Out and about

Lone Star 01  

The end of John Sayles’ Lone Star (1996). For Dennis Cozzalio.

I haven’t seen a movie in theaters since Thanksgiving, and my last DVD was a re-viewing of an old favorite. So, you’ll have to pardon me if this month’s round of links is too full of movie love. I need to get back to the multiplex.

Dennis Cozzalio gives a lengthy, touching primer on drive-in movies:

My daughter and I walked around the lot and approached one of the old speaker posts, which still had speakers attached even though the Foothill was sporting FM radio sound originating from a low-wattage transmitter in the projection booth. Gone were the days of bouncing from parking spot to parking spot in search of the one speaker whose sound didn't seem like it was originating from 1933 inside a cellophane bag, or forgetting to replace the speaker after the end of the movie and either tearing the pot metal device from the post or shattering your driver's-side window as you began to pull your car away. And, I told my daughter with sincere melancholy, the drive-in itself would likely soon vanish altogether. And rising property values combined with the cost of maintaining drive-in businesses in the home video age ensured that the few remaining drive-ins in 2000 would stay squarely in the crosshairs of cultural irrelevance, marked for a swift and steady disappearance.

I’ve been wanting to link to Peet Gelderblom’s “Nighthawks: A Celluloid Fantasia” for a long time but never knew a good segue into it nor a proper way of describing it. Is it film criticism? Is it film theory? Is it audience analysis? Is it fiction? Yes to all four, and it’s a mindfuck to boot. Plus, Mickey Mouse is the protagonist, with a lot on his mind. Read, discuss.

Also for deep-dish discussion, Matt Zoller Seitz defends some new trends in film criticism from the onslaught of misguided intellectual property laws:

Can a critic argue without clips? Sure. Film criticism has largely done without external accompaniments for a century and can continue to do without them. But it’s important to note that clips and still frames have been a central part of cinema studies since its inception. Anyone who’s attended a film history or theory course knows how valuable they are. Clips often determine the difference between learning something and truly understanding it. They’re quotes from the source text deployed to make a case. Take them away, and you’re left with the critic saying, “Well, I can’t show you exactly what I mean, so I’ll describe it as best I can and hope you believe me.”

This, in a nutshell, is the defining difference between criticism pre- and post-millennium. For the first time ever, when someone says to a critic, “Show me the evidence,” the critic doesn’t need to unlock a film archive vault or even haul out a DVD player to produce it. He can call it up online anytime, anywhere, for anybody.

Twice a month, Films in Focus posts interviews with film bloggers. They all answer the same set of questions but the responses vary wildly and are lots of fun. Here’s a full list of the conversations. My favorites include interviews with the Self-Styled Siren, the Cinetrix, the Evening Class, and Cinema Echo Chamber.

Cinebeats (who is also represented in the FIF interviews) showers her love on the Criterion Collection’s design department, especially the cartoonists who have created its startling DVD covers.

Michael Bierut, an acclaimed graphic designer, talks about the history of his notebooks:

The notebooks function like a security blanket for me. I can’t go into a meeting unless I have my current notebook in my hand, even if I never open it. Because I carry one everywhere, I tend to misplace them a lot. Losing one makes me frantic. Everyone who works with me gets used to me asking, “Have you seen my notebook anywhere?” which I assume gets irritating after a while: sorry. I’ve left them behind in clients’ offices. On one occasion, I left one on the roof of a cab on the Upper West Side. I ended up walking ten blocks, retracing the taxi’s route, until I found it on Broadway at 63rd Street, intact except for some tire marks.

I love process essays, especially those about the process of printmaking. In this well-illustrated post, cartoonist Dan Zettwoch discusses the process behind the making of a beautiful Redd Foxx print, a copy of which I just bought for the Biggins Collection.

Roger Ebert loves newsprint—i.e., the joys of reading the newspaper offline. He’s not waxing nostalgic about things like the thin paper’s crackle and inky smell but rather offering a pointed argument—with examples—of why print works better for the reader in terms of comprehension and efficiency. God help me, but he’s got me considering a re-subscription to my mediocre daily rag.

Gary Kamiya uses a new biography of Kenneth Grahame as a springboard for crafting a reverie to Grahame’s beloved, still-astonishing Wind in the Willows.

With a two-page comic, John Porcellino draws a love letter of his own… to Canada.

Meanwhile, Mad Ink Beard offers an abstract comic and, in his preamble, mentions a forthcoming anthology of non-narrative/non-representational comics that makes me giddy just to think about it.

And, finally, just because I’ve wanted to link to it for two years, here is Sean Wilsey’s memoir of skateboarding. It rings true to my junior-high experiences, chipping my tooth on a sidewalk and skinning my knees on Dallas parking lots, all for the glory of a wicked ollie.

That is all.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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One Response to Out and about

  1. Maya says:

    Thanks for the shout out, Walter. I’m glad you appreciated the Film in Focus profile. I felt very honored to be included among such an illustrious group.

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