culturally constructed as “sounding” a certain way, and instead depict whiteness as something that can be aurally recognized and imitated. Through probing at their constructions of sonic whiteness, both Get Out and Sorry to Bother You problematize how popular audiences have been trained to hear (as well as see) race and respond to a longer history of the racialization of sound."]

Phillips, Maya. "Sorry to Bother You and the New Black Surrealism." Slate (July 18, 2018) ["Like Get Out and Atlanta, Boots Riley’s gonzo satire realizes the best way to depict black people’s reality is to depart from it."]

Questlove and Boots Riley. "Sorry to Bother You." The Film Comment Podcast (July 18, 2018) ["Boots Riley, director of the mind-altering new film Sorry to Bother You, and special guest Questlove at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. “All art is political,” said Riley, who detailed the genesis of the movie’s surreal Marxist story of a African-American telemarketer, and traded stories with Questlove about the nitty-gritty of the creative process."]

Rebanal, Jamie. "Sorry to Bother You." Letterboxd (July 13, 2018)

Riley, Boots. "Boots Riley on His Anti-Capitalist Film Sorry to Bother You, the Power of Strikes & Class Struggle." Democracy Now (September 3, 2018) ["In a Labor Day special, we air an extended conversation with Boots Riley, writer and director of “Sorry to Bother You,” his new film about an evil telemarketing company, a corporation making millions off of slave labor, and one Oakland man at the center of it all who discovers a secret that threatens all of humankind. His dystopian social satire is being hailed as one of the best movies of the summer. Riley is a poet, rapper, songwriter, producer, screenwriter, humorist, political organizer, community activist, lecturer and public speaker—best known as the lead vocalist of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club."]

---. "On Sorry to Bother You and Communism." The Dig (August 9, 2018) ["Sorry to Bother You is a hilarious film about the dead serious shitiness of life under neoliberalism's flexibilized and precarious labor regime, a system teetering upon a thin line between free labor exploitation and a form of expropriation reminiscent of full-on slave labor—all at the mercy of the thinly-veiled barbarity of Palo Alto-style techno-utopianism. It's about how capitalist society divides and conquers friends and family to claim not only our obedience but also our very souls, and about how the task of left organizing is to see through that game and fight together. Dan's guest today is Boots Riley, who wrote and directed the film and also fronts the left-wing hip hop group The Coup."]

Sweedler, Milo. "Art, activism, sales calls, and slave labor: Dialectics in Sorry to Bother You." Jump Cut #61 (Fall 2022) ["Boots Riley’s debut film, Sorry to Bother You (2018), is one of the great anti-capitalist films of the early twenty-first century. Although Riley characterizes the movie as “an absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction,” which it is, the film also provides one of the most clear-sighted accounts of grassroots class struggle to appear in mainstream North American narrative cinema in decades (“Beautiful Clutter”). As witty, playful, and delightfully quirky as it is, Riley’s tale of an ethically compromised telemarketer, his artist-activist girlfriend, and the labor organizer that unionizes their workplace sheds brilliant light on the class struggle today. I analyze here two different kinds of dialectics that Riley uses in telling his story of class conflict in an alternate present-day Oakland, California. One the one hand, a narrative technique used repeatedly in the film is dialectical in the Ancient Greek sense of staging a debate between interlocutors holding different points of view. On the other hand, numerous scenes in the film set up a contradiction that the movie momentarily resolves, often in unexpected ways, before introducing a new element that complicates the resolved contradiction. If, as Karl Marx argued more than 150 years ago, “What constitutes dialectical movement is the coexistence of two contradictory sides, their conflict and their fusion,” Sorry to Bother You is dialectical in this way, too (Poverty of Philosophy 108). This article examines how these two dialectics shape Riley’s class-conscious film."]

Tiffany, Kaitlyn. "Sorry to Bother You gets everything right about the horrors of viral fame." The Verge (July 24, 2018) ["It’s a radical statement about capitalism and the internet long before the big twists hit."]










Saturday, September 17, 2022

Film Studies Resources: September 17, 2022

Almaric, Matthieu and Vicky Kreps. "Hold Me Tight." Film At Lincoln Center Podcast (September 8, 2022) ["Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread, Bergman Island) gives another riveting performance as Clarisse, a woman on the run from her family for reasons that aren’t immediately clear. Widely renowned as an actor but less well-known here for his equally impressive work behind the camera, Mathieu Amalric’s sixth feature directorial outing—his most ambitious to date—is a virtuosic, daringly fluid portrait of one woman’s fractured psyche. Alternating between Clarisse’s adventures on the road and her abandoned husband Marc (Arieh Worthalter) as he struggles to take care of their children at home, Amalric’s film keeps viewers uncertain as to the reality of what they’re seeing until the final moments of this richly rewarding, moving, and unpredictable portrait of grief."]

Borden, Carol. "Flux Gourmet (UK 2022)." Monstrous Industry (September 13, 2022) ["Flux Gourmet contains many of Strickland’s pre-occupations: the creation of art; presenting one’s work to an audience; the line between popular art and fine / avant garde art; attempting to access senses that are hard to access through film–here, smell, taste, and a somatic sense of gastric pressure; “Eurosleaze” and “Eurotrash” film, including a nice reference to Danger: Diabolik (1968); almost operatic fashion; and, of course, soundscapes and sound design. It’s all presented in Strickland’s lush, polished visuals; warm, saturated colors; and deep, mesmerizing sound design much of which is created by Strickland’s Sonic Catering Band."]

Crim, Brian and Lia Paradis. "Who Can You Trust?" New Books in Popular Culture (September 7, 2022) ["Can you imagine living in a society that is ostensibly a democracy but secret forces are working behind the scenes to manipulate events? What if our intelligence agencies run amok with no oversight? What if the president is a criminal and would do anything to stay in power? These sound like current events, but they were major preoccupations during the 1970s in the wake of Watergate and congressional hearings about CIA and FBI abuses. Hollywood responded by dramatizing the unfettered power of what some like to call “the deep state” in three films we cover this episode - The Parallax View (1974), The Three Days of the Condor (1975), and All The President’s Men (1976). Each features protagonists unraveling conspiracies at the heart of our national security state, but is exposing the truth enough?"]

Kiang, Jessica. "TÁR: a sly, scabrous symphony." (September 2, 2022) ["Cate Blanchett is mesmerising as a monstrous orchestra conductor in Todd Field’s latest masterpiece, one of the most grippingly brilliant films of the year."]

Mooney, Shannon. "Sticking to the Script: Constructions of Sonic Whiteness in Get Out and Sorry to Bother You." Supernatural Studies 7.2 (131-154) ["This article places Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) into conversation with Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You (2018) in order to explore how both films represent whiteness as a penetrative sonic force that can be both heard and recognized. I explore how these two films challenge the popular notion that whiteness, unlike Blackness, is an empty and neutral signifier; instead, these films present whiteness as a racial category that possesses distinct sonic registers. Through their engagements with neoslavery, minstrelsy, and racial passing, these films parody the ways that Blackness has become socially and culturally constructed as “sounding” a certain way, and instead depict whiteness as something that can be aurally recognized and imitated. Through probing at their constructions of sonic whiteness, both Get Out and Sorry to Bother You problematize how popular audiences have been trained to hear (as well as see) race and respond to a longer history of the racialization of sound."]

Nolan, Amy. "The Sunken Place and the 'Electronic Elsewhere' of Jordan Peele’s Get Out." Supernatural Studies 7.2 (2022) ["One of the most compelling uses of analog technology in contemporary horror thus far is Jordan Peele’s use of the television as reflection of and portal to the Sunken Place in Get Out (2017). From the time that the television was invented, the combination of sound and image has magnified the ghostly possibilities of reproduction. According to Jeffrey Sconce, “the paradox of visible, seemingly material worlds trapped in a box in the living room and yet conjured out of nothing more than electricity and air, [wherein] the ‘electronic elsewhere’ generated by television was thus more palpable and yet every bit as phantasmic the occult empires of previous media’” (126). Peele shows us the “electronic elsewhere” by connecting the Sunken Place to the analog television set as a signifier of protagonist Chris Washington’s repressed memory of his mother’s death. The television becomes an extension of the national nightmare and personal trauma that overshadow Chris’s adult life. Get Out is a distinctive, twenty-first century story, yet it draws from earlier horror films that focus on humanity’s relationship with technology."]

Pritz, Alex. "The Territory." Film School Radio (August 18, 2022) ["In his debut feature documentary THE TERRITORY Alex Pritz provides an immersive look at the tireless fight of the Amazon’s Indigenous Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people against the encroaching deforestation brought by farmers and illegal settlers. With awe-inspiring cinematography showcasing the titular landscape and richly textured sound design, the film takes audiences deep into the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau community and provides unprecedented access to the farmers and settlers illegally burning and clearing the protected Indigenous land. Partially shot by the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people, THE TERRITORY relies on vérité footage captured over three years as the community risks their lives to set up their own news media team in the hopes of exposing the truth. Director Alex Pritz joins us for a informative conversation on the importance that he placed an even-handed approach to conveying the disparate strands of a complex story whose outcome will have a profound impact on the indigenous Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people, the region surrounding the Amazon rainforest and planet Earth."]

"Pulse." Horror Vanguard #222 (September 6, 2022) [Movie description: "Two groups of people discover evidence that suggests spirits may be trying to invade the human world through the Internet."]

Sweedler, Milo. "Art, activism, sales calls, and slave labor: Dialectics in Sorry to Bother You." Jump Cut #61 (Fall 2022) ["Boots Riley’s debut film, Sorry to Bother You (2018), is one of the great anti-capitalist films of the early twenty-first century. Although Riley characterizes the movie as “an absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction,” which it is, the film also provides one of the most clear-sighted accounts of grassroots class struggle to appear in mainstream North American narrative cinema in decades (“Beautiful Clutter”). As witty, playful, and delightfully quirky as it is, Riley’s tale of an ethically compromised telemarketer, his artist-activist girlfriend, and the labor organizer that unionizes their workplace sheds brilliant light on the class struggle today. I analyze here two different kinds of dialectics that Riley uses in telling his story of class conflict in an alternate present-day Oakland, California. One the one hand, a narrative technique used repeatedly in the film is dialectical in the Ancient Greek sense of staging a debate between interlocutors holding different points of view. On the other hand, numerous scenes in the film set up a contradiction that the movie momentarily resolves, often in unexpected ways, before introducing a new element that complicates the resolved contradiction. If, as Karl Marx argued more than 150 years ago, “What constitutes dialectical movement is the coexistence of two contradictory sides, their conflict and their fusion,” Sorry to Bother You is dialectical in this way, too (Poverty of Philosophy 108). This article examines how these two dialectics shape Riley’s class-conscious film."]






Tuesday, September 13, 2022

ENG 101/102 Resources: September 13, 2022

Biagetti, Samuel. "China, pt. 2 -- Water and Music: Early Chinese Philosophy." Historiansplaining (August 30, 2022) ["We consider how the crisis of legitimacy and breakdown of order following the downfall of the Zhou dynasty spurred on a flowering of philosophy, as various scholars and sages sought new principles to guide life and achieve harmony, giving rise to the enduring teachings of Taoism and Confucianism, as well as other long-forgotten sects ranging from draconian legalists to humanitarian pacifists."]

Biltsted, Tauno. "Black Sheep of all Classes: Fifty Years of Consensus Politics in Christiania."  The Institute for Anarchist Studies (August 4, 2022) ["Anyone who has been involved in a group project that strives for consensus knows that working shit out together is hard. It’s challenging to collectively do the work of assessing options, making decisions, and executing plans that sometimes carry real individual and collective risks, even when members of a group are aligned through culture, ideology, issue, place, or common interests. And it sometimes feels impossible when there are cleavages along lines of race, gender, class, experiences of trauma, generational differences, and other differences within a group. And where even one person has shifting moods and states of mind, any group of people contains a confounding palette of shifting unconscious drives, implicit biases, and personal idiosyncrasies that can harden into a clash of personalities or factionalism that has sunk many a revolutionary project, cooperative, band, collective, or community gardening group. The Freetown of Christiania, in Copenhagen, Denmark, has been practicing a form of medium-scale consensus democracy for half a century. This look at Christiania’s system of direct democracy is written with the hope that considering some of the social and political qualities that contribute to the durability of Christiania’s sustained experiment in direct democracy might be useful to other groups and places practicing their own forms of horizontal self-governance."]

Carlsson, Chris. "Who’s Processing Whom? Digital Commons, Digital Blinders, and a Fraught Social Future." The Institute for Anarchist Studies (August 16, 2022) ["By the mid-1990s, a so-called New Economy based on the Internet was becoming visible. A Gold Rush mentality quickly took over with a frenzy of frothing investments in vaporware and cyber-fantasies of all sorts. A few got very, very rich before the storied bust of 2001. Public policy further exacerbated the concentration of wealth and the rise of dire poverty. The “miracle” of computer riches hovered over the Bay Area, even while the vast majority of the population struggled on in the same jobs with the same wages, if they had work at all. But the inflation of housing costs thanks to the tidal wave of new wealth that poured into real estate radically disrupted the daily lives of millions. During the early years of the century, few of us knew that a whole new model of wealth accumulation was being developed behind the shiny noise of the New Economy. Surveillance capitalism was born in the advertising trenches, primarily at Google, but was soon expanded upon by the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and other behemoths. As Shoshana Zuboff aptly analyzes it in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, the tech giants had turned our everyday lives into the objectified raw material from which it extracted the data that it sold to advertisers. As she notes, “[Google] thus created out of thin air and at zero marginal cost an asset class of vital raw materials derived from users’ nonmarket online behavior.” To a real extent, this represented a peculiar new form of capitalist enclosure, but this time, rather than being focused on land, it was ingeniously applied to everything we do."]

Ehrenreich, Barbara. "RIP Barbara Ehrenreich: Exposed Inequality in “Nickel and Dimed,” Opposed Health-Industrial Complex." Democracy Now (September 5, 2022) ["We remember the author and political activist Barbara Ehrenreich, who has died at the age of 81 after a career exposing inequality and the struggles of regular people in the United States. In a brief interview, Democracy Now! co-host Juan González recalls working with Ehrenreich as part of the Young Lords and says she was instrumental for the movement against the American health-industrial complex. “She’s really one of the towering figures of the radical and progressive movement in America, and it’s a tremendous loss, not only to her family but to all who knew her and benefited from her work,” he says. We also air part of a 2011 interview with Ehrenreich on Democracy Now! upon the re-release of her landmark book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. “Jobs that don’t pay enough to live on do not cure poverty. They condemn you, in fact, to a life of low-wage labor and extreme insecurity,” she said." Ehrenreich is also the author of Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream ]

Enns, Peter. The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs. Harper Collins, 2016. ["The controversial evangelical Bible scholar and author of The Bible Tells Me So explains how Christians mistake “certainty” and “correct belief” for faith when what God really desires is trust and intimacy. With compelling and often humorous stories from his own life, Bible scholar Peter Enns offers a fresh look at how Christian life truly works, answering questions that cannot be addressed by the idealized traditional doctrine of “once for all delivered to the saints.” Enns offers a model of vibrant faith that views skepticism not as a loss of belief, but as an opportunity to deepen religious conviction with courage and confidence. This is not just an intellectual conviction, he contends, but a more profound kind of knowing that only true faith can provide. Combining Enns’ reflections of his own spiritual journey with an examination of Scripture, The Sin of Certainty models an acceptance of mystery and paradox that all believers can follow and why God prefers this path because it is only this way by which we can become mature disciples who truly trust God. It gives Christians who have known only the demand for certainty permission to view faith on their own flawed, uncertain, yet heartfelt, terms."]

Gershman, Samuel J. "On Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Writ Large (September 8, 2002) ["In 1962, American philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn was struck by Aristotle’s beliefs about motion. Actually, he thought that those theories didn’t make any sense. But he also knew that Aristotle was one of the smartest philosophers of the ancient world. Kuhn realized that if Aristotle was stuck within his own way of seeing the world, then so are we. His ideas about scientific revolutions changed the way we perceive and teach science. Samuel J. Gershman is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His research focuses on environmental knowledge and adaptive behavior, memory, and computational neuroscience."]

Mangual, Rafael. "America's Failed Criminal Justice Experiment." Conversations with Coleman (August 22, 2022) ["Rafael is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and Head of Research at their policing and public safety initiative. His new book is called Criminal (In)Justice: What the Push for Decarceration and Depolicing Gets Wrong and Who It Hurts Most. In this episode, we discuss the nationwide push for defunding and de-policing starting in the summer of 2020. We talk about the so-called root causes of crime. We talk about Ava DuVernay's documentary "13th" and Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow. We discuss the causes of mass incarceration. We talk about cash bail and bail reform. We also go on to talk about legalizing weed and much more."]

Nolan, Amy. "The Sunken Place and the 'Electronic Elsewhere' of Jordan Peele’s Get Out." Supernatural Studies 7.2 (2022) ["One of the most compelling uses of analog technology in
contemporary horror thus far is Jordan Peele’s use of the television as reflection of and portal to the Sunken Place in Get Out (2017). From the time that the television was invented, the combination of sound and image has magnified the ghostly possibilities of reproduction. According to Jeffrey Sconce, “the paradox of visible, seemingly material worlds trapped in a box in the living room and yet conjured out of nothing more than electricity and air, [wherein] the ‘electronic elsewhere’ generated by television was thus more palpable and yet every bit as phantasmic the occult empires of previous media’” (126). Peele shows us the “electronic elsewhere” by connecting the Sunken Place to the analog television set as a signifier of protagonist Chris Washington’s repressed memory of his mother’s death. The television becomes an extension of the national nightmare and personal trauma that overshadow Chris’s adult life. Get Out is a distinctive, twenty-first century story, yet it draws from earlier horror films that focus on humanity’s relationship with technology."]

Sweedler, Milo. "Art, activism, sales calls, and slave labor: Dialectics in Sorry to Bother You." Jump Cut #61 (Fall 2022) ["Boots Riley’s debut film, Sorry to Bother You (2018), is one of the great anti-capitalist films of the early twenty-first century. Although Riley characterizes the movie as “an absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction,” which it is, the film also provides one of the most clear-sighted accounts of grassroots class struggle to appear in mainstream North American narrative cinema in decades (“Beautiful Clutter”). As witty, playful, and delightfully quirky as it is, Riley’s tale of an ethically compromised telemarketer, his artist-activist girlfriend, and the labor organizer that unionizes their workplace sheds brilliant light on the class struggle today. I analyze here two different kinds of dialectics that Riley uses in telling his story of class conflict in an alternate present-day Oakland, California. One the one hand, a narrative technique used repeatedly in the film is dialectical in the Ancient Greek sense of staging a debate between interlocutors holding different points of view. On the other hand, numerous scenes in the film set up a contradiction that the movie momentarily resolves, often in unexpected ways, before introducing a new element that complicates the resolved contradiction. If, as Karl Marx argued more than 150 years ago, “What constitutes dialectical movement is the coexistence of two contradictory sides, their conflict and their fusion,” Sorry to Bother You is dialectical in this way, too (Poverty of Philosophy 108). This article examines how these two dialectics shape Riley’s class-conscious film."]

Zadra, Antonio. "Why and How Do We Dream." The Joy of Why (August 24, 2022) ["Dreams are so personal, subjective and fleeting, they might seem impossible to study directly and with scientific objectivity. But in recent decades, laboratories around the world have developed sophisticated techniques for getting into the minds of people while they are dreaming. In the process, they are learning more about why we need these strange nightly experiences and how our brains generate them. In this episode, Steven Strogatz speaks with sleep researcher Antonio Zadra of the University of Montreal about how new experimental methods have changed our understanding of dreams."]








Monday, September 12, 2022

BlacKkKlansman (USA: Spike Lee, 2018)

 





BlacKkKlansman (USA: Spike Lee, 2018: 135 mins)

Abdurraqib, Hanif. "Blackklansman and the Art of Code Switching." Pacific Standard (August 20, 2018) ["Beyond tics in dialect, code-switching often requires a shift in ideology."]

Brown, Rembert. "Spike Lee Wants BlacKkKlansman to Wake America Up: The director’s provocative new film will change the way you think about racism." Time (August 9, 2018)

Creech, Lydia and Andrew Swafford. "BlacKkKlansman (2018) by Spike Lee." Cinematary (August 13, 2018)

Enzo and Eve. "Wakanda Deferred." Hammer & Camera #16 (July 12, 2019) ["Enzo and Eve of the Marxist "propaganda circle" Unity & Struggle to discuss their article, "Black on Both Sides: Grappling with BLM in Movies", and to review the past year of Black cinema. Among the films discussed are Black Panther, Blackkklansman, Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, and Us."]

Kiefer, Halle. "Spike Lee Defends BlacKkKlansman’s Depiction of Police After Boots Riley Critique." Vulture (August 24, 2018)

King, Gemma. "In Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, language is power." The Conversation (September 9, 2018) 

Kohn, Eric. "Spike Lee’s Secret Weapon For 30 Years: ‘BlacKkKlansman’ Composer Terence Blanchard." IndieWire (December 31, 2018)

Lee, Spike. "Blackkklansman." The Film Comment Podcast (August 1, 2018) ["Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman—a story about incredible events in America’s past that feel well-suited to our incredible present. “In a case where the events of history improve upon the fantasies of fiction, BlacKkKlansman, the latest Spike Lee joint, is based on the 2014 memoir written by Ron Stallworth, a black undercover police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 1979,” Teo Bugbee writes in her feature. “However, Lee does not get lost in the details of Stallworth’s life story, and BlacKkKlansman is no straight biopic. Instead, it follows the beats of a traditional cop movie, where a man of the law is torn between allegiances in his efforts to solve a case. In this regard, the film represents the latest chapter in the underrated career of Spike Lee, genre filmmaker.” For this episode, I joined Bugbee and Ashley Clark of BAMcinématek to discuss Lee’s wide-ranging, and chronically misunderstood, career."]

Lee, Spike and Lawrence O'Donnell. "On Blackkklansman." Film Comment Podcast (February 22, 2019) [" ... an extended conversation between Lee and Emmy Award–winning writer and television host Lawrence O’Donnell (The West Wing, MSNBC), followed by a screening of BlacKkKlansman, presented by Film Comment. In the course of the conversation, Lee discusses the genesis of BlacKkKlansman, how he chooses collaborators, and what it would mean to him to win an Oscar for the film. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, BlacKkKlansman tells the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, who bravely sets out on a dangerous mission to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. In a feature on the film in the July-August 2018 issue of Film Comment, Teo Bugbee writes that, “BlacKkKlansman is no straight biopic. Instead, it follows the beats of a traditional cop movie, where a man of the law is torn between allegiances in his efforts to solve a case. In this regard, the film represents the latest chapter in the underrated career of Spike Lee, genre filmmaker.”"]

Miller, Julie. "BlacKkKlansman: The True Story of How Ron Stallworth Infiltrated the K.K.K." Variety (August 10, 2018)

Murphy, Mekado. "How Spike Lee Created Three Signature Visual Shots." The New York Times (August 2, 2018)

Seymour, Gene. "Taming the Savage White Man: The Western Mythos Remade in the Age of Trump." The Baffler #43 (February 2019) 

Smith, Jamil. "Spike Lee on ‘BlacKkKlansman’ and Life in Trump’s America." Rolling Stone (August 2, 2018) 
















Tuesday, September 6, 2022

ENG 101/102 Resources: September 5, 2022

Arıkan, Yağız. "Get Out." Film Critique (2018) ["When we see a horror film, we usually have a faint idea on the style or the content. We expect to be scared or surprised by a creepy clown, a monster or a killer. In the horror film "Get Out" by Jordan Peele, we do get surprised, not by one of the mentioned above but with an unexpected message on racism, and on our society. In this video, I explain how this message is portrayed, and if he really stays true to the roots of the horror genre."]

Blackard, Cat, et al. "The Lighthouse (2019)." Horror Queers (August 24, 2022) ["We know yer fond of our lobster because we're talking about Robert Eggers' 2019 treatise on homoeroticism and toxic masculinity, 'The Lighthouse.' Joining us to discuss yet another wet'n'wild island movie is The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program's Cat Blackard. We discuss Eggers' trademark dedication to technical precision, shooting conditions in Nova Scotia, Androeroticism, defending Robert Pattison (and his accent), 'The Lighthouse' as rom com (with farts) and Cat’s own epic monologue around the 43:30 minute mark."]

Brown, Alfie. "Dream Lovers: The Gamification of Relationships (Pluto Press, 2022)." New Books in Science, Technology, and Society (August 24, 2022) ["We are in the middle of a 'desirevolution' - a fundamental and political transformation of the way we desire as human beings. Perhaps as always, new technologies - with their associated and inherited political biases - are organising and mapping the future. What we don’t seem to notice is that the primary way in which our lives are being transformed is through the manipulation and control of desire itself. Our very impulses, drives and urges are 'gamified' to suit particular economic and political agendas, changing the way we relate to everything from lovers and friends to food and politicians. Digital technologies are transforming the subject at the deepest level of desire – re-mapping its libidinal economy - in ways never before imagined possible. From sexbots to smart condoms, fitbits to VR simulators and AI to dating algorithms, the 'love industries' are at the heart of the future smart city and the social fabric of everyday life. Alfie Bown's Dream Lovers: The Gamification of Relationships (Pluto Press, 2022) considers these emergent technologies and what they mean for the future of love, desire, work and capitalism."]

Chappell, Paul K. Soldiers of Peace: How to Wield the Weapon of Nonviolence with Maximum Force. Easton Studio Press, 2017. ["Soldiers of Peace, by West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran Paul K. Chappell, is the sixth book in his seven-book Road to Peace series. The titles in this important series can be read in any order. All are about waging peace, ending war, the art of living, and what it means to be human. In a world where so many “solutions” deal with surface symptoms rather than the root causes of our problems, Chappell's books provide real guidance we can follow to change ourselves and change the world for the better. In Soldiers of Peace, Paul discusses how to wield the weapon of nonviolence with maximum force so that we can understand, confront, and heal our personal and societal wounds. To create realistic peace we must be as well trained in waging peace as soldiers are in waging war. Chappell discusses how our misunderstanding of peace and violence originate from our misunderstanding about reality and the human condition itself. This book offers a new paradigm in human understanding by dispelling popular myths and revealing timeless truths about the reality of struggle, rage, trauma, empathy, the limitations of violence, the power of nonviolence, and the skills needed to create lasting peace. Through the educational initiative of peace literacy and the metaphor of the constellation of peace, Soldiers of Peace offers a practical framework so that all of us can apply this new paradigm to our daily lives, and therefore create realistic peace within our friendships, families, workplaces, communities, nations, and the entire world. In a time of increased strife and violence in our society, this book is more critically needed than ever."]

Cockburn, Jay, et al. "Gamify Everything: Turning Work Into Play." Darts and Letters (August 24, 2022) ["Setting goals for the new year? Learning a language? Going for a run? Delivering food? Picking packages off a warehouse shelf for delivery? There’s a game for that. Or, at least, a gamified system designed to nudge you in a series of pre-programmed directions in the service of the state, techno-capitalist overlords, or any number of other groups and entities that chart the course of our hyper-connected, cutting-edge, dystopian 21st century lives. On this episode of Darts and Letters, guest host Jay Cockburn and our guests take us through the gamification of…everything."]

Jan, Ammar Ali. "The Floods Devastating Pakistan Are More Than a Natural Disaster."Jacobin (September 3, 2022) ["A decade since the last mega-floods that hit Pakistan in 2010, the country is once again reeling from devastation on an unimaginable scale. Monsoon rains and melting glaciers have combined to displace at least 35 million people from their homes while over a thousand people are already reported dead. It is estimated that Pakistan is losing at least $10 billion due to the widespread destruction caused by the floods. Moreover, agriculture and livestock has been destroyed on a massive scale, triggering fears of severe food shortages in the coming months."]

Kafalier, Utku. "Call Me By Your Name." FilmCritique #1 (ND) ["When one finishes watching Call Me by Your Name (Guadagnino, 2017), the image that is stuck with them is the main character Elio, crying in front of a fireplace as the credits roll and Sufjan Steven's song plays out. This is not surprising since it is the last image of the movie and it is stuck there for a long time. Naturally we are likely to remember it the most. What is interesting is why this is chosen as the image that the movie wanted to leave us with in this particular way. There may be several implications for this choice and in this essay I will go through it from the realist movie perspective by dissecting the nature of the long take and its placement within the movie. After that, I will talk about the scene with its archetypal implications with mythic theories and will try to understand why the movie specifically wanted this image to be representative of the film."]

Mialon, Melissa. "Big Food & Co. (Thierry Soucar Editions, 2021)." New Books in Food (August 26, 2022) ["In the 1960s and 1970s, the exposure of Big Tobacco’s aggressive lobbying and internal efforts to obscure science showcasing the harmful effects of smoking changed U.S. public opinion of the industry and of product safety protocols, both of which had largely obscured these harms from public view for decades. Public awareness grew, triggering regulation on disclosure related to political influencing strategies, marketing tactics, and transparency regarding the devastating toll of tobacco products on many communities, including and especially children. As similar approaches to assessing the public health impacts of Big Oil and Big Pharma, among other industries, have gained traction in recent decades, Dr. Mélissa Mialon’s new book, Big Food & Co (Thierry Souccar Editions, 2021), adds the amalgamation of multinationals and transnational supply chains that make up Big Food, to that list. Rising health inequities across race, class, and geography are subtle, yet central themes throughout Dr. Mialon’s meticulous accounting of a complex puzzle in which the marketing and distribution strategies of soft drink companies and ultra-processed food manufacturers are quietly but steadily ushering in a new globalized era of related public health crises – measured by increasing rates of of diabetes, cancers, and heart disease, etc– a crisis that has long been felt in the United States. Whether branding t-shirts and games at summer camps in France for underprivileged children or blanketing entire streets in Mauritius with the unmistakable bright red and white flag of Coca-Cola, Dr. Mialon describes a taxonomy of commercial determinants of health common to nearly every example – whether multinational food companies’ policy advocacy in Colombia, public-private partnerships in Brazil, or culturally responsive branding for holidays in Southern Africa. Between academic research and investigative journalism, the survey of trends in Big Food’s operation, marketing, and regulatory capture, offered throughout the book are additionally grounds for laying out a policy roadmap with public health indicators at the center of a wide range of potential reforms including campaign finance and heightened disclosure protocols for public-private partnerships to mitigating conflicts of interest in scientific studies related to food, agriculture, and health, among many others. Dr. Mélissa Mialon is Research Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, in Ireland. She is a food engineer with a PhD in nutrition and co-coordinates the « Governance, Ethics and Conflicts of Interest in Public Health » (GECI-PH) network, based out of the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Her research focuses on commercial determinants of health, and particularly on the practices used by corporations to influence public health policy, research and practice."]

Scott, Brett. "Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets (Harper Business, 2022)." New Books in Economics (August 24, 2022) ["In Cloudmoney: Cash, Cards, Crypto, and the War for Our Wallets (Harper Business, 2022), Brett Scott tells an urgent and revelatory story about how the fusion of Big Finance and Big Tech requires “cloudmoney”—digital money underpinned by the banking sector—to replace physical cash. He dives beneath the surface of the global financial system to uncover a long-established lobbying infrastructure: an alliance of partners waging a covert war on cash. He explains the technical, political, and cultural differences between our various forms of money and shows how the cash system has been under attack for decades, as banking and tech companies promote a cashless society under the banner of progress. Cloudmoney takes us to the front lines of a war for our wallets that is also about our freedom, from marketing strategies against cash to the weaponization of COVID-19 to push fintech platforms, and from there to the rise of the cryptocurrency rebels and fringe groups pushing back. It asks the most pressing questions: Who benefits from a cashless society and who gets left behind? Is the end of cash the end of true privacy? And is our cloudmoney future closer than we think it is?"]

Sonnenberg, Rhonda. "Unbanning History: Georgia teen organizers fight back against school censorship." Southern Poverty Law Center (September 2, 2022)




Film Studies Resources: September 6, 2022

Ackerman, Bill, et al. "Stephen Sayadian." Director's Club #203 (August 15, 2022) ["Guest host Bill Ackerman invites film/culture writer Heather Drain and writer/programmer Justine Smith to discuss the films of Stephen Sayadian (aka Rinse Dream), the singular talent behind films like NIGHTDREAMS, CAFÉ FLESH and DR. CALIGARI. As an added bonus, Bill also includes a new interview with writer/historian/film preservationist Daniel Bird, who produced the 2021 4K restoration of DR. CALIGARI and is presently working on an upcoming restoration of CAFÉ FLESH."]

Acolytes of Horror. "The Green Knight: The Uncanny Horror of Masculinity." (Posted on Youtube: October 29, 2021) [Movie description: "WHEN HONOR WAS EVERYTHING. An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men."]

Arıkan, Yağız. "Get Out." Film Critique (2018) ["When we see a horror film, we usually have a faint idea on the style or the content. We expect to be scared or surprised by a creepy clown, a monster or a killer. In the horror film "Get Out" by Jordan Peele, we do get surprised, not by one of the mentioned above but with an unexpected message on racism, and on our society. In this video, I explain how this message is portrayed, and if he really stays true to the roots of the horror genre."]

Beyl, Cameron. "Christopher Nolan: Tenet." The Directors Series (August 22, 2022)

Blackard, Cat, et al. "The Lighthouse (2019)." Horror Queers (August 24, 2022) ["We know yer fond of our lobster because we're talking about Robert Eggers' 2019 treatise on homoeroticism and toxic masculinity, 'The Lighthouse.' Joining us to discuss yet another wet'n'wild island movie is The Call of Cthulhu Mystery Program's Cat Blackard. We discuss Eggers' trademark dedication to technical precision, shooting conditions in Nova Scotia, Androeroticism, defending Robert Pattison (and his accent), 'The Lighthouse' as rom com (with farts) and Cat’s own epic monologue around the 43:30 minute mark."]

Bushi, Ruth. "The Witch Explained (2015): The Horrors of True History." The Haughty Culturalist (March 23, 2022) ["Religious extremism, misogyny and madness stoke fears of the supernatural in The Witch, a folk tale rooted in horror and history."]

Kafalier, Utku. "Call Me By Your Name." FilmCritique #1 (ND) ["When one finishes watching Call Me by Your Name (Guadagnino, 2017), the image that is stuck with them is the main character Elio, crying in front of a fireplace as the credits roll and Sufjan Steven's song plays out. This is not surprising since it is the last image of the movie and it is stuck there for a long time. Naturally we are likely to remember it the most. What is interesting is why this is chosen as the image that the movie wanted to leave us with in this particular way. There may be several implications for this choice and in this essay I will go through it from the realist movie perspective by dissecting the nature of the long take and its placement within the movie. After that, I will talk about the scene with its archetypal implications with mythic theories and will try to understand why the movie specifically wanted this image to be representative of the film."]


Rosen, Ido. "Divine Smells: Odorama, Melodrama, and the Body in John Waters' Polyester." Open Screens 5.1 (2022)  ["The comedy Polyester (John Waters, 1981) introduced a new cinematic experience. The screenings were accompanied by the Odorama technique in the form of a ‘scratch and sniff’ card that was handed to viewers in the movie theater. There has yet to be a serious examination of Odorama, which is usually dismissed as nothing more than a gag. This essay shows that Odorama has sophisticated subversive qualities. It confirms scholars’ and critics’ view that Polyester was a turning point in the career of Waters, one of the most important queer filmmakers of all times. The film is frequently seen as his transition from the realm of anarchistic midnight movies to mainstream cinema. This shift was disappointing to many fans, some of whom even considered it betrayal. By contrast, it is argued here that although the film was made by a distinguished auteur, it is also a parody of classic Hollywood melodramas, and playfully adopts the genre’s conventions. Unlike Waters’ previous films, in Polyester the critical ideas are all beneath the surface. It criticizes social norms, middle class values, hypocritical and fraudulent images, ‘conventional’ families, and gender dichotomies in society and their representations in the cinema. However, this is disguised in a borrowed aesthetic, and expressed through a cunning tactic which some audiences and critics missed entirely."]

"The Wailing." Horror Vanguard #218 (August 9, 2022) [The Wailing description: "NEVER BE TEMPTED. A stranger arrives in a little village and soon after a mysterious sickness starts spreading. A policeman is drawn into the incident and is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter."]

"We're All Going to the World's Fair." Horror Vanguard #219 (August 16, 2019) ["We can't believe that we didn't get to this one sooner. Director Jane Schoenbrun absolutely kills it with a deeply jarring, but also deeply honest, exploration of the horrors lurking in contemporary online isolation."]

Cam (USA: Daniel Goldhaber, 2018)





 Cam (USA: Daniel Goldhaber, 2018: 94 mins)


Barna, Daniel. "How Cam Flips Hollywood's View of Sex Workers." Playboy (November 20, 2018)

Bordun, Troy. "Isa Mazzei and Daniel Goldhaber discuss their debut Cam (2018)." Offscreen 23.6 (May 2019)

 Cleaver, Sarah Kathryn, et al. "Cam featuring Daniel Goldhaber & Isa Mazzei." Projections (November 21, 2018) 

Lazic, Elena. "Cam is an intelligent and positive look at sex work." Seventh Row (September 7, 2018)

Luers, Erik. "How a Filmmaking Team Found a New 'Cinematic Language' to Make Cam." No Film School (November 21, 2018)

Saito, Steven. "Isa Mazzei & Daniel Goldhaber on Shifting Perspectives with Cam." Moveable Feast (November 17, 2018)

Slater-Williams, Josh. "The sex work-positive horror written by a former camgirl." Little White Lies (October 19, 2018)

What's So Great About That? "Phantom You [Tube]: Fighting Our Digital Doubles." (Posted on Youtube: March 14, 2019) ["With our online and offline lives becoming increasingly connected, to what extent do we create our own other? And to what effect? Since the 1990s, horror and sci-fi have considered how we might create our own worst enemy - and the friendly face of this dystopian future is yours."]





Saturday, September 3, 2022

ENG 102 Resources: September 3, 2022

Acolytes of Horror. "The Green Knight: The Uncanny Horror of Masculinity." (Posted on Youtube: October 29, 2021) [Movie description: "WHEN HONOR WAS EVERYTHING. An epic fantasy adventure based on the timeless Arthurian legend, The Green Knight tells the story of Sir Gawain, King Arthur’s reckless and headstrong nephew, who embarks on a daring quest to confront the eponymous Green Knight, a gigantic emerald-skinned stranger and tester of men."]

---. "Saint Maud: God As A Self-Portrait." (Posted on Youtube: May 12, 2021) ["Having recently found God, self-effacing young nurse Maud arrives at a plush home to care for Amanda, a hedonistic dancer left frail from a chronic illness. When a chance encounter with a former colleague throws up hints of a dark past, it becomes clear there is more to sweet Maud than meets the eye."]

Bordwell, David.  "Movies By the Numbers." Observations on Film Art (July 14, 2022)  ["James Cutting’s Movies on Our Minds: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement, itself the fruit of many years of intensive studies, builds on these achievements while taking wholly original perspectives as well. Comprehensive and detailed, it is simply the most complete and challenging psychological account of film art yet offered. I can’t do justice to its range and nuance here. Consider what follows as an invitation to you to read this bold book."]

 Bushi, Ruth. "The Witch Explained (2015): The Horrors of True History." The Haughty Culturalist (March 23, 2022) ["Religious extremism, misogyny and madness stoke fears of the supernatural in The Witch, a folk tale rooted in horror and history."]

Freeberg, Ernest, et al. "American Socialist (2020)." Throughline (September 1, 2022) ["It's been over a century since a self-described socialist was a viable candidate for president of the United States. And that first socialist candidate, Eugene V. Debs, didn't just capture significant votes, he created a new and enduring populist politics deep in the American grain. This week, the story of Eugene V. Debs and the creation of American socialism." Books on the topic: Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, the Great War, and the Right to Dissent by Ernest Freeberg and Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist by Nick Salvatore.]

Kriegman, Zac. "The Revolution Will Not Be Criticized." Conversations with Coleman (July 8, 2022) ["My guest today is Zac Kriegman. Zach was a director of data science at Thomson Reuters before he got fired for posting a fact-based criticism of Black Lives Matter in an internal memo. This is one of the worst examples of Cancel Culture and enforced orthodoxy around the issue of race that I've seen in a while. Zach was fired for pointing to research by Roland Fryer who I just had on the podcast, and others, which showed that there was no anti-black bias in police shootings as well as that DOJ investigations into police departments in certain cases caused an increase in homicides due to the police pulling back. Now as a director of data science at a major media company that has a respected fact-checking wing, part of Zac's job was to ensure that Thomson Reuters was using data accurately and he got fired for doing exactly that. Now he's suing Reuters for wrongful termination. In the meantime, Zac has a substack, where he has posted the memo which got him fired, as well as some other essays. You should definitely go check that out. In this conversation, we talk about the circumstances surrounding his firing and we primarily speak on the substantive issue of BLM and the effect it has had on policing and crime."]

Mchangama, Jacob. Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media. Basic Books, 2022. ["Hailed as the “first freedom,” free speech is the bedrock of democracy. But it is a challenging principle, subject to erosion in times of upheaval. Today, in democracies and authoritarian states around the world, it is on the retreat. In Free Speech, Jacob Mchangama traces the riveting legal, political, and cultural history of this idea. Through captivating stories of free speech’s many defenders—from the ancient Athenian orator Demosthenes and the ninth-century freethinker al-Rāzī, to the anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells and modern-day digital activists—Mchangama reveals how the free exchange of ideas underlies all intellectual achievement and has enabled the advancement of both freedom and equality worldwide. Yet the desire to restrict speech, too, is a constant, and he explores how even its champions can be led down this path when the rise of new and contrarian voices challenge power and privilege of all stripes. Meticulously researched and deeply humane, Free Speech demonstrates how much we have gained from this principle—and how much we stand to lose without it."]

Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Knopf Doubleday, 2011. ["The story of our society's transformation into a Technopoly: a society that no longer merely uses technology as a support system but instead is shaped by it—with radical consequences for the meanings of politics, art, education, intelligence, and truth."]

Rose, Caryn. "Why Patti Smith Matters (University of Texas Press, 2022)." New Books in Pop Culture (July 22, 2022) ["Patti Smith arrived in New York City at the end of the Age of Aquarius in search of work and purpose. What she found—what she fostered—was a cultural revolution. Through her poetry, her songs, her unapologetic vocal power, and her very presence as a woman fronting a rock band, she kicked open a door that countless others walked through. No other musician has better embodied the “nothing-to-hide” rawness of punk, nor has any other done more to nurture a place in society for misfits of every stripe. Why Patti Smith Matters (University of Texas Press, 2022) is the first book about the iconic artist written by a woman. The veteran music journalist Caryn Rose contextualizes Smith’s creative work, her influence, and her wide-ranging and still-evolving impact on rock and roll, visual art, and the written word. Rose goes deep into Smith’s oeuvre, from her first album, Horses, to acclaimed memoirs operating at a surprising remove from her music. The portrait of a ceaseless inventor, Why Patti Smith Matters rescues punk’s poet laureate from “strong woman” clichés. Of course Smith is strong. She is also a nuanced thinker. A maker of beautiful and challenging things. A transformative artist who has not simply entertained but also empowered millions."]

Rosen, Ido. "Divine Smells: Odorama, Melodrama, and the Body in John Waters' Polyester." Open Screens 5.1 (2022)  ["The comedy Polyester (John Waters, 1981) introduced a new cinematic experience. The screenings were accompanied by the Odorama technique in the form of a ‘scratch and sniff’ card that was handed to viewers in the movie theater. There has yet to be a serious examination of Odorama, which is usually dismissed as nothing more than a gag. This essay shows that Odorama has sophisticated subversive qualities. It confirms scholars’ and critics’ view that Polyester was a turning point in the career of Waters, one of the most important queer filmmakers of all times. The film is frequently seen as his transition from the realm of anarchistic midnight movies to mainstream cinema. This shift was disappointing to many fans, some of whom even considered it betrayal. By contrast, it is argued here that although the film was made by a distinguished auteur, it is also a parody of classic Hollywood melodramas, and playfully adopts the genre’s conventions. Unlike Waters’ previous films, in Polyester the critical ideas are all beneath the surface. It criticizes social norms, middle class values, hypocritical and fraudulent images, ‘conventional’ families, and gender dichotomies in society and their representations in the cinema. However, this is disguised in a borrowed aesthetic, and expressed through a cunning tactic which some audiences and critics missed entirely."]


Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Film Studies Resources: August 31, 2022

Acolytes of Horror. "Saint Maud: God As A Self-Portrait." (Posted on Youtube: May 12, 2021) ["Having recently found God, self-effacing young nurse Maud arrives at a plush home to care for Amanda, a hedonistic dancer left frail from a chronic illness. When a chance encounter with a former colleague throws up hints of a dark past, it becomes clear there is more to sweet Maud than meets the eye."]

Bordwell, David.  "Movies By the Numbers." Observations on Film Art (July 14, 2022)  ["James Cutting’s Movies on Our Minds: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement, itself the fruit of many years of intensive studies, builds on these achievements while taking wholly original perspectives as well. Comprehensive and detailed, it is simply the most complete and challenging psychological account of film art yet offered. I can’t do justice to its range and nuance here. Consider what follows as an invitation to you to read this bold book."]

Elbri, Bilge. "Event Horizon Gets Better With Age." Vulture (August 18, 2022) ["Twenty-five years ago, Paul W. S. Anderson released one of the gnarliest, most unforgettable science-fiction horror films ever made, but it took most people a few years to realize it. Starring Sam Neill, Laurence Fishburne, and a spaceship that had just returned from a journey through Hell, Event Horizon came out in August 1997 and bombed with critics and audiences alike. (Those of us who were fans of the picture back then can tell you how lonely an experience that was.) But over the years, Anderson’s film grew in reputation. This was due partly to the indelible quality of its imagery: its brief but deliriously grotesque glimpses of Hell, the medieval-torture-device-like design of its titular spaceship, not to mention a final act that featured a mad Sam Neill running around naked and on fire after gouging out his own eyes. (“Where we’re going, we won’t need eyes to see.”) Anderson understood how to shock audiences — maybe too well, since members of his studio were notoriously outraged when they first saw the film — but Event Horizon carries a fascinating cautionary tale about our inability to let go of the past, a tale enhanced by a cast that brings real depth to what might, on paper, have looked like fairly disposable genre work."]

Gardner, Caden Mark. "Polyester." Reverse Shot (August 3, 2022) ["Polyester (1981) was the first John Waters film of the eighties, and it has an unmistakably different vibe from his earlier films. Waters and his muse, Divine, had not worked together since her tour de force performance as Dawn Davenport in 1974’s Female Trouble, and with Polyester, the Waters-Divine collaboration feels less content to ride on pure shock value. Instead, they are stretching their artistry and deepening their approach to performance with a devilish wink. Polyester is on its surface a cocktail of pop culture artifacts where the cross-gender drag casting of Divine as Francine Fishpaw becomes less of a punkish transgression than an homage to the tradition of the “women’s picture” melodramas of the 1950s—with the added stunt of Odorama scent, achieved with scratch-and-sniff cards. While Polyester is an undeniable transition film for Waters, which feels informed by the changing standards of Hollywood and the world around him, it’s also very much the work of a prankster."]

Gould, Steve. "The Elgin and El Topo plunge NYC into Midnite Madness."  MUBI Podcast (July 7, 2022) ["In 1970, a scruffy repertory theater — led by the visionary Ben Barenholtz — quietly placed a print ad in the Village Voice, advertising midnight screenings of a Spanish-language western they claimed was "too heavy to be shown any other way." The movie was Alejandro Jodorowsky's EL TOPO, and it'd kick off the "Midnite Movie" craze that changed moviegoing. Hear the history of the Elgin Theater and its legendary, weed-soaked screenings of EL TOPO, featuring commentary from ex-Voice critic J Hoberman, Amy Nicholson of the podcast "Unspooled," ex-Elgin programmers Chuck Zlatkin and Steve Gould...and Jodorowsky himself."]

Levenson, Joey. "Graphic Design on Screen: Inside Once Upon a Time in Hollywood with Tina Charad." It's Nice That (August 13, 2022) ["The 2019 film is littered with parodic references and allusions to a very real and very specific time and place, of which Tina was responsible for. She approached the film as it is: a period piece. “On historical projects, I like to work with the researcher, especially on big budget features like this one,” she explains. After breaking down the sets needed, plus the props and all the small details in the script from Tarantino, Tina would get to work coming up with endless design concepts to fill the visuals of the film. Tarantino’s star-studded release was a more meticulous project than most, as Tarantino is a director known for his incredible attention to detail in the mise en scene. “We started with props and then went store-by-store in Hollywood looking to see what was there for inspiration for the film’s location shoots,” Tina says. “It was quite hard to recreate storefronts for old Hollywood, as a lot of photographs of them weren’t even in colour. So we took some artistic liberty with Quinten [Tarantino].” Additionally, the film is known for its abundance of fake – and incredibly convincing – movie posters featuring the cast playing actors in old Hollywood, as well as entirely made-up products, stores and studios they all engage with. “We tried to mimic that time and place of the 60s. But if I couldn’t find a reference, I’d go into the advertising of that time, mainly by browsing historical newspapers from California,” Tina explains on the process of world-building. “I treated every prop and storefront as if it was real, taking it back into a 60s style or maybe even 50s.”"]

Mulvehill, Charles. "Harold and Maude find new life at The Westgate." MUBI Podcast (July 14, 2022) ["Hal Ashby's HAROLD AND MAUDE debuted to generally poor reviews, and worse box office. But in suburban Minneapolis, a humble second-run neighborhood theater called The Westgate found the film an audience...and helped turn it into one of the biggest cult hits of all time. Host Rico Gagliano gets the story from HAROLD AND MAUDE producer Charles Mulvehill — one of the few living members of the film's creative team — and an endearing cast of local characters who, back in 1972, found themselves part of a one-in-a-million phenomenon."]

Russell, Nicholas. "An American Werewolf in London." Reverse Shot (July 14, 2022) ["John Landis claims the inspiration for 1981’s An American Werewolf in London came in 1969, when, as a production assistant on Brian G. Hutton’s World War II caper Kelly’s Heroes, he witnessed a Roma ritual. “It was an elaborate gypsy funeral rite which the film’s crew witnessed from the back of a truck as they passed by,” The Telegraph recounted in a retrospective piece on the film in 2016. “The corpse was being buried feet-first, wrapped in garlic, in a deep grave right in the middle of a crossroads.” Later, the piece mentions Landis’s love of the 1941 Universal classic The Wolf Man, which, coincidentally, features a Roma caravan harboring a werewolf that goes on to infect Lon Chaney Jr.'s Larry Talbot. The similarity seems a little too involved to be true. At the very least, even if Landis’s story checks out, it is the necessity of the Roma element that, in some way, concretizes and emboldens the cinematic character of the werewolf: an ethnic outsider, perceived as a monstrous abomination. In his film, Landis trades overt exoticism of the creature’s origins for a narrative about exoticism itself."]

Schnelbach, Leah. "Want a Movie About an Eldritch Glory Hole of Surprising Depth? Try Glorious." Tor (August 24, 2022) ["Mostly I’m glad that Glorious exists. The last few years have seen amazing additions to the horror canon, and the fact that a small movie can be unapologetically gross and splatter-y, but also make a big thematic swing, and mostly work, and find large-scale distribution, makes me very, very happy. Join me in the rest stop bathroom for a non-spoiler review, won’t you?"]

The Worst Person in the World (Norway: Joachim Trier, 2021) [Ongoing Archive for the film: "Chronicles four years in the life of Julie, a young woman who navigates the troubled waters of her love life and struggles to find her career path, leading her to take a realistic look at who she really is."]