Andy Warhol

warhol_mario_montez

When Andy Warhol made the switch from painting to filmmaking, he took popular culture by surprise. Warhol was hardly the first artist of his era to traverse media, but he was one of the most prominent and famed, a decidedly off-kilter celebrity who created a personality not fit for prime-time yet nonetheless held a continued presence in prime-time. But the most shocking thing about Warhol’s films was the ways in which they presented the exact opposite of his notorious artwork. Where Warhol’s paintings and prints explored the ubiquitous presence of major movie stars, his own films cast a troupe of eccentric outsiders deemed the alternate universe superstars of his own downtown “factory.” Where Warhol’s paintings created “original” works of glossy, mass-produced products familiar to everyone in a society inundated by advertising (e.g., the infamous Campbell’s soup can), his films were raw, deliberately unpolished, often unedited events that challenged the inherently manufactured nature of the film medium (and, thus, they’re frustratingly hard to see outside of big cities). Whether you delight for a rare screening of the double-projected Chelsea Girls or scoff at the very idea of Empire, Warhol’s films captured a unique place and time in which uninhibited self-expression was king and even the movies could be a happening. So here ‘s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the snow-haired savant who did with cinema what an extraterrestrial might do with the English language.

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Culture Warrior

What exactly do we mean when we find a movie to be boring? Does boring mean redundant? Monotonous? Tedious? Wearisome? Frustrating? Tiring? Uninteresting? Not challenging? The proposed definitions here are far from a collection of synonymous effects on what constitutes a “boring” work. The above terms can often be associated with boredom, but when parsed apart these can denote very different, even oppositional, experiences. For instance, tedium and frustration, which imply an active and engaged (though not positive) form of viewership, do not necessarily describe the same experience as something that feels monotonous or tiring, which by contrast suggests a passive viewer. However, the boredom critique deserves to be severed from its associations with “uninteresting” and “unchallenging” cinema, and “monotony” and “tedium” need not always be negative experiences when watching films. Boring cinema can instead be the most challenging and revelatory of all. In 2009, I wrote a piece titled Slow Isn’t Boring in which I defended the type of deliberately-paced cinema Dan Kois later expressed his frustration with, arguing that slow cinema has the capacity to give viewers a unique and hypnotic experience of time that you can’t find in other entertainment media. Thus, with the films of slow filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, Apichatpong Weerasethakhul, and Carlos Reygadas, I find myself the furthest from a state accurately described as “bored”; in fact, I experience the reverse: total immersion.

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Criterion Files

Editor’s note: This week, your tireless Criterion Warrior (oh, idea for a new column!) requested a week off to pursue something literary and intelligent and, well, big-wordy. With Mr. Palmer out, our own J.L. Sosa stepped up to the plate to file his very own Criterion, um, File. Be nice, bloodsuckers! When I first saw Paul Morrissey‘s Blood for Dracula, I definitely felt like I was partaking of an illicit pleasure. A friend of mine with an encyclopedic knowledge (and equally impressive collection) of B-movies was moving to new digs and bequeathed to me, along with many other obscure relics, his VHS dub of the Criterion Collection’s unedited laserdisc edition of the film (LD spine #287, for the digit-obsessed). Based on the rumors I’d long heard, I was expecting copious over-the-top gore. The film delivered on that promise, but also unexpectedly unfolded with the langorous pace of a high-falutin’ costume drama. You know, just like Sense and Sensibility, except with more extended scenes of softcore grinding and vomiting of blood. I later caught a midnight showing of the film at the beloved St. Anthony Main theater, just across the Mississippi from downtown Minneapolis. This time, the salacious tale of Count Dracula (Udo Kier) and his quest for the blood of a “wirgin” was screened from an authentically scratchy print, and curiously retitled Young Dracula. Although the R-rated Young Dracula had most of its eroticism trimmed, there was still enough suggestive content and bloodletting to draw whoops of approval (and sometimes […]

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as Raptureness316 and TMal4TheWin in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the pair try to avoid being pretentious at all costs while discussion The Tree of Life, dismissive reactions to art we don’t understand or like, and the nature of randomness in creation. What is art? And what does Hitler have to do with it?

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Criterion Files

John Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959) is often cited as a watershed moment in American independent film, and Cassavetes himself rather conveniently historicized as our nation’s “first” independent filmmaker. Such historical designations are often used as a way to narrativize precedents to the 1980s and 1990s Sundance-emboldened independent film “movement” and draw historical equivalents to the practices of now and then. This tendency often positions Cassavetes’ undoubtedly important contributions in a way that simplistically juxtaposes his artistic efforts with that of, say, anybody from Jim Jarmusch to Quentin Taranatino, ignoring the essential differences in historical context and means of aesthetic expression between them while also conveniently evading the many other American “independent” filmmakers that came before Cassavates himself. While Cassavetes is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind filmmaker (excluding the many he has influenced), perhaps the biggest problem with this conventionally reductive veneration of Cassavetes is the notion that he acted alone, that he was an anomaly in an otherwise dominant system. John Cassavetes is undoubtedly one of America’s most important filmmakers, but seeing him as such an incongruity prevents us from understanding exactly why he was so important.

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Culture Warrior

Dear Mr. Franco, Before I say anything else, I just want to say, at the risk of sounding like a brown-nosing blogger writing a hypothetical letter to a movie star who most definitely will not read it, that I actually do appreciate what you’re trying to do. Many people would start a post like this heavy on the snark and in total dismissal of a star’s decision to construct their career as performance art. But I don’t. I think it’s kind of interesting. Kind of. We know you’re talented. And we know you like to explore a variety of avenues of expression. It’s not just that you’re actor, but an actor who can play Aron Ralston and Alan Ginsberg, convincingly, in the same year. It’s not just that you’re a filmmaker, but the filmmaker that made Saturday Night, which is more enjoyable than anything SNL has produced in years. It’s not just that you’re pursuing a PhD, but…well, I’m actually not familiar with your scholarship, but I’m sure you’ll publish something someday. Anyway, this is to say I’m writing from the perspective of a reluctant fan. But after Sunday night, you and everybody that respects you deserves a damn break.

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