The documentary Dark Money exposes how corporations buy elections and lawmakers

PBS premieres Dark Money on Monday October 1. It's a sobering look at how the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC is trickling down to local politics. John S. Adams, a Montana-based reporter profiled in the film, says, "This is scary stuff, but I think this is the proving ground for the American experiment." Read the rest

Incel, a disturbing short film about an "involuntary celibate"

This NSFW film examines a fictional incel named Sam, starting with his agonizingly tense interaction with a young woman and reaching a disturbing culmination. Read the rest

Sights and sounds of Haitian vodou

Between 1947 and 1954, avant-garde dancer and experimental filmmaker Maya Deren visited Haiti and immersed herself in vodou. Supported with a Guggenheim Fellowship grant, Deren intended to study and film the trance dancing of vodou ceremony. Ultimately, Deren became an active participant in the rituals. She documented her experiences in the 1953 book Divine Horsemen: The Voodoo (Living) Gods of Haiti and the footage that resulted in the entrancing 1981 film above, completed two decades after Deren's death by her third husband and his wife. Now, the Psychic Sounds Research & Recordings label has remastered and reissued Deren's audio recordings from Haiti on vinyl. Audio sampler below. From the label:

Maya Deren journeyed to Haiti to make a film of ritual dances, instead, she came to be accepted as a Voudoun initiate, whose devotees commune with the cosmic powers through invocation, offerings, song and dance of the Voudoun pantheon of deities, or Loa, whom are witnessed as being living gods and goddesses, actually taking possession of their devotees. Deren describes the relationship between magic, science and religion bringing a uniquely lyrical voice to her narrative. This paints a multi-textured, infinitely complex portrait of a spiritual tradition with roots stretching back to the very dawn of humanity. Joseph Campbell calls Divine Horsemen 'the most illuminating introduction that has yet been rendered to the whole marvel of the Haitian mysteries as 'facts of the mind.'' Included in this album are some of the first recordings ever made during religious ceremonies near Croix de Missions and Petionville featuring selections that serve as a soundtrack to the film she shot documenting Voodoo ceremonies and festivals conveying the incantatory power of the ritual drumming and singing.

Read the rest

FILM: 'Calling All Earthlings' explores Integratron Time Machine of UFO 'contactee' George Van Tassel

CALLING ALL EARTHLINGS, the new documentary from filmmaker  Jonathan Berman ('Commune,' 'The Schvitz') has it all: UFOs, a mystical dome in the Joshua Tree desert, psychic experiences, time travel, Howard Hughes, Nikolai Tesla, communists, eternal life, murder-- oh yeah, and Nazis. Read the rest

Heartbreaking documentary on London's North Korean enclave

Little Pyongyang made the festival rounds and his been picked up by The Guardian. It tells the story of how one soldier made his way to Europe's largest community of North Korean nationals after escaping the brutal regime.

Joong-wha Choi, a former soldier in North Korea, lives today with his wife and children in a sleepy London suburb, home to Europe's biggest North Korean population. Despite enjoying the new found comforts of his British life, and being emancipated from the pressures of the North Korean state, he has a desire to return to the land that betrayed him, and feels like his true home. Joong-wha reflects on both why he left North Korea and the state of his day to day life over the course of several months, in a portrait of loss, longing, and the complexities of healing from trauma.

Here's a nice Q&A with the filmmakers

Little Pyongyang (YouTube / The Guardian) Read the rest

Watch how far green screen technology has come

BBC got to be the first to tour Intel Studios, a state of the art greenscreen facility, with no suits, no motion capture, just a live performance captured in a green dome by hundreds of cameras. Read the rest

A delightful and insightful look at the beach party film genre of the 1960s

The Royal Ocean Film Society examines and contextualizes the beach party movie genre formula perfected and then milked dry by the genius marketers at schlock house American International Pictures. Read the rest

Great movies to watch: 'The Naked Kiss' (1964, Samuel Fuller)

In the course of my work as a documentary filmmaker, I sometimes find hidden gems. Samuel Fuller’s “The Naked Kiss” is one of them. Read the rest

The guy who slated classic Star Trek takes was unfazed by the whole thing

Bill McGovern worked as a second assistant camera on a lot of shows, which is why he seems pretty unfazed to have handled the clapper and slating duties on some iconic Star Trek episodes. Read the rest

Watch this epic takedown of movie plots featuring abduction as romance

Many of the world's most iconic movies have problematic themes or plots, but the romanticization of kidnapping and false imprisonment ranks among the worst. Read the rest

The movie trailer business is booming, even if theatre attendance isn't

Thanks to YouTube and short attention spans, the humble movie trailer has surged in popularity in the past decade. In that time, the number of agencies that make trailers jumped from 12 to over 100. Read the rest

Must-see bizarro viewing: Boots Riley's 'Sorry to Bother You'

This isn't a review, but I'd regret not giving you a heads up about Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley's first feature film. It's an absurd black sci-fi satire shot in Oakland and it's the off-the-wall dystopian summer indie flick we all deserve.

At the last minute last Friday, I put my hands on some tickets for its sold-out nationwide opening night at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland. And wow, am I glad I did.

It was a real happening. People cheered and laughed. Plus, the movie was simply fantastic. After the show, folks with tickets for the late show (which had the bonus of an after-show Q&A with Boots himself) were already lining up. Lots of people posed with the shitty Tercel featured in the film, which was parked right in front of the theatre.

Hilariously, you can buy that shitty Tercel for a mere $23,999.40 on the STBU website:

(I got my eye on that Mr. Bobo collectible plate myself.)

If you want to read what reviewers are saying, here's a good start:

Review: ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ but Can I Interest You in a Wild Dystopian Satire? by A.O. Scott of The New York Times:

"If Mike Judge’s “Office Space” and Robert Downey Sr.’s “Putney Swope” hooked up after a night of bingeing on hallucinogens, Marxist theory and the novels of Paul Beatty and Colson Whitehead, the offspring might look something like this."

Film Review: ‘Sorry to Bother You’ by Peter Debruge of Variety:

"Nearly as deranged as it is politically engaged, Boots Riley’s sui generis “Sorry to Bother You” is the kind of debut feature that knocks your socks off, tickles your bare tootsies with goose feathers for a while, then goes all Kathy Bates in the final stretch, ultimately taking a sledgehammer to your kneecaps."

This one might make more sense AFTER you've seen the movie:

In 'Sorry To Bother You,' an Alternate-Universe Oakland Rings True by Janelle Hessig of KQED Arts:

"The “don’t sell out” moral of the story is delivered with all of the subtlety of a circus clown with an erection, but appropriately so—there’s nothing subtle in being a person of color fighting to survive capitalism."

Go see it. Read the rest

Watch Christopher Nolan's 1997 short horror film "Doodlebug"

It's easy to forget that even now-legendary directors had to start somewhere. Doodlebug is an early effort by Christopher Nolan, about a man trying to kill an annoying pest in his squalid home.

In addition to being in black and white, several of the shots are reminiscent of Memento's noirish vibe, especially the phone receiver in the water. There's also a clear connection to Eraserhead and other Lynchian horrors, with a touch of Rod Serling thrown in for good measure. And the effect looks as if it was made from hand-cut celluloid, a time-consuming effort that might make someone appreciate having the kinds of digital tools that enhanced Interstellar.

Doodlebug (1997)- Christopher Nolan Short Film [HD] (YouTube / Pensare Films) Read the rest

Peter Jackson shares clips from his World War I film restoration

Imperial War Museums and 14-18 Now commissioned Peter Jackson to use the latest technology to restore archival footage of World War I, and the results are remarkable. Read the rest

Scarlett Johansson will no longer play a transgender man in her next film

When news that Scarlett Johansson was planning to play trans man Dante ‘Tex’ Gill in the biopic Rub & Tug, her rep's tone-deaf response launched the casting controversy into overdrive. She's now announced she exited the project. Read the rest

Watch "The Frog," a deeply weird short film from 1908

Spanish film director and cinematographer Segundo Chomón (1871-1929) was a pioneer of movie special effects, camera tricks, and optical illusions at the intersection of technology, art, and magic. See more of his surreal work at the Internet Archive's "Segundo de Chomón Collection."

Read the rest

Watch these film scenes inspired by famous paintings

This lovely trilogy of videos by Vugar Efendi collects shots from movies that are homages to notable paintings. Read the rest

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