Mike Vraney, founder of Something Weird Video, has died of lung cancer. He was 56. For decades, Something Weird has been the preeminent source of cult psychotronic and exploitation films that would have vanished into the dustbin of underground culture were it not for Vraney's tireless efforts. Our thoughts go out to Mike's wife, artist Lisa Petrucci, their family, co-workers, and friends. Below, watch a 2007 television profile of Vraney and Something Weird. Here's the obituary at Daily Grindhouse, copied from the Something Weird page on Facebook:
"In Memory of 'Something Weird' Founder Mike Vraney (1957-2014)" (Thanks, Kirsten Anderson)
In 1983, fine art photographer Laura Levine shot a Super-8 film in Athens, Georgia with a group of creative friends. It includes a clip of Michael Stipe singing Lou Reed's "Pale Blue Eyes." The film, titled "Just Like A Movie," is unreleased, but after Reed's tragic death last week, Levine decided to post that scene on YouTube. Levine says, "The song itself was recorded earlier that day on a Walkman, with Matthew Sweet on guitar."
The dueling banjo scene in John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) is one of my favorite musical moments ever in a film. It's simultaneously delightful, funny, and deeply creepy. I watched the clip recently and decided to find out who played Lonnie, the young inbred fellow picking opposite Ronny Cox. The actor is Billy Redden from Rabun County, Georgia who was 15-years-old at the time. Redden was "discovered" during a casting call at his school in Clayton, Georgia. Special effect makeup was used to augment Redden's already-unusual features. He didn't actually play the banjo. According to The New Yorker, "Boorman had had to deploy another boy to hide behind the swing and slip his hand through Redden’s sleeve to finger the changes." Redden wasn't a fan of Burt Reynolds: “Burt didn’t want to say nothing to nobody,” Redden told The New Yorker years later. “He wasn’t polite. And he made us look real bad--he said on television that all people in Rabun County do is watch cars go by and spit.”
Redden's IMD profile says that for a time Redden gave "Deliverance Tours" along the Georgia river where the film was shot. After Deliverance, Redden didn't appear in another movie until Tim Burton's Big Fish. Burton located Redden working in the Cookie Jar Cafe in Clayton, Georgia. Since then, Redden had a bit part on Blue Collar TV as an inbred car mechanic who played the banjo.
Below, a video interview with Redden from last year.
Read the rest
"Ghost Algebra (bird in tree)" (2009) is Janie Geiser's beautiful, weird, dreamlike 16mm film/animation created from found objects, vintage book illustrations, toys, and collaged ephemera. (via Toys and Techniques)
Last year, Parisian street artist Invader, famed for his ubiquitous 8-bit video game mosaics, launched one of his invaders into the stratosphere on a weather balloon. On Tuesday (10/29), our pals at NYC's Jonathan LeVine Gallery are presenting a free screening of the short film about that project, titled ART4SPACE. The screenings are at 8pm and 9pm at Landmark Theatres Sunshine Cinema on East Houston Street. ART4SPACE screening
BB contributor Ben Marks tells us of a new documentary film in production about UCLA's Quidditch team that Ben's son founded in 2009:
In May of 2011, when filmmaker Farzad Nikbakht Sangari was relatively early in his career as an M.F.A. candidate at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, he noticed a co-ed group of students on the university’s Intramural field, running around with short brooms between their legs. Hurling underinflated volley balls and dodge balls at each other, as well as through hula hoops on opposite ends of the field, it turned out they were playing Quidditch, the fictional game made famous in the Harry Potter books and movies.
Read the rest
Oh Yeah Wow's video for The Paper Kites' "Young." Seven days to photograph more than 350 people. Ten days to cut together 4,000+ photos.
The soundtrack to Forbidden Planet (1956) was a milestone moment in the history of electronic music. It was the first entirely electronic film score, composed by Louis and Bebe Barron using DIY circuitry inspired in part by Norbert Wiener's 1948 book Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, a seminal text in its own right. At the time that the film's producer at MGM, Dore Schary, met the Barrons they were beatnik musicians hanging out in Greenwich Village. The soundtrack to Forbidden Planet continues to astonish even today. (Listen to the "Main Title" at left.) My friend Ken Hollings, author of the fantastic outré history book "Welcome to Mars," created a wonderful audio documentary that just aired on BBC Radio 3 about the Barrons and their iconic "electronic tonalities."
You can listen to the BBC Radio 3 piece here: "Sound of Cinema: Return of the Monster from the Id"
And you buy the soundtrack here: "Forbidden Planet: Original MGM Soundtrack
Who goes hang gliding in a leisure suit? Bond. James Bond. Graphic designer Matt Spaiser's blog "The Suits of James Bond
" should be an inspiration to all of us. Nobody in Hollywood wore terrycloth or linen better than 007.
More than three decades after Koyaanisqatsi, director Godfrey Reggio has created Visitors, another wordless collaboration with Philip Glass and Jon Kane. It will premiere next month at the Toronto International Film Festival, accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
"Presented by Steven Soderbergh in stunning black and white 4K digital projection, "Visitors" reveals humanity's trancelike relationship with technology, which, when commandeered by extreme emotional states, produces massive effects far beyond the human species. The film is visceral, offering the audience an experience beyond information about the moment in which we live. Comprised of only seventy-four shots, "Visitors" takes viewers on a journey to the moon and back to confront them with themselves."
Margaret Pellegrini, one of the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939), died today at age 89. Pellegrini was just 16 when she appeared in the film. Of the 124 actors who portrayed Munchkins in the film, there are only two still known to be alive. (Yahoo! Movies)
The new video for Califone's "Stitches," the title track from their forthcoming album, generates itself from images and Gifs culled from a selection of Tumblrs. The band is a collaboration with filmmaker Braden King and programmer Jeff Garneau. The new album, Stitches, will be released September 3.
Watch the video here: Califone. Stitches.
Background about its creation is available at their record label Dead Oceans' blog.
College Humor's faux movie trailer for a live action Daria film, starring Aubrey Plaza. La la la la la. Daria's High School Reunion
Patrick O'Brien is an underground filmmaker suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, AKA Lou Gehrig's Disease. As I've posted before, Patrick is making a 35mm feature documentary about his experiences. Now having lost almost all control of his body, Patrick is using an eye tracking computer to complete his film, with the help of his friends. He's launched a RocketHub crowdfunding project to raise the money to finish the film. "Everything Will Be OK: An Epic Documentary about ALS"
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is the new documentary about the mythic, incredible, and commercially unsuccessful rock band formed in the early 1970s in Memphis by Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, Chris Bell, and Any Hummel. Their three albums #1 Record, Radio City, and Third/Sister Lovers, influenced everyone from REM and The Replacement to Afghan Whigs and Wilco. The film's companion soundtrack album, out this week, is an excellent compilation of demos, alternate mixes, and rare recordings that will delight both longtime fans and those who are (gasp) new to the overwhelmingly awesome Big Star sound. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me soundtrack (Amazon)
Fine art photographer Antonio Martinez combined more than 800 dryplate tintype photographs of a circus into this mesmerizing stop motion animation "Near the Egress." Absolutely stunning work. (Thanks, Randall de Rijk!)
During a visit to the (incredible) new Exploratorium in San Francisco, I was captivated by Carson "Kit" Davidson's "One Hundred Watts 120 Volts," a 1972 short film where the manufacturing of Duro-Test light bulb is presented as a ballet for Bach's Brandenburg concertos. "One Hundred Watts 120 Volts" (Archive.org)
BB contributor Mark Dery wrote a fascinating rumination on the Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel, best known for his 1929 short film collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Un Chien Andalou. (Yes, the one with the infamous eyeball-slicing scene, above.) From Dery's essay at Thought Catalog, titled "Thank God I’m An Atheist: Buñuel’s Last Laugh":
Buñuel is a philosopher — a moral philosopher, to be exact, albeit one who makes his case with gleeful, Surrealist savagery, using images dredged from the depths of the unconscious. A sardonic satirist and inveterate practical joker—he once strolled down the boulevard Montparnasse dressed as a nun, complete with false eyelashes and lipstick—he is, at the same time, shadowed by the existential melancholy from which the lapsed Catholic never fully recovers. He loves disguises, and it can’t be mere coincidence that he gets a perverse kick out of passing as a priest. Religion is his abiding theme, there from the first in Un Chien Andalou, in the two priests yoked to the protagonist and dragged unceremoniously across the floor, the dead weight of so much obsolete belief; there at the end in his last movie That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), where the bombing campaign of a gang of absurdist terrorists calling itself the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus is the backdrop to the movie’s May-December romance (itself fairly explosive!).
"Thank God I’m An Atheist: Buñuel’s Last Laugh
Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Peter Tscherkassky makes compelling cut-up movies from "found" 16mm and 35mm footage and samples from other movies. All of the frames and clips are treated in the darkroom, without digital tools. For Outer Space (1999), seen above,
Tscherkassky chopped up and decolorized bits from The Entity, a 1982 horror film starring Barbara Hershey.
Here's Alex Cox, director of Repo Man (1984), interviewed recently by psychotronic film buff and master poster artist Jay Shaw. Criterion just re-released Repo Man on DVD and Blu-ray, featuring original package art by Shaw and Tyler Stout of Austin's Mondo Gallery scene. Repo Man: Criterion Collection edition (via Mondo)
The new documentary about esteemed magician, magic historian, and actor Ricky Jay opens next week at New York City's Film Forum with screenings in many other cities to follow in May and June. Jay is a fantastically curious and entertaining fellow and I can't wait to see this film. "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay"
Behold the beautiful grain of director Paul Clipson's Super 8 short film for San Francisco droneography duo Barn Owl's new track "Void Redux." Clipson shot the footage on trains in Zagreb, Geneva, and Berlin. "Void Redux" will be included on Barn Owl's forthcoming album "V," out April 16 on Thrill Jockey. Barn Owl: V
Pioneering sound/video collage artist Christian Marclay's "The Clock" (2010) is a 24-hour montage of appropriated film clips related to time. OK, I'll admit that I haven't seen the whole piece, but the chunks I've watched are fantastic. Above is a phonecam recording of some of it, recording at one of its installations. The Clock will be on view at the SFMOMA starting April 6, which is appropriate given the museum's imminent closure in June for (gasp) three years of construction. "SFMOMA Presents Christian Marclay’s 24-Hour Cinematic Masterpiece The Clock"
For several years, MOVIEBARCODE has compressed entire films and famous film sequences into barcode-like images where the lines represent frames from the movie. There are hundreds in the archive and prints are available too. Seen here at top, Blade Runner, and below that, Dorothy entering the Technicolor of Oz. And here's a Movie Barcode Generator so you can do it yourself! (via @death_waltz_records)
The Source Family, a magnificent documentary by my friend Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos, will see nationwide distribution this spring, starting with a May 1 premier at the IFC Center in New York City. The film tells the story of Father Yod and his Source Family, a radical, utopian social experiment that emerged from the Los Angeles freak scene in the 1970s. Boing Boing is delighted to premier the trailer above. Far fucking out.
The Source Family’s outlandish lifestyle, popular celebrity hangout restaurant, rock band, and beautiful women made them the darlings of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip; but their outsider ideals, controversial spiritual leader Father Yod, along with his 13 wives, instigated local authorities. They fled to Hawaii, leading to their dramatic demise. Years later, family members surface and the rock band reforms, revealing how their time with Father Yod shaped their lives in the most unexpected ways. These personal accounts, along with interviews with outsiders, make up the interviews in the film. However, the story is largely cinematic, expressed through the use of the group’s extensive film and audio archive maintained by Isis Aquarian, one of Father's wives, Family documentarian, and a central character in the documentary (as well as being associate producer). The film’s soundtrack is composed entirely of original Source Family music produced from 1971-1975.
The film was inspired by The Source: The Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family, a fantastic 2007 book written by family members Isis Aquarian and Electricity Aquarian, edited by Jodi Wille, and published by our pals Process Media.
The Source Family: A Documentary
Sol Yurick, author of The Warriors (1965), has died. The novel -- which in 1979 led to the classic cult film of the same name -- was inspired by Yurick's experiences working in the New York City Department of Welfare.
“Some of the children of these families were what was then called juvenile delinquents,” Mr. Yurick wrote in an introduction to an edition of “The Warriors” published in 2003. “Many of them belonged to fighting gangs. Some of these gangs numbered in the hundreds; they were veritable armies. This social phenomenon was viewed, on the one hand, as the invasion of the barbarians, only this time they came from the inside rather than from the outside.”
"Sol Yurick, Author of ‘The Warriors,’ Dies at 87
" (NYT, thanks Gil Kaufman!)
Folkstreams is an incredible online archive of documentary films about American folk and roots music and culture. Above, an excerpt from "Born For Hard Luck," a 1976 film by Tom Davenport about harmonica player and comedian Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson." (A clip of this film appears in the French movie Amelie.) Below are just a few of the hundreds of films you can watch for free, right now. Shame about my deadlines this week.
• “Adirondack Minstrel.” Hudson, N.Y.: Bowling Green Films, 1977. (19 min.)
Folkstreams: The Best of American Folk Films (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)
[Jack Ofield film on woodsman/musician Lawrence Older]
• “Land Where the Blues Began.” New York: Cultural Equity, 1990. (58 min.)
[Alan Lomax film on Mississippi blues, from his “American Patchwork Series”; parallels his book of the same title]
• “The Amish, A People of Preservation.” Harleysville, Pa.: Heritage Productions. (52 min.)
[John Ruth film on Amish life, with Hostettler as consultant—and some surreptitiously shot footage]
• “The Sacred Vision of Howard Finster.” New York: Museum of American Folk Art, 1995. (30 min.)
[Interviews with Finster talking about his art, visions, and religious beliefs, with scenes of his creations, his preaching, and his home]
(Spoken in booming movie trailer voice): If you see only one Red Dawn remake this year, see this one. New York City artist Annamarie Ho, known to regular BB readers for her Betelnut Girls art installation and other daring works, created this filmic provocation titled Dread Spawn (Head Wrong) that asks "how would the fantastical storyline of the Red Dawn remake function if the Chinese People’s Liberation Army were to invade New York City’s Chinatown instead and was met by multicultural, brainy high school students?" Of course, the fact that the current Red Dawn remake's producers, MGM, did a last-minute digital switch of the "villains" from the Chinese to North Koreans only makes Ho's commentary more compelling. Annamarie will be in attendance at three Dread Spawn (Head Wrong) screenings this week and next, and I'm honored that she's asked me to introduce the film in San Francisco on December 6.
Dread Spawn (Head Wrong)
Wednesday, November 28 at 3pm
Saturday, December 1 at 4pm
Queens Museum of Art
Thursday, December 6 at 7pm
Ninth Street Independent Film Center
You can now stream Alfred Hitchcock's "The White Shadow" (1924), the earliest surviving feature by the director. As I posted
in 2011, the "lost" movie turned up in a New Zealand film vault. The film stars Betty Compson as twins, one angelic and one evil. Unfortunately, only half of the film's six reels were found, making it a true cliffhanger.
"The White Shadow" (1924)
"Earliest Surviving Hitchcock Film Debuts on Web" (Hollywood Reporter via Open Culture)