Friday, December 31, 2021

Magnolia (USA: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)


Magnolia (USA: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999: 188 mins) 

Bernstein, Arielle and Nelson Carvajal. "The Inherent Vice in Paul Thomas Anderson's Films: A Video Essay." Press Play (January 2, 2015)

Boyer, Lanny. "Paul Thomas Anderson: Four Basics." (Posted on Youtube: October 19, 2015)

Cassidy, Brendan and J.D. Duran. "Magnolia / Punch Drunk Love." InSession Film (January 2018)

Congdon, David. "Reconsidering apocalyptic cinema: Pauline apocalyptic and Paul Thomas Anderson." Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 24.3 (2012)

Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey. "Magnolia: A Savage Attack on Masculinity and Whiteness." Senses of Cinema (February 2015)

Goss, Brian Michael. "“Things Like This Don’t Just Happen”: Ideology and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard EightBoogie Nights, and Magnolia." Journal of Communication Inquiry 26:2 (April 2002): 171-192

Holt, Ryan. "#16: Magnolia." Arts and Faith Top 100 Films (2011)

Jack's Movie Reviews. "Paul Thomas Anderson - Finding a Purpose In Life." (Posted on Youtube: March 11, 2017)

Lee, Kevin B. "The Career of Paul Thomas Anderson in Five Shots." (Posted on Vimeo: 2013)

Nayman, Adam. Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks. Abrams, 2020.

Ratzlaff, Jeremy. "Paul Thomas Anderson: A Chronological Timeline." (Posted on Vimeo: November 2015)

Sperb, Jason. Blossoms and Blood: Postmodern Media Culture and the Films of Paul Thomas Anderson. University of Texas Press, 2013.
Toles, George. Paul Thomas Anderson. University of Illinois Press, 2016.

Paul Thomas Anderson & The Long Goodbye from Philip Józef Brubaker on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Boogie Nights (USA: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)

 Boogie Nights (USA: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997: 155 mins)

Bernstein, Arielle and Nelson Carvajal. "The Inherent Vice in Paul Thomas Anderson's Films: A Video Essay." Press Play (January 2, 2015)

"Boogie Nights: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Priceless 155-Minute Film School." Cinephilia & Beyond (ND)

Buckler, Dana. "Boogie Nights Act 1: The History." How Is This Movie? (January 27, 2015)

---. "Boogie Nights Act 2: The Inspiration (John Holmes and the Wonderland Murders)." How Is This Movie? (January 31, 2015)

Buckler, Dana and Jim Hemphill. "Boogie Nights Act 3: The Legacy." How Is This Movie (February 6, 2015)

D'Angelo, Mike. "Scenic Routes: Boogie Nights." A.V. Club (July 13, 2009)

French, Alex and Howie Kahn. "Livin' Thing: An Oral History of Boogie Nights." Grantland (ND)

Goss, Brian Michael. "“Things Like This Don’t Just Happen”: Ideology and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard EightBoogie Nights, and Magnolia." Journal of Communication Inquiry 26:2 (April 2002): 171-192.

Jack's Movie Reviews. "Paul Thomas Anderson - Finding a Purpose In Life." (Posted on Youtube: March 11, 2017)

Lee, Kevin B. "The Career of Paul Thomas Anderson in Five Shots." (Posted on Vimeo: 2013)

Nayman, Adam. Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks. Abrams, 2020.

Ratzlaff, Jeremy. "Paul Thomas Anderson: A Chronological Timeline." (Posted on Vimeo: November 2015)

Swinney, Jacob T. "A Video Essay on Paul Thomas Anderson's Provocative Use of the Long Shot." Press Play (January 30, 2015)

Winter, Max. "A Montage of the Sensuous Close-Ups in Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights." Press Play (February 20, 2015)

10 Books That Influenced Me by Michael Benton

Rules: list 10 books (or other works of art) that have stayed with you. They don't have to be the celebrated great works, just the ones that have touched you.

If you are reading this and if you are inspired, make your list and share them in the comments, so I can learn more about you and the books that are important in your life.

Random off the top of my head. These books are all vital in my dialogic (as opposed to monologic) conception of culture/reality. At an early age, The Bible rigidly framed for me an important, but dangerous/limited conception of the world/reality... all of the important works (art/literature/film/music/etc.....) since that early age that I value have challenged/expanded that limited frame. To be clear, although I am not a Christian now, I value that early education/experience, nothing could have taught me more clearly about how stories structure our sense of reality/the world. Reading it so closely and using that knowledge as a kid to confront lazy interpretations (or even those that had not read it spouting their uninformed interpretations as wisdom) and manipulations/distortions by preachers, politicians, and dogmatic laypeople of the Bible's message taught me the value of close readings and to not assume that people have actually read about/learned what they are talking about:

1 The Bible - I read multiple versions, seven times straight through, often aloud, by my mid-teens, taking notes, in different colored pencils each year, memorizing sections, and engaging in conversations with people of the faith about what was written, using biblical concordances and encyclopedias. It was a great training ground as I was an avid believer and was encouraged to question through dialogue everything I read and what others said about what they did (or did not) read in The Bible. I became very attuned during that time to recognizing those that were parroting other's ideas about the book/faith and to the hypocrisies of powerful interests that sought to manipulate the faithful. Ironically my close attention, seeking out of multiple editions/commentaries, and constant questioning of church authorities led to my leaving the Church/Christianity.

2) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. It taught me about the importance of objects in the formation of identity and the problematic nature of memory/remembering. Most important was the maxim throughout the book: if they tell you this is a true war story, you know it is not. Eviatar Zerubavel's Social Memories is a non-fiction book that would be a good companion to O'Brien's fictionalized memoir.

3) A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It changed the way I thought about and taught historical movements and the people involved - with Michael Marchman I explain the influence of Zinn's book on our lives

4) Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography by James Allen. The first time I came across this book was in an Ann Arbor, MI, Borders and as I read the book on the floor of the store I became increasingly distraught. I drew a crowd because I started asking questions of those around me of what they knew about this history and was passing the book around to others. Some engaged me in discussion, some sought to comfort me, and some were angry at me for what they saw as pissing on their holiday atmosphere. Eventually I was escorted from the store because of the increasing commotion. Without Sanctuary is a collection of photographs detailing the visual legacy of American lynchings. Most people know that lynchings took place in the U.S. (although few realize the extent), but they are often recounted as temporary lapses of collective sanity. This book documents how lynchings were a socially sanctioned activity used to keep a section of society in check and fearful. Just as shocking and horrific as the desecrated bodies of Black Americans are the smiling, joyous faces of the White Americans in the crowds. The Equal Justice Initiative provides a contemporary project that ensures we will not forget this history

5 Understanding Power - Noam Chomsky This is a series of lectures by one of America's most important dissident political philosophers. It changed the way that I understood the operation of politics/power and the way that history/representation is intertwined with the former. I've read it and listened to audio versions multiple times.

6 Ways of Seeing by John Berger. I stumbled upon this book, and later the BBC documentary, early in my education and it pushed me to understand how art/culture frames certain realities that emphasizes certain aspects/people in a culture/society and marginalizes/excludes others. An important initial book that initiated my understanding and analysis of 'framing.' It also pushed me to investigate issues of gender.

7 Project Censored's Annual Books on the Top 25 Most Censored News Stories of the Year. Can't just choose one, carried out by hundreds of scholars and students every year for over a half-century, they publish an annual book detailing the stories that were ignored by the mainstream media each year and even more important are their detailed, in-depth, thematic reports of important issues all media scholars and concerned citizens should be aware of.....

8 Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play by James C. Scott. I have witnessed many times otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, critical people become unrelentingly & willfully reactionary and unreflective when this subject comes up. If only they could take the time to read this clear and concise look at how anarchism is actually a part of our daily lives (the whole book is available for free online ). A great counter to the extensive propaganda aimed at getting us to think that we need super-powers (egos) to lead us through life.

9) The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollen. It led me to rethink my/our relationship to the plant world and how they shape us just as much as we cultivate them. Four sections on potatoes, apples, tulips and marijuana. There is also a documentary based on this book.

10) Tie: The Xenogenesis Trilogy (Dawn/Adulthood Rites/Imago) and The Parable of the Sower/The Parable of the Talents - both by Octavia Butler. These books radically rewrote my mind to be fully conscious of the importance of being open to difference (ways of being and ways of seeing - we can never truly understand ourselves until we are able to understand others) and the destructive nature of the fear of difference. I wrote a poem in remembrance of her impact on my life on the anniversary of her tragically early death - I ache at the loss of other great works, but I am grateful for what she gifted us with. I would like to see both works adapted as series (perhaps to radical for that).

A Celebration of Alterity by Michael Benton

Slippery word
Whose meaning is
Not decipherable
Never stated clearly,
Nor fixed firmly
The nerve of the word
It may be approached,
Though, if one dares,
Through networks
Of associations
Altar, Alter
Alternative, Alternation
I yearn to sacrifice
Myself upon the
Altar of your difference.
Yet, I hold back
Fearing that the pleasure
May somehow alter me.
Your scent and taste
Seizes the roots of my soul
What alternative is there?
I vacillate, between pleasure and pain
Ceaselessly resonating between
Yawning gaps of reason
Even the meaning of alterity
Precipitates a crisis
Symbol of difference
Naming of the OTHER
Its power mocks
Conformity’s lack
Resist the conservative urge
To embrace sameness
Explore those who differ
Open up closed circuits
Rise up to celebrate
The eros of alterity

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Hard Eight (USA: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996)


Hard Eight (USA: Paul Thomas Anderson, 1996: 101 mins)

Bernstein, Arielle and Nelson Carvajal. "The Inherent Vice in Paul Thomas Anderson's Films: A Video Essay." Press Play (January 2, 2015)

Boyer, Lanny. "Paul Thomas Anderson: Four Basics." (Posted on Youtube: October 19, 2015)

Ebert, Roger. "Hard Eight." Chicago Sun-Times (February 27, 1997)

Goss, Brian Michael. "“Things Like This Don’t Just Happen”: Ideology and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard EightBoogie Nights, and Magnolia." Journal of Communication Inquiry 26:2 (April 2002): 171-192

Jameson, Richard T. "Flying Dutchman: Hard Eight." Film Comment (March/April 1997)

Jack's Movie Reviews. "Paul Thomas Anderson - Finding a Purpose In Life." (Posted on Youtube: March 11, 2017)

Jeffrey, Paul. "Hard Eight and the Isolated Actor." Senses of Cinema (February 2015)

Lee, Kevin B. "The Career of Paul Thomas Anderson in Five Shots." (Posted on Vimeo: 2013)

Guillermo Del Toro (Ongoing Archive)

Munoz, Gabriella. "Great Directors: Guillermo del Toro." Senses of Cinema #90 (March 2019)   

Cronos (1993)

Mimic (1997)

The Devil's Backbone (2001) - DVD at BCTC Newtown

Blade II (2002)

Hellboy (2004)

Pans Labyrinth (2006) - DVD at BCTC Newtown

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Pacific Rim (2013)

Crimson Peak (2015) 

The Shape of Water (2017) - DVD at BCTC Newtown

Nightmare Alley (2021)

Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Shape of Water (USA: Guillermo Del Toro, 2017)


The Shape of Water (USA: Guillermo Del Toro, 2017: 123 mins)

If I spoke about it – if I did – what would I tell you? I wonder. Would I tell you about the time … Or would I tell you about the place … Would I tell you about her? The princess without voice. Or perhaps I would just warn you, about the truth of these facts. And the tale of love and loss. And the monster, who tried to destroy it all. - Giles, The Shape of Water (2017)

Anderson, Jake. "The Shape of Water." Letterboxd (August 29, 2018)

Blair, Iain. "Guillermo del Toro - The Shape of Water: On Creating a Visually Dazzling, Emotionally Daring, Genre Mash-Up." Post 33.3 (March 1, 2018) 

Corbeil, Gilles. "The Shape of Water: The Art of del Toro." Society of Camera Operators (2017)

Digravio, Will.  "How Guillermo del Toro Uses Color to Create New Worlds." Film School Rejects (February 16, 2018)

Duran, J.D. "The Shape of Water is a Weird, but Beautiful Love Story." InSession Film (December 1, 2017)

Gerwig, Greta, et al. "63 Minute Directors Roundtable Talk." The Hollywood Reporter (Posted on Playlist: January 22, 2018) ["Angelina Jolie (“First They Killed My Father”), Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”), Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”), Joe Wright (“Darkest Hour”), Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”), and Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”)."]

"Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) Talks with William Friedkin (The Devil and Father Amorth), Part 1." Talkhouse (April 17, 2018) ["In the first part of their enthralling two-part conversation for the Talkhouse Podcast, the pair discuss winning big at the Oscars, surviving award season, how to stay a scrapper despite success, del Toro’s apprenticeship under makeup legend Dick Smith, the remarkable story of Friedkin and the Pazuzu statue in The Exorcist, the plagiarism controversy surrounding The Shape of Water, and much more."]

"Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) Talks with William Friedkin (The Devil and Father Amorth), Part 2." Talkhouse (April 19, 2018) ["Here, the longtime friends discuss the genesis of and remarkable stories surrounding Friedkin’s compelling new documentary about the Vatican’s exorcist,The Devil and Father Amorth. In the process, they tackle some of the most substantial topics imaginable, including: Christ, Hitler, religion, evil, reason vs. emotion, empathy vs. fear, free will, the impending apocalypse — and how filmmakers can make a difference in a world on the brink."]

Lane, Anthony. "The Genre-Fluid Fantasy of The Shape of Water."  The New Yorker (December 11, 2017)

Liu, Rebecca. "Of River Gods and Women: Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water." Another Gaze (February 23, 2018)

Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder. " Room for (Materiality's) Maneuver: Reading the Oppositional in Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water." Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 58.4 (June 22, 2019): 150-156.

Nayman, Adam. "The Uses of Disenchantment: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water." CinemaScope #73 (2017)

O'Falt, Chris. "The Best Cast Films of 2017, According to Top Casting Directors." IndieWire (December 4, 2017) ["15 casting directors explain the brilliance behind their peers’ work in “Lady Bird,” “Get Out,” “The Post,” "The Shape of Water," and more."]

Renée, V. "How Guillermo Del Toro's Classic Cinema Homages Add Depth to The Shape of Water." No Film School (February 27, 2018)

Scott, A.O. "The Shape of Water is Altogether Wonderful." The New York Times (November 30, 2017)

Sturm, Rudiger. "Guillermo Del Toro: 'I'm Not Meta, I'm Really Earnest." The Talks (March 7, 2018)

Swinney, Jacob T. "The Final Shot: Fading to White." Fandor (November 30, 2018)

Buy, Thai. "The Shape of Water (2017)." Psychological Perspectives 62.2/3 (July 3, 2019): 309-313. 

Thrift, Matt. "The Shape of Water." Little White Lies (February 14, 2018)

Wilkinson, Alissa. "The Shape of Water, from Guillermo del Toro, is a beautiful adult fairy tale about a fish-man." Vox (March 5, 2018)

Wood, Michael. "At the Movies: The Shape of Water." London Review of Books (March 22, 2018)

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Crimson Peak (USA: Guillermo del Toro, 2015)

Crimson Peak (USA: Guillermo del Toro, 2015: 119 mins)

Basciano, Oliver. "Crimson Peak: How Guillermo del Toro sketched its visual style." The Guardian (October 10, 2015)

del Toro, Guillermo. "The books, TV, films and music that brought me to Crimson Peak." The Guardian (October 10, 2015)

"Jessica Chastain Discusses Her Acting Process In Recent One-Hour Conversation." The Film Stage (March 24, 2015)

Kindinger, Evangelia. "The ghost is just a metaphor: Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, nineteenth-century female gothic, and the slasher." NECSUS (Autumn 2017)

Musap, Emilia. "Monstrous Domesticity: Home as a Site of Oppression in Crimson Peak." Sic 8.1 (2017)

Newman, Kim. "Houses of horror: A rambling, teetering, crumbling brief history of gothic cinema." The Guardian (October 10, 2015)

O'Malley, Sheila. "Crimson Peak." Roger Ebert (October 16, 2015) 

Patterson, John. "Guillermo del Toro: ‘I try to tell you a story with eye-protein, not eye-candy.’" The Guardian (October 10, 2015)

Salazar, Andrew J. "Crimson Peak Is Quintessential Guillermo Del Toro." Discussing Film (October 16, 2020)

Scott, A.O. "Crimson Peak," a Guillermo del Toro Gothic Romance in High Bloody Style." The New York Times (October 15, 2015)

Sims, David. "Crimson Peak: A Gothic Romance to Die For." The Atlantic (October 16, 2015)

Hands of Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro, 2015) from Igor Fernández on Vimeo.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Pan's Labyrinth (Spain/Mexico: Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)


An Academy Award–winning dark fable set five years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth encapsulates the rich visual style and genre-defying craft of Guillermo del Toro. Eleven-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero, in a mature and tender performance) comes face to face with the horrors of fascism when she and her pregnant mother are uprooted to the countryside, where her new stepfather (Sergi López), a sadistic captain in General Francisco Franco’s army, hunts down Republican guerrillas refusing to give up the fight. The violent reality in which Ofelia lives merges seamlessly with her fantastical interior world when she meets a faun in a decaying labyrinth and is set on a strange, mythic journey that is at once terrifying and beautiful. In his revisiting of this bloody period in Spanish history, del Toro creates a vivid depiction of the monstrosities of war infiltrating a child’s imagination and threatening the innocence of youth. - Criterion page for the DVD release
Pan's Labyrinth (Spain/Mexico: Guillermo Del Toro, 2006: 119 mins)

"Adventures in Moviegoing with Guillermo del Toro." The Current (May 25, 2017)

Ahuja, Akshay. "Pan's Labyrinth." The Occasional Review (January 24, 2007)

Atkinson, Michael. "Pan's Labyrinth: The Heart of the Maze." The Current (October 18, 2016)

Balthaser, Benjamin. "Fantasies of Empire." DarkMatters (September 11, 2008)

Barker, Jennifer Lynne. The Aesthetics of Antifascist Film: Radical Projection. Routledge, 2013. [Get through interlibrary loan]

Blitch, Savannah. "Between Earth and Sky: Transcendence, Reality, and the Fairy Tale in Pan’s Labyrinth." Humanities 5.2 (2016): 1-7.

Calhoun, John. "Fear and Fantasy." American Cinematographer (January 2007)

Cattaneo, Ann, et al. "Transformations: How Fairy Tales Cast Their Spell." Philoctetes (November 30, 2007)

del Toro, Guillermo and Cornelia Funke. "Guillermo del Toro's Influences." The Current (October 19, 2016)

Diestro-Dópido, Mar. "Introduction." Pan's Labyrinth. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013: 7-10.

Ebert, Roger. "Pan's Labyrinth." Chicago Sun-Times (August 25, 2007)

Greenhill, Pauline and Sydney Eve Matrix. Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity. Utah State University Press, 2010.

Herrero, Carmen. "Pan's Labyrinth/El Laberinto Del Fauno (2006): A Study Guide." Cornerhouse (No Date)

Kermode, Mark. "'Pain should not be sought - but it should never be avoided'." The Observer (November 4, 2006)

Kotecki, Kristine. "Approximating the Hypertextual, Replicating the Metafictional: Textual and Sociopolitical Authority in Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth." Marvels & Tales 24.2 (october 2010): 235-255.

Lightcap, Torey. "Pan's Labyrinth." Explore Faith (2007)

Lindsay, Richard. "Menstruation as Heroine’s Journey in Pan’s Labyrinth." Journal of Religion and Film 16.1 (2012)

López, Issa. "Pan's Labyrinth." Switchblade Sisters #4 (November 30, 2017) ["This week is a fantastical episode of Switchblade Sisters where April sits down with director Issa Lopez to discuss the influential Guillermo Del Toro film, Pan's Labyrinth. Issa opens up about her lonesome adolescence, the death of her mother, and how these events influenced her work. She tells April about the emotional process of working with children on her most recent film, the fantasy-horror Tigers Are Not Afraid. And she also discusses the culture of witchcraft and magic in Mexico and how that pervades many Mexican artist's work."]

Mann, Michael. "Interview with Guillermo Del Toro." What's Up Mann (December 2006)

Markham, John. "Guillermo del Toro and the representation of the Spanish Civil War in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘The Devil’s Backbone.'" (Personal Website: January 6, 2015)

Maurer Queipo, Isabel. Directory of World Cinema: Latin America. Intellect, 2013

McSweeney, Terence and Amresh Sinha.  Millennial Cinema Memory in Global Film. Columbia University Press, 2012.

Newitz, Annalee. "Pan’s Labyrinth – Can Fantasies Rescue Us from Fascism?" Wired (February 7, 2007)

O'Flynn, Siobhan. "The Fragility of Faith in the Films of Guillermo del Toro." (University of Toronto Mississauga: CFC Media Lab)

Orme, Jennifer. "Narrative Desire and Disobedience in Pan's Labyrinth." Marvels and Tales 24.2 (2010): 219 - 234.

"Pan’s Labyrinth: A Richly Imagined, Dreamlike Voyage of Self-Discovery and Character Formation." Cinephilia and Beyond (ND)

Perschon, Mike. "Embracing the Darkness, Sorrow, and Brutality of Pan’s Labyrinth." Tor (May 25, 2011)

"Psycho-Critical Analysis of Pan’s Labyrinth: Myth, Psychology, Perceptual Realism, Eyes & Traumatic Despondency." Dona Majic Show (No Date)

Sanchez, Francisco J.  "A Post-National Spanish Imaginary: A Case Study - Pan's Labyrinth." The Comparatist #36 (May 2012): 137-147.

"I remember my own childhood vividly ... I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them." -- Maurice Sendak in conversation with Art Spiegelman, The New Yorker (September 27, 1993)

Smith, Paul Julian. "Pan's Labyrinth." Film Quarterly 60.4 (Summer 2007)

Watson, Pete. "Pan's Labyrinth Character Symbolism." YouTube (June 18, 2012)

---. "Pan's Labyrinth Fairy Tale Elements." YouTube (June 13, 2012)

---. "Pan's Labyrinth Historical Background." YouTube (June 11, 2012)

---. "Pan's Labyrinth Regime Critique." YouTube (June 18, 2012)

White, Camiele. "Cinema Art: The Film Tapestry of Guillermo del Toro." Cinemascope (September 21, 2010)

Zalewski, Daniel. "Show The Monster." The New Yorker (February 7, 2011)

 The Role of Women Under Franco: A Reflection in Pan's Labyrinth from Allison Green on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Devil's Backbone (Spain/Mexico: Guillermo del Toro, 2001)

One of the most personal films by Guillermo del Toro, The Devil’s Backbone is also among his most frightening and emotionally layered. Set during the final week of the Spanish Civil War, it tells the tale of a twelve-year-old boy who, after his freedom-fighting father is killed, is sent to a haunted rural orphanage full of terrible secrets. Del Toro expertly combines gothic ghost story, murder mystery, and historical melodrama in a stylish mélange that, like his later Pan’s Labyrinth, reminds us the scariest monsters are often the human ones. - Criterion Collection

The Devil's Backbone (Spain/Mexico: Guillermo del Toro, 2001: 106 mins)

"Adventures in Moviegoing with Guillermo del Toro." The Current (May 25, 2017)

Barry, Angie. "Vivisect the Director: Guillermo del Toro and The Devil’s Backbone (2001)." The Criminal Element (April 7, 2014)

Cathcart, Abigail M. "An Outsider Amongst Outsiders: Psychosocial Impact of The Devil’s Backbone, The Orphanage, and Mama." (A Thesis Submitted to the Honors College of The University of Southern Mississippi in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts in the Department of Theatre: 2015)

"Cleansing of the Soul for a Clean Slate: Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil's Backbone." Cinephilia & Beyond (ND)

del Toro, Guillermo and Cornelia Funke. "Guillermo del Toro's Influences." The Current (October 19, 2016)

Ebert, Roger. "The Devil's Backbone." Chicago Sun-Times (December 21, 2001)

Goldberg, Matt. "The Films of Guillermo del Toro: The Devil’s Backbone." The Collider (October 9, 2015)

"Guillermo del Toro's Ghostly Encounter." The Current (July 29, 2013)

Heumann, Joseph K. and Robin L. Murray. "Through an Eco-Lens of Childhood: Roberto Rossellini's Germany Year Zero and Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone." Monstrous Nature : Environment and Horror on the Big Screen. University of Nebraska, 2016: 57-80.

Ibarra, Enrique Ajuria. "Permanent hauntings: spectral fantasies and national trauma in Guillermo del Toro's El espinazo del diablo [The Devil's Backbone]." Journal of Romance Studies 12.1 (Spring 2012)

Kermode, Mark. "The Devil's Backbone: The Past is Never Dead." The Current (July 30, 2013)

Lázaro-Reboll, Antonio. "The Transnational Reception of The Devil's Backbone (Guillermo del Toro 2001)." Hispanic Research Journal 8.1 (February 2007): 39–51.

Smith, Michael Glover. "Giving The Devil’s Backbone Its Due." White City Cinema (October 15, 2010)

Monday, December 6, 2021

Sunshine (UK/USA: Danny Boyle, 2007)

 Sunshine (UK/USA: Danny Boyle, 2007: 107 mins)

Dargis, Manohla. "On a Mission to Replace the Sun, Fighting Demons From Inner Space." The New York Times (July 20, 2007)

Ebert, Roger. "2057: A Sun Odyssey." Chicago Sun-Times (July 19, 2007)

Grierson, Tim. "This Week in Genre History: It's No Surprise People Didn't See Sunshine's Brilliance." SYFY Wire (July 21, 2021)

Hoffman, Quentin. "Why ‘Sunshine’ is a Misunderstood Masterpiece." Movie Musing (January 13, 2017)

Like Stories of Old. "Sunshine – A Visceral Experience of Life, Death and Meaning." (Posted on Youtube: September 28, 2018) ["An examination of Sunshine and its visceral presentation of themes of life, death and meaning." Book discussed: Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.]

Lim, Dennis. "Sunshine: Danny Boyle's latest visit to a vast new world." The New York Times (July 10, 2021)

Maskell, Emily. "Sunshine and the existential dilemma of space travel." Little White Lies (July 16, 2019)

Newell, C.H. "Danny Boyle’s Sunshine Takes Its Sci-Fi Seriously." Father Son Holy Gore (June 2, 2016)

Subissata, Andrea and Alexander West. "Stardust: Event Horizon (1997) and Sunshine (2007)." Faculty of Horror #61 (April 26, 2018) ["Andrea and Alex reach for the heavens and find the furthest reaches of hell with two films about space exploration and the darkness therein. Event Horizon and Sunshine explore the different reasons humankind would dare try to conquer space and the horrors that might await us there."]

Monday, November 29, 2021

20th Century Women (USA: Mike Mills, 2016)


20th Century Women (USA: Mike Mills, 2016: 118 mins)

Adams, Amy, et al. "Watch Isabelle Huppert, Emma Stone, Amy Adams & More Discuss Acting in 50-Minute Roundtable."  Film Stage (January 30, 2017) [" Isabelle Huppert (Elle), Emma Stone (La La Land), Amy Adams (Arrival), Natalie Portman (Jackie), Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Annette Bening (20th Century Women), and Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures)."]

Barton-Fumo, Margaret, Molly Haskell and Violet Lucca. "Women in New Hollywood." Film Comment Podcast (February 7, 2017) ["Road-tripping crises of masculinity soundtracked by classic rock, Harvey Keitel making up for his sins in the streets—a laundry list of 1970s New Hollywood highlights can tend to lack a nuanced female presence. But the ’70s also gave us Wanda, Puzzle of a Downfall Child, Girlfriends, A Woman Under the Influence, and even Five Easy Pieces, all of which explore female identity in the era of second-wave feminism. This episode of the Film Comment podcast spirals outwards from From Reverence to Rape author Molly Haskell’s essay on Mike Mills’s 20th Century Women and accompanying interview with Annette Bening, in the January/February issue, taking a closer look at depictions of women in New Hollywood. Some of these were “neo-women’s films,” dealing with disillusioned housewives fleeing the domestic sphere; others took on female friendship without turning a blind eye to its messiness, a line that runs through Thelma and Louise, Frances Ha, and Broad City."]

Bloom, Julie. "A Boy Raised by a Few 20th Century Women." The New York Times (November 4, 2016)

Chang, Justin. "Annette Bening is the Pitch-Perfect Centerpiece of 20th Century Women." The Los Angeles Times (December 27, 2016)

Chocano, Carina. "'I Got Beat Up For Wearing This Shirt': Filmmaker Mike Mills shares seven objects that inspired 20th Century Women." The Cut (January 4, 2017)

Ehrlich, David. "20th Century Women Review: Annette Bening, Greta Gerwig, and Elle Fanning Star In Mike Mills’ Best Film." IndieWire (October 7, 2016)

Formo, Brian. "20th Century Women: Mike Mills on the Story’s Response to Beginners, the Necessity of DIY Spaces." Collider (December 27, 2016)

Fujishima, Kenji. "20th Century Women." Paste (October 11, 2016)

Garcia, Mandie. "20th Century Women: 'Can't Things Just Be Pretty.'" Letterboxd (March 5, 2017)

Gilbert, Sophie. "20th Century Women is an Ode to Female Resilience." The Atlantic (January 13, 2017)

Hoffman, Jordan. "20th Century Women: Mike Mills New Film is Poignant and Delicious." The Guardian (October 7, 2016)

Loofbourow, Lili. "20th Century Women, and the Movie as Mixtape." The Week (December 26, 2016)

Mills, Mike. "On Filmmaking." The Close-Up (December 29, 2016)

O'Malley, Sheila. "20th Century Women." Roger Ebert (December 23, 2016)

Rooney, David. "20th Century Women: NYFF 2016." The Hollywood Reporter

Warne, Jude. "Authenticity in Many Forms: 20th Century Women." Film International (January 4, 2017)

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Guide to Louisville Eats

August Moon (Chinese) *

Bar Vetti (Italian)

Con Huevos (Mexican Breakfast/Brunch) *

Dragon King's Daughter (Asian-Latin Fusion)

El Mundo (Mexican)

Everyday Kitchen (Regional Farm-to-table)

Grape Leaf (Mediterranean)

Grassa Gramma (Italian)

Havana Cuba (Cuban)

Jack Fry's (American Fine Dining)

Kashmir (Indian)

La Bodeguita De Mima (Cuban)

Le Moo (Upscale Steakhouse)

Louisville Cream (Premium small batch ice cream)

The Mayan Cafe (Mayan/Latin)

Merle's Whiskey Kitchen (Southern/American)

Mussel and Burger Bar (American)

Pizza Lupo (Pizza/Pasta)

River House (Seafood)

Roots (Vegetarian)

Seviche (Latin)

Simply Thai (Thai & Sushi)

Vietnam Kitchen (Vietnamese)

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Michael Benton: Quicksilver Dreams & Hidden Realities

 Quicksilver Dreams & Hidden Realities

Standing on the shore of Quiddity I cast my consciousness to catch quicksilver dreams that will nurture me with glimpses of hidden realities.

Recognizing that there are other realities, other possibilities, other journeys, other methods, is the path of wisdom. Learning how to engage with them is the essence of Art in all its manifestations.

The possibility for any kind of peace is only ever realized when differences learn to co-exist. No need to assimilate, conquer, conform, or convert. Crusades are for the insecure; instead we need to create an environment in which people will be encouraged to continuously become what they would be.

Peace and love,

Michael D. Benton

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

12 Years a Slave (USA: Steve McQueen, 2013)


12 Years a Slave (USA: Steve McQueen, 2013: 133 mins)

Aitkenhead, Decca. "Steve McQueen: My Hidden Shame." The Guardian (January 4, 2014)

Berlatsky, Noah. "How 12 Years a Slave Gets History Right: By Getting It Wrong." The Atlantic (October 28, 2013)

Clark, Ashley. "Alien abductions: 12 Years a Slave and the past as science fiction."  Sight and Sound (April 14, 2015)

Conrath, Ryan. "Interview: Editor Joe Walker on 12 Years a SlaveHungerShame, and More." Bright Lights Film Journal (April 30, 2014)

Karp, Matt. "A Confederacy of Kidnappers." Jacobin (November 4, 2013)

Kellner, Douglas. "The horrors of slavery and modes of representation in Amistad and 12 Years a Slave." Jump Cut #56 (Winter 2014/2015)

Livingston, Jay. "The Revenge Fantasy: Django Unchained vs. 12 Years a Slave." Sociological Images (November 4, 2013)

Mackey, James. "12 Years a Slave: Verso’s essential reading list on slavery and race relations." Verso (October 23, 2014)

Nayman, Adam. "Atrocity Exhibition: 12 Years a Slave." Reverse Shot #33 (2013)

Rich, Frank. "Liberal Echo Chamber." New York (November 3, 2013)

Suebsaeng, Asawin. Henry Louis Gates Jr. Fact-Checks 12 Years a Slave." Mother Jones (October 12, 2013)

Wickman, Forrest. "How Accurate Is 12 Years a Slave?" Slate (October 17, 2013)

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Halloween 2021 Recommendations: 21st Century Horror

The Devil's Backbone (Guillermo del Toro, 2001) [A subtle exploration of individual and collective trauma. Del Toro is a master of horror and insightful explorer of childhood explorations of the dark side of adulthood.] 

Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) [I remember seeing an image of Donnie in the theater with the freaky rabbit head creature in a short review in a paper. The film disappeared quicker than I could get to see it and I was pleased to discover it when it was released on video. It quickly became a cult favorite and one of those films that you can rewatch.]

Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001) [One of the great pleasures of Claire Denis' unique & powerful films is the coterie of dedicated artists that work in her films (and her ability to attract other similar one time participants). This can be seen in her work with Agnes Godard her long time cinematographer (they met while working for Wim Wenders), to Tindersticks providing the soundtracks, and through the great acting collaborators that artfully manifest as different characters in mutliple films. Denis and her collaborators seem to develop a space for fearless filmmaking that challenges the artists involved and the later audience to (re)conceive the possibilities of different ways of telling stories through films (and in the case of Trouble Every Day -- the hoary conventions of a sanitized and exhausted vampire mythos).]

Save the Green Planet (Jang Joon-Hwan, 2003) [Are you curious about the QAnon believers, this bat shit crazy Korean film is an interesting glimpse into the possible mindset of those that spiral down conspiracy rabbit holes. Great ending ;)]

Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004) [Shaun just wants to rescue his doomed romance, then all hell breaks loose. The start of Wright's brilliant Cornish Trilogy.]

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) [A masterpiece touchstone of 21st Century horror and brilliant exploration of the role stories play in our lives during difficult times. One of the best production design and creature creation films! The ending has led to many debates in my film classes.]

The Host (Bong Joon-ho, 2006) [I tell my students this is Little Miss Sunshine's family meets Godzilla.  I would take this over a million Godzilla reboots.]

Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) [Long, intense discussions about this film at the end of The Kentucky Theater midnight movie screening. That night I had an intense dream about it and woke up to scribble this down  "Be Me, for Awhile" -- Ideological Becoming and Future Objectivity in Let the Right One In."  A great re-imagining of the vampire story and exploration of the monster in all of us.]

Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2008) [My tagline would be: The only way to survive is to resist understanding. A great vehicle for Stephen McHattie to do what he does best :) A counter to the mindless hordes of brainless zombie films/TV.]

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Guillermo del Toro, 2008) [Even when del Toro is paying the bills he hits some great notes. Leaves me crying at the fact that his adaptation At the Mountains of Madness has not come to fruition.]

Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve, 2009) [An attempt to examine a deeply traumatic, misogynistic, mass shooting in Canada. One of the best attempts to do something like this. Unique narrative.]

The Temptation of St. Tony (Veiko Õunpuu, 2009) [This Estonian films opens with this epigraph: from Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Midway upon the journey of life / I found myself within a forest dark / For the straightforward pathway had been lost.” What does it mean to be a middle manager, losing all sense of morality, in a culture that has long abandoned any scraps of right/wrong.]

Jennifer's Body (Karyn Kusama, 2009) [I fully agree with the theme that crappy, pseudo-independent, boy hair bands are the devil's work ;) Great fun!]

Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010) [I remember during the last 20 minutes of this film I was wringing my hands so tightly I feared I would break the fingers. A great exploration of consciousness and identity. Don't read about it, see it.] 

The Silence (Baran bo Odar, 2010) [I'm not a fan of serial killers, and I wonder about the obsessive fascination of others about them, although it does seem to be the monstrous archetype for capitalistic individualism. This film really tries to explore the compulsion behind the serial killer and left me wrecked at the end.]

Stake Land (Jim Mickle, 2010) [It is an amazing experience when you watch a favorite film years later and it still has the power to thrill you. Even more frightening in its message and story after 4 years living through a pandemic in reactionary Trump'merica. Just as redemptive in the struggle and journey of the characters. Engaging, intense narrative!]

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, 2011) [Ostensibly an exploration of the damage a small, controlling cult can wreck on the individual, but I would make the case that it is equally and importantly a parallel exploration (intentionally or unintentionally) of mainstream social strictures. Brilliant!"]

Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2011) [Wheatley's 'A Field in England' sent me on a pleasurable orgy of tripping imagistic weirdness (that seemed so damn real), so I was worried if 'Kill List' could match that film... it did... intertwining the cliched hit man charcters embroiled in domestic drama into a twisted horror scenario - brilliant, deconstructive film. Combine that with the fully committed, intense, and improvisational acting of the four leads -- yes! You should go into this with as little information as possible....."]

A Cabin in the Woods (Drew Godard, 2011) [My favorite metacinematic film exploring the nature of horror on a societal level while providing a rip-roaring narrative. Another film you should go into completely uninformed.]

Attack the Block (Joe Cornish, 2011) [Good monster/alien invasion film. Place your bets - street kids vs alien invasion.]
You're Next (Adam Wingard, 2011) [Definite flaws, but a candidate for the final girls hall of fame.]

Kiss of the Damned (Xan Cassavettes, 2012) [My favorite 1970s arthouse erotic vampire film - four decades later!]

Berberian Sound Studio (Peter Strickland, 2012) [A fascinating, spooky homage to Italian giallo films, sound effect techniques, and analogue sound."]

American Mary (Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska, 2012) [It is difficult paying for college these days! Not really contemporary horror, more like classic grand guignol (and I say that admiringly). I've heard about the Soska sisters for a couple of years and was going to watch this film during the last Directed by Women global event. I'm very intrigued by how they developed this story of the extreme measures taken by a female medical student to fund her expensive education and her reactions to the abusive patriarchy/authorities of her institution. Also an interesting and disturbing alternative society seems to be developed (Lance's comment near the end is key?) ............ but it seems equally abusive and centered around capitalist relations of money. More questions than answers. Deeply problematic film, but shows a lot of promise - I would like to see what their next film will be.....  This ranks with Abel Ferrara's The Addiction as one of the great academic horror films.]

Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013) [A great meditation on coming to terms with aging and ones place in the world at that time. Also a great soundtrack, I have it on vinyl (blood red, of course).]

Under the Skin (Johnathan Glazer, 2013) [The first time I watched this I was stymied by my expectations based upon an earlier reading of Faber's novel. I had picked it up during my first trip to Europe and the book entranced me with its social and political allegory told through the reflections/experiences of the protagonist. Maybe it took on an added depth of meaning due to my own feelings of alienness on that trip. My second viewing was approached with an awareness that I need to set aside those expectations and open myself to a new interpretation of the story. I was rewarded with a stunning visual masterpiece of imagistic storytelling - potent and powerful, even if a bit ambiguous.]

A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, 2013) [Mycelium horror. After a series of dreadful/banal film viewings it was a pleasure to be enveloped by Wheatley & crew (love the extras on the DVD that emphasize the collective effort that went into this film) into a strange, distant, and confusing world -- all working to provoke this viewer to ask why, how and could ... and ask those questions multiple times, but always engaged and interested.]

Enemy (Denis Villeneuve, 2013) [Profoundly weird (in the classic sense) -- don't want to say anything else :)]

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014) [Amirpour made a splash with this unique take on the beautifully shot and scored vampire film.]

It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, 20140 [Interesting homage and reworking of the horror films of my youth (esp. John Carpenter). Great concept for the initiation of the horror.]

The Invitation (Karyn Kusama, 2015) [Kusama returns to the heights of her first film Girlfight with this intense, highly-watchable, keep-you-guessing, slow-burn thriller. The less you know about it, the better - seriously, don't even watch the trailer, but definitely check this film out, preferably with some friends over food & drinks ;) The audience I saw it with had a great, loud time and we were literally buzzing afterward! That ending, on the cusp of 2016 - wow.]

Final Girls (Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) [A lot of fun for horror fans that like metacinematic explorations of the genre."]

The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczyńska, 2015)   [A horror musical? Yes. Also rescues the mermaid from Disney.]

Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro, 2015) [I'm concerned by those that believe this film does not contain enough "horror"]

A Dark Song (Liam Gavin, 2016) [Painstaking attention to the details of traumatic grief, magic rituals, and ... (can't spoil it) brings this effectively written, acted and directed two-hander to life - I was riveted throughout!]

The Neon Demon (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2016) [I drove to see The Neon Demon and stopped into the corporate faux-British pub for a bite/drink beforehand. Made conversation with a stunning bartender in a tartan skirt. In the spirit of the high-fashion, excesses I expected from the film, I asked to try a dram of a high end bourbon (which I had not tried before) and she laughingly told me she would have to get on a ladder to get a new bottle and then proceeded to do so right in front of me. A bit stunned and exhilarated, as little was left to the imagination (this was not me gawking - the tartan skirt was barely covering her), I was for a moment a bit speechless. A few minutes later we struck up a conversation and she discussed her sideline of schilling alcohol samples at regional venues - she asked me if I knew Jay-Z and his new line of 'healthier' alcohol brands (she works for them). She was interesting and engaging, but it was clear her 'beauty' was the skill she used to make a living. I left wondering/wandering about the vagaries of beauty (of those that have it and those that want to use it) and the ways in which society defines it, distributes it, defiles it and discards it. Needless to say I was primed for the film ........... As I left the film - the first song I heard on my car radio was Meghan Trainor's 'Me Too' (a singer and song I was unaware of - the line "If I was you I would want to be me too" was what stuck) and when I changed the channel, almost immediately, Monty Python's Money Programme came on. Obviously this doesn't describe the film - I recommend you see it. Tagline: "Beauty is vicious"]

Train to Busan (Yean Sang-ho, 2016)  [Nice to see a film(maker) rise to the challenge of making something new in the very overworked Zombie sub-genre. An action, thrill ride!]

Raw (Julia Ducourau, 2016) [I decided to watch this during a 24 hr fast - good decision ;)]

31 (Rob Zombie, 2016) [This film... what the fuck, such a mess (the script), but rescued by other aspects of the film, and at times a bit of brilliance.]

Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017) [A perfect social horror film to cap the Obama era's liberal self-patting.]

The Endless (Aaron Morehead and Justin Benson, 2017) [Both a great cult and cosmic horror film that keeps one engaged throughout without losing an essential ambiguity that allows your mind to fill the open spaces.]

Tigers are Not Afraid (Issa Lopez, 2017) [The setting for this realistic narrative of orphans on the streets is scary enough, then there is the interjection of magical realism which gives it an otherworldly sensibility.]

Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino, 2018) [Remake of Dario Argento's 1977 film. I know this will bother fans of the original, but I think this is the superior film and I was riveted throughout. Great dance scenes, a mindbending ending, and great female cast headed by Tilda Swinton.]

Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2018) [One of the best cosmic horror films. Maybe mycelium horror, depending on your interpretation. Stellar female ensemble playing scientists and soldiers. Visually intense and beautiful.]

Cam (Daniel Goldhaber, 2018) [What could be more frightening to a social media influencer than to have their online, branded identity, hijacked by unknown forces... and they may be even better at it than you in your tireless efforts. Could have been so bad, instead it rises to be a prime film examining our online obsessions about our performative identities.]

A Quiet Place (John Krasinski, 2018) [Unique, highly effective, even some well-earned jump scares - had me squirming at times.]

Tales From the Hood 2 (Darin Scott and Rusty Cundieff, 2018) [Hanging with a friend she chose this film and I had very low expectations. It was better than I expected and had me chuckling and shocked at times.]

Midsommar (Ari Aster, 2018) [I hated the excruciatingly painful Hereditary (maybe that means it was effective?), so I avoided this second film for awhile, then I was in the early days of the pandemic and gave it a try. I thought it was a fascinating exploration of fraught relationships, insular communities, cultural arrogance, predatory academics, masculine posturing, and ... I don't want to give it away. I thought it was brilliant.]

Doctor Sleep (Mike Flanagan, 2018) [What an impossible task, making a sequel based upon two twin masterpieces, Stephen King's novel The Shining and Stanley Kubrick's adaptation. To make matters worse, King hated Kubrick's adaptation, which by many is considered to be a masterpiece of horror filmmaking and might have superseded the original novel. Flanagan engages both versions, while creating his own unique vision. I have much admiration for how this turned out and can see myself revisiting it soon. A classic of psychic vampires and evil places!]

Us (Jordan Peele, 2018) [In two years Peele released two great and successful horror films. I had to watch this a second time to fully grasp the intricacies, mostly because I was distracted the first time, and I was fascinated by the social horror of individuals trapped in a social situation definitely not of their making and the blase comfort of those that, knowingly or unknowingly, benefit from their Omelas-like oppression. Everyone is good in this, but Lupita Nyong'o is stellar! That ending ;)] 

In the Earth (Ben Wheatley, 2021) [Mycelium/cosmic horror - understated, cerebral and trippy (kind of like Wheatley's A Field in England). Martin seemed like a wimp from the beginning, but the man held up through some seriously messed up shit. Made during the intense phase of the COVID-19 pandemic - impressive!]

Censor (Prano Bailey-Bond, 2021) [A rigid, moralistic censor during the heyday of the British video nasties censorship period, sees a film that dislodges painful memories and ... don't want to reveal that ;)]