The Jazz Loft According to Eugene W. Smith Friday September 23 through Wednesday September 28 at the Metrograph: $15
In this film about a loft that from 1957 to 1965 drew some of the best musicians of its time to a nondescript location in the city’s Flower District, you might get the feeling that you’ve been to a place sort of like this before. Like almost everything cool in America, the DIY venues we frequent today have their roots in jazz, specifically the underground spots of yesteryear where the music could be experienced in its natural state.
Mono No Aware festival (Photo via Mono No Aware Facebook)
For a long time we’ve heard that analog film formats– for both making and viewing– are on the verge of mass extinction and very soon will be swallowed up by digital photography and filmmaking, never to be seen again. Recent events seem to confirm this prediction– in July, the last manufacturer of VHS players announced that it was quitting the game and shortly after, the Chinese factory where the clunky, black plastic boxes were made for Sanyo ceased production. The end came quietly, and some people were surprised that VHS consoles were still being made at all, since it had been nearly a decade since Eragon, an elf/fantasy movie, was the last ever to be released on VHS. Even before that, Fujifilm had stopped manufacturing motion picture film. As somebody once (pretentiously) told me, books, which are a lot like film in this context, are “nothing more than fetish objects” nowadays.
Elizabeth Wood may be a young filmmaker, still soaking up directorial lessons and figuring it all out, but she knew exactly what she was doing when she decided to call her first full-length feature, a semi-biographical film set in Ridgewood, White Girl. The label is alluring, gnawing, and sorta yucky all at once. Hilton Als wrote an entire collection of essays, White Girls, devoted to decoding the concept, which he determines is somewhere between an actual state of being and a mirage, both an all-powerful fantasy and the ideal object to be controlled : “Once I lived in a perpetual state of disbelief: How could one be a white girl and hate it? Wasn’t she— whoever she was— everything the world saw and wanted?”
It’s a pejorative, a term commonly attached to catcalls that’s less poetic than, say, “snowflake.” It’s “white girl wasted.” It’s a spoiled, naive little girl. It’s complaining too much. It’s traveling abroad and refusing to eat a stew made with chicken broth. It’s infantilizing, condescending, and rarely a compliment. It’s also a nickname for cocaine.
Dancer Friday September 16 to Thursday September 22 at IFC Center: $14
This film follows the illustrious but fraught career of Sergei Polunin, aka the “James Dean of the ballet world,” and his progress from child prodigy to a top-dancer wunderkind. I mean, you couldn’t really call anyone the James Dean of interpretive dance, because that would just be a dumb joke. It actually makes sense with Polunin though, as a figure who’s equally as intense, if not more so, than ballet itself, a sport that demands self-torture of its devotees, legit from the very first step.
Tis the season for Lovecraft festivals and flesh-suspension ziplines, but aside from all that, we’re pretty much living in an age of horror. I mean, Stephen King just compared an actual presidential candidate to cthulhu. So, why not have more than one horror film festival? The first Brooklyn Horror Film Festival was announced earlier this month and will take place in mid-October. Now it’s getting a downtown counterpart, FEARnyc, which will bring 65+ horror flicks to Cinema Village from October 21 to 27. And here’s something The Wolfpack will be psyched about: Wes Craven’s widow will appear on his behalf during the awards ceremony.
Spa Night Thursday September 8, 7:45 pm at Metrograph: $15
This one’s been held over at the Metrograph again and it looks like this is finally, actually, literally the last time you can catch Spa Night within the stylish confines of the Lower East Side’s newest art house theater and perhaps the only ciné in the whole wide city with a concession stand that looks like it was designed by a serial killer. You’ll find that Spa Night is replete with that very same understated but stylish weirdness.It’s a quiet, crawling film fraught by teeth-gritting tension so overwhelming you get the feeling everything’s about to come crashing down if you breathe too loudly.
Strawberries Need Rain Friday September 2, Friday September 9, Saturday September 17, Saturday September 24, midnight at Spectacle: $5
Throughout September, Spectacle is screening a whole slew of films by midnight master, Texas filmmaker, and self-proclaimed “schlockmeister” Larry Buchanan. Old photos of the dude could easily fool you into thinking he’s a jolly pediatrician who makes house calls and checks your pulse with the aid of a pocket watch. Best known for his schlocky sci-fi/horror B-movies like Mars Needs Women and the 1969 original of It’s Alive! (not to be confused with the 1974 cult classic written/directed by Larry Cohen), Buchanan made some super awful and yet somehow successful films, as the story goes. The Times put it best after Buchanan died in 2004 at the age of 81: “It was not so much that his films were bad; they were deeply, dazzlingly, unrepentantly bad.”
Kate Plays Christine Friday August 26 through Thursday September 1 at IFC Center: $15
This year at Sundance, there were two films focused on Christine Chubbuck, the Florida news reporter who killed herself live on the air in the summer of 1974 during the broadcast of her talk show– although the filmmakers in each case took a wildly different approach to exploring not only the story of Chubbuck’s death but our own unrelenting fascination with her suicide and how knowing that it was caught on film makes the whole situation strangely titillating.
When Jess Thoubboron wanted to screen her new short film, Strangers, she thought about how to showcase it in a way that connected to her motivation for making the film in the first place.
Strangers, Thoubboron’s directorial debut, is about two strangers who meet and instantly form a special bond and encourage one another to traverse their self-imposed boundaries and reexamine how they perceived themselves.
Wild Combination: a Portrait of Arthur Russell reflects on the late musician’s wide ranging talent as a classically-trained cellist, steeped in traditional Indian music, who had a knack for meditative dance tracks and even a bit of rock music under his belt from his time in a power pop group called the Necessaries.
A quick hypothetical for you: if real people host film festivals with “real films,” then wouldn’t it make sense that an animated film festival should be hosted by animated people? Crazy, I know, but filmmaker Morgan Miller seems to think it’s worth a shot.
After completing an animated short starring the characters Jeff Twiller and Randy—two coarse guys who enjoy the simple things in life and “like to hang out at the dump” in a place “kind of like Queens”—Miller decided that they’d be perfect hosts for their own film festival.
With the Olympics currently in full swing, we’re seeing badass women kicking butt on a daily basis. Whether it’s Simone Manuel making history in the pool as the first African-American woman to win swimming gold in an individual event, or the whole American gymnastics team defying the laws of physics over and over again like it’s no big deal, women in sports are killing it.
So the timing couldn’t be better for the 4th annual Women’s Surf Film Festival, taking place this weekend at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club.