Saturday, 6 December 2014

December 2014

'Under The Skin' (2013)
Dir: Jonathan Glazer

'Life Itself' (2014)
Dir: Steve James

'Super Mensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon' (2013)
Dir: Beth Aala, Mike Myers

'Los Angeles Plays Itself' (2003)
Dir: Thom Andersen

'St. Vincent' (2014)
Dir: Theodore Melfi

'The Gambler' (2014)
Dir: Rupert Wyatt

'Paddington' (2014)
Dir: Paul King

'Edge of Tomorrow' (2014)
Dir: Doug Liman

'The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies' (2014)
Dir: Peter Jackson

'Big Hero 6' (2014)
Dirs: Don Hall & Chris Williams

'The Imitation Game' (2014)
Dir: Morten Tyldum

'Get On Up' (2014)
Dir: Tate Taylor

'Foxcatcher' (2014)
Dir: Bennet Miller

'A Most Violent Year' (2014)
Dir: J. C. Chandor

'Nightcrawler' (2014)
Dir: Dan Gilroy

'Mr. X' (2014)
Dir: T. Louise-Salome

'Exodus' (2014)
Dir: Ridley Scott

'Inherent Vice' (2014)
Dir: P.T. Anderson

'I Am Ali' (2014)
Dir: Clare Lewins

'Virunga' (2014)
Dir: Orlando von Einsiedel

'Mr. Turner (2014)
Dir: Mike Leigh

'Night Will Fall' (2014)
Dir: Andre Singer

'Big Eyes' (2014)
Dir: Tim Burton

'Blue Ruin' (2013)
Dir: Jeremy Saulnier

'Tales of the Grim Sleeper' (2014)
Dir: Nick Broomfield

'Nightbreed: Director's Cut' (2014)
Dir: Clive Barker

'Altman' (2014)
Dir: Ron Mann

'Noah' (2014)
Dir: Darren Aranofsky

Sunday, 23 November 2014

November 2014

'X-Men: Days of Future Past' (2014)
Dir: Bryan Singer

'Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film' (2012)
Dir: Grant Hamilton

'Godzilla' (2014)
Dir: Gareth Edwards

'Interstellar' (2014)
dir: Christopher Nolan

'Gone Girl' (2014)
dir: David Fincher

Thursday, 13 November 2014

German Expressionist Cinema

'Haunted Screens' is an outstanding exhibition currently at LACMA.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

October 2014

'The Book of Life' (2014)
Dir: Jorge Gutierrez

'Birdman' (2014)
Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

September 2014

'Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia' (2013)
Dir: Nicholas D. Wrathall

'The Boxtrolls' (2014)
Dirs: Anthony Stacchi & Graham Annabelle

'Girl Rising' (2013)
Dir: Richard Robbins

'Spring Breakers' (2013)
Dir: Harmony Korine

'Killer Joe' (2012)
Dir: William Friedkin

'The Place Beyond the Pines'
Dir: Derek Cianfrance

'Detention' (2011)
Dir: Joseph Kahn

'The Counselor' Director's Cut (2013)
Dir: Ridley Scott

Monday, 4 August 2014

August 2014

'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962)
Dir: David Lean

'StarCrash' (1978)
Dir: Luigi Cozzi

'Teseo Contro il Minotauro' (1960)
Dir: Silvio Amadio

'Edo Porn' aka 'Hokusai Manga' (1981)
Dir: Kaneto Shindô

'The Unknown Known' (2013)
Dir: Errol Morris

'Caveman' (1981)
Dir: Carl Gottlieb

'The Trip to Italy' (2014)
Dir: Michael Winterbottom

'Mad Max' (1979)
Dir: George Miller

'The Guilt Trip' (2012)
Dir: Anne Fletcher

'The World According to Garp'  (1982)
Dir: George Roy Hill

'The Fisher King' (1991)
Dir: Terry Gilliam

'Jason & the Argonauts' (1963)
Dir: Don Chaffey

'Phantom of the Paradise' (1974)
Dir: Brian de Palma

'The Master' (2012)
Dir: PT Anderson

'Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger' (1977)
Dir: Sam Wanamaker

'Clash of The Titans' (1980)
Dir: Desmond Davis
Creature FX: Ray Harryhausen

'Tokyo Drifter' (1966)
Dir: Suzuki Seijun

'Guardians of the Galaxy' (2014)
Dir: James Gunn

Saturday, 5 July 2014

July 2014

'The Pervert's Guide to Ideology' (2012)
dir: Sophie Fiennes

'Maidentrip' (2012)
dir: Laura Dekker

'Splinters' (2011)
dir: Adam Pesce

'Downloaded' (2013)
dir: Alex Winter

'I Am Divine' (2013)
Jeffrey Schwarz

'Life After Pi' (2014)
dir:Scott Leberecht

'Ravenous' (1999)
dir: Antonia Bird

'Lola Montes' (1955)
dir: Max Ophuls

'I Married a Witch' (1942)
dir: Rene Clair

'Salinger' (2013)
dir: Shane Salerno

'Dinosaur 13' (2014)
dir: Todd Douglas Miller

'To Be Or Not To Be' (1942)
dir: Ernst Lubitsch

'Muscle Shoals' (2013)
dir: Greg 'Freddy' Camalier

'Snowpiercer' (2013)
dir: Bong Joon-ho

'Non-Stop'  (2014)
dir: Jaume Collet-Serra

Sunday, 1 June 2014

June 2014

'La Belle et la Bête (1946 )
Dir: Jean Cocteau

'Doc. of the Dead' (2013)
Dir: A. Philippe

'Birth of the Living Dead' (2013)
Dir: Rob Kuhns

'Le gamin au vélo' (2011)
Dir: The Dardennes

'Bullhead' (2011)
Dir: Michaël R. Roskam

'Big Bad Wolves' (2013)
Dir:Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Netflix Arts Documentaries pt.2

Netflix is a great resource for those obscure documentaries on art and film that play festivals then disappear. Here are some the best of the new releases . . .

'Pablo' (2012)

Dir: Richard Goldgewicht

The career of legendary film titles designer Pablo Ferro. Documenting his professional partnerships with Stanley Kubrick, Hal Ashby, Norman Jewison, Steve McQueen.

'Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story' (2012)

Dir: Brad Bernstein

The life and times of illustrator and cartoonist Tomi Ungerer. A revealing and candid portrait of this iconoclastic artist.

'Light Keeps Me Company' (2000)

Dir: Carl-Gustav Nykvist

Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer Sven Nykvist is revered by every top D.O.P. This film details their creative partnership and Nykvist's subsequent career shooting films for Hollywood.

'Two In The Wave' (2010)

Dir: Emmanuel Laurent

The friendship between these two giants of the French nouvelle vague Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut.

'Milius' (2013)

Dir: Joey Figueroa, Zak Knutson

Larger than life writer and director John Milius has crafted some of Hollywood's most memorable scenes, dialogue and characters including Conan, Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now and the USS Indianapolis speech in Jaws.

'Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan' (2011)
Dir: Gilles Penso

The master visionary behind the stop-motion creatures of the original Sinbad movies, 'Clash of the Titans' and 'Jason and the Argonauts'.

'Nightmare Factory' (2011)
Dir: Donna Davies

A documentary on Greg Nicotero and his KNB fx group- creators of some of the most memorable screen monsters in cinema and TV including 'The Waling Dead.'

See the first part of my Netflix recommendations here

Monday, 5 May 2014

May 2014

'Maleficent' (2014)
Dir: Robert Stromberg

'Topaz' (1969)
Dir: Alfred Hitchcock

'Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2' (2013)
Dir: Kris Pearn & Cody Cameron

'Pablo' (2012)
Dir: Richard Goldgewicht

'Pain & Gain' (2013)
Dir: Michael Bay

'Don Jon' (2013)
Dir: Joseph Gordon Levitt

'Diana' (2013)
Dir: Oliver Hirschbiegel

'Two In The Wave' (2010)
Dir: Emmanuel Laurent

'Far Out Isn't Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story' (2012)
Dir: Brad Bernstein

'Light Keeps Me Company' (2000)
Dir: Carl-Gustaf Nykvist

'Bergman Island'  (20040
Marie Nyrerod

'Marley' (2012)
Dir: Kevin McDonald

'Sans Soleil' (1983)
Dir: Chris Marker

'La Jetee' (1962)
Dir: Chris Marker

'Ender's Game' (2013)
Dir: Gavin Hood

'Scoop' (2006)
Dir: Woody Allen

'A Fantastic Fear of Everything' (2012)
Dir: Crispin Mills

Monday, 28 April 2014

The significance of plot without conflict

In the West, plot is commonly thought to revolve around conflict: a confrontation between two or more elements, in which one ultimately dominates the other. The standard three- and five-act plot structures—which permeate Western media—have conflict written into their very foundations. A “problem” appears near the end of the first act; and, in the second act, the conflict generated by this problem takes center stage. Conflict is used to create reader involvement even by many post-modern writers, whose work otherwise defies traditional structure.
The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general—arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarilyhinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishōtenketsu.
Kishōtenketsu contains four acts: introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. The basics of the story—characters, setting, etc.—are established in the first act and developed in the second. No major changes occur until the third act, in which a new, often surprising element is introduced. The third act is the core of the plot, and it may be thought of as a kind of structural non sequitur. The fourth act draws a conclusion from the contrast between the first two “straight” acts and the disconnected third, thereby reconciling them into a coherent whole. Kishōtenketsu is probably best known to Westerners as the structure of Japanese yonkoma(four-panel) manga; and, with this in mind, our artist has kindly provided a simple comic to illustrate the concept.
Each panel represents one of the four acts. The resulting plot—and it is a plot—contains no conflict. No problem impedes the protagonist; nothing is pitted against anything else. Despite this, the twist in panel three imparts a dynamism—a chaos, perhaps—that keeps the comic from depicting merely a series of events. Panel four reinstates order by showing us how the first two panels connect to the third, which allows for a satisfactory ending without the need for a quasi-gladiatorial victory. It could be said that the last panel unifies the first three. The Western structure, on the other hand, is a face-off—involving character, theme, setting—in which one element must prevail over another. Our artist refitted the above comic into the three-act structure to show this difference.
The first panel gives the reader a “default position” with which to compare later events; and the second panel depicts a conflict-generating problem with the vending machine. The third panel represents the climax of the story: the dramatic high point in which the heroine’s second attempt ”defeats” the machine and allows the can to drop. The story concludes by depicting the aftermath, wherein we find that something from the first act has changed as a result of the climax. In this case, our heroinesans beverage has become a heroine avec beverage.
What this shows is that the three-act plot, unlike kishōtenketsu, is fundamentally confrontational. It necessarily involves one thing winning out over another, even in a minor case like the one above. This conclusion has wide-ranging implications, since both formats are applied not just to narratives, but to all types of writing. Both may be found under the hood of everything from essays and arguments to paragraphs and single sentences. As an example, the reader might re-examine the first two paragraphs of this article, in which a “default position” is set up and then interrupted by a “problem” (namely, the existence of kishōtenketsu). The following paragraphs deal with the conflict between the two formats. This paragraph, which escalates that conflict by explaining the culture-wide influence of each system, is the beginning of the climax.
As this writer is already making self-referential, meta-textual remarks, it is only appropriate that the article’s climax take us into the realm of post-modern philosophy. It is a worldview obsessed with narrative and, perhaps unconsciously, with the central thesis of the three-act structure. Jacques Derrida, probably the best known post-modern philosopher, infamously declared that all of reality was a text—a series of narratives that could only be understood by appealing to other narratives, ad infinitum. What kinds of narratives, though? Perhaps a benign, kishōtenketsu-esque play between disconnection and reconnection, chaos and order? No; for Derrida, the only narrative was one of violence. As a Nietzschean, he believed that reality consisted, invariably, of one thing dominating and imposing on another, in a selfish exercise of its will to power. The “worst violence”, he thought, was when something was completely silenced and absorbed by another, its difference erased. Apparently, Derrida was uncontent with the three-act structure’s nearly complete control over Western writing: he had to project it onto the entire world. Eurocentrism has rarely had a more shining moment.
Kishōtenketsu contains no such violence. The events of the first, second and third acts need not harm one another. They can stand separately, with Derrida’s beloved difference intact. Although the fourth act unifies the work, by no means must it do violence to the first three acts; rather, it is free merely to draw a conclusion from their juxtaposition, as Derrida does when he interprets one narrative through the lens of another. A world understood from the kishōtenketsu perspective need never contain the worst violence that Derrida fears, which would make his call for deconstruction—the prevention of silence through the annihiliation of structure—unnecessary. Is it possible that deconstruction could never have been conceived in a world governed by kishōtenketsu, rather than by the three-act plot? Is the three-act structure one of the elements behind the very worldview that calls for its deconstruction? Can the Western narrative of the will to power remain coherent in the face of a rival narrative from the East? This writer would prefer to ask than to answer these questions.
Now, dear readers, comes the aftermath. The dust left over from the climax is settling. Kishōtenketsu has been shown to generate plot without conflict, which reveals as insular nonsense the West’s belief that they are inseparable. The repercussions of this extend to all writing; and, if this writer’s conclusion is to be believed, to philosophy itself. Despite this, it should be noted that many of history’s greatest works have been built on the three- and five-act structures. By no means should they be discarded. Rather, they should be viewed as tools for telling certain types of stories. At the same time, this writer would like to end by calling for a renewed look at kishōtenketsu in the West. It offers writers the opportunity to explore plots with minimal or no conflict. Perhaps it could even change our worldview.