Sunday, April 12, 2020

TCM Classic Film Festival Special Home Edition 2020: Apr 16 - 19 | The Criterion Channel Presents 26 Film Columbia Noir Showcase: Apr 8 | Streaming for Cinephiles 101


There are innumerable options and platforms to engage your time during this extended period of home viewing. A matter to consider in judging best how to use the time, is whether one should even attempt to navigate the general glut of low(er) quality and overabundance on offer from the dominant streaming platforms. As a tutorial on the wider body of film to be found elsewhere, I offer up the two previous editions of Streaming for Cinephiles 101: Part 1 & Part 2. A summation of these is found in resources like "The Criterion Channel Arrives for All Your Cinephile Needs", with its appearance in the market filling an essential programming role. Platforms like "Criterion Channel Programming a Moveable Movie Feast" acting almost in response to the sparsity found elsewhere, particularly with it now being made increasingly clear that, "For Cinephiles, Netflix Is Less and Less an Option". And don't think to go to Hulu or Amazon as an alternative, despite their claims. The dearth of classic, arthouse, international festival highlights, and award-winning and critically lauded works being available to view on these dominant streaming resources is sorely apparent. This is but a small segment of the components that have contributed to, "Why Netflix Lets Movie Lovers Down, and What to Do About It". As a product of this combined effect of market dominance, while simultaneously offering a lack of content on Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix, resources like Fandor, Mubi, and The Criterion Channel became the online destinations of choice for discerning film lovers. To date, "Mubi: A Streaming Service with a Ticking Clock" has come out on top. Unlike the "Streaming Rabbit Hole Worth Falling Down" represented by the services of Fandor and The Criterion Channel, who offer a vast catalog of thousands of titles, Mubi instead watches as an online cinema of sorts, with a new featured film every day.

That said, this month two notable opportunities arise for lovers of classic film. The first being born of the cancellation of this year's edition of TCM's Classic Film Festival. In response to the cultural moment, TCM have assembled four days and nights of films spanning a selection of highlights from the last decade of the festival, as the "TCM Classic Film Festival Moves from Hollywood to Your Living Room". In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, lead programmer Charlie Tabesh established that it would not have been possible to show all the selections that they had planned for the festival in four days of airing. So they instead reconfigured the TCM Classic Film Festival: Special Home Edition as a overview of the unique resources that TCM has at hand. This includes an array of actors, directors, commentary, introductions and insight offered by critics, programmers and hosts as detailed in the expansive program on offer. Among them, is the Film Noir Foundation's host and commentator, the "czar of noir", Eddie Muller. Outside of the annual return of the Noir City Festival, 2017 inaugurated Muller's new permanent residence on TCM with the launch of his Saturday night and Sunday morning Noir Alley showcase. His weekly selections and introductions being more than as a representative for the Film Noir Foundation and their partners at The UCLA Film & Television Archive, but instead a global showcase of the era's look, sound, aesthetic, and feel. And no overview of the genre would be complete without the classic to groundbreaking, "A" to "B" productions born of the massive writing, acting and directorial talent at the disposal of Columbia Pictures. For The Criterion Channel, critics Imogen Sara Smith and Farran Smith Nehme explore the style and sensibility that Columbia Pictures brought to the decade. Nestled in the bounty of The Criterion Channel's April lineup, you'll find the 26 film Columbia Noir selection in their deep dive into, "Film School: Immerse Yourself in the Criterion Channel’s Columbia Noir".

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Seattle International Film Festival: 2020 Edition Cancellation | Virtual Theatrical Exhibitions & The Arthouse America Campaign: A Call for Support



Outside of the second world war, and the events of May 1968, the postponement of the Cannes Film Festival is an unprecedented event. On a local and regional level, the same factors of the global pandemic have resulted in the truncation of this year's Portland International Film Festival, and the outright cancellation of both the San Francisco International Film Festival and Seattle's own International Film Festival this year. Portland was able to screen the majority of its selections with cleaning, gathering volume controls, and observations of public safely and distancing guidelines in place for the final week. In the absence of these showcases for the theatrical North American premiers coming from Rotterdam, Locarno, and Berlin, and even the stragglers from last year's festivals in New York, Cannes, Toronto, Vienna, and Venice, the annual abundance of the west coast festival market will invariably create a void in visibility and access. We'll be left with what can be found of these titles online and through some of the recently launched "virtual cinema" programs. In a short span of time a body of forward-thinking “Film Festivals and Indie Movies Figure Out Online Access”, with independent distributors such as Grasshopper Film, Film Movement, Cohen Media Group, Cinema Guild and “Kino Lorber Launches Virtual Theater Exhibition Initiative To Help Local Theaters Weather Coronavirus Impact", stepping in to bridge the gap. Correspondingly, a limited set of regional independent cinemas have partnered to participate, including SIFF Cinema, Northwest Film Forum, Ark Lodge Cinemas, Faraway Entertainment, and The Grand Illusion Cinema among the earliest adopters. Nationally, Alamo Drafthouse is offering a selection of streaming titles, and Manhattan's Film at Lincoln Center has gotten out ahead of the game, already establishing a strong body of programming for the first month of their virtual cinema.

In response to the the economic and cultural fallout of the pandemic nationwide, a coalition founded by Janus Films and The Criterion Collection, alongside such notable names in American cinema as Alexander Payne, Ari Aster, Atom Egoyan, Barry Jenkins, Christopher Nolan, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, John Waters, Noah Baumbach, Richard Linklater, Sofia Coppol, and Wes Anderson have donated a lump sum to launch the Arthouse America Campaign. Petitioning the public for support, as Christopher Nolan's statement in The Washington Post "Movie Theaters are a Vital Part of American Social Life. They Will Need Our Help" and The Criterion Collection's call for aid establishes, they will not be able to do this alone: "There are more than 150 independent local arthouse cinemas all across the country that are on the brink. Closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, cut off from ticket revenue and relying on gift certificate sales and online rentals, these nonprofits and small businesses have already had to cut their budgets to the bone. Without immediate assistance, many are just going to run out of money before substantial government aid kicks in. We can't let the few theaters that still play foreign, classic, arthouse, and independent films die off as a result of this crisis." Regionally, the film institutions that will be most harmed by the pandemic and have the least on offer in the way of state and federal infrastructure, loans and grants will be the small (often volunteer run), independent, nonprofit, and arthouse venues. During good times these institutions are already struggling, particularly in a city like Seattle with its ever-increasing cost of rent and day to day overhead. Consider giving to keep these venues alive, so that when the conditions of the pandemic subside, we will have a cultural landscape to participate and return to.

This first month of virtual cinema programming includes brief online runs of Pedro Costa's painterly, masterful and meditative portrait, "Vitalina Varela", the surreal and violent political allegory of Kleber Mendonça Filho's "Bacarau", and the harsh postwar realities of Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole". Also on offer is another entry in the run of stylistic, humanist crime dramas, coming from the sixth generation Chinese directors seen in Diao Yinan's "The Wild Goose Lake", Ken Loach's most recent neorealist drama on the underclass in Great Britain, “Sorry We Missed You”, Corneliu Porumboiu's "The Whistlers", and Pietro Marcello’s appropriately poetic Jack London adaptation, “Martin Eden”. This leaves a significant body of work from this past season unaccounted for. Largely culling from The New Yorker's Goings On, Film Comment's Big Screen and Critic's Choices sections for scheduled openings in Los Angeles and New York this month, along with the intended programs of the above cancelled west coast festivals. This shortist being in no way complete, but represents a cross-section of arthouse, foreign, and independent films previously scheduled for the month(s) of March, April, and early May. Hirokazu Kore-eda "The Truth", Karim Aïnouz "The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão", Sergei Loznitsa "State Funeral", Mark Jenkin "Bait", Masaki Yuasa "Ride Your Wave", Shengze Zhu "Present.Perfect", Albert Serra "Liberté", Kiyoshi Kurosawa "To the Ends of the Earth", Václav Marhoul "The Painted Bird", Roman Polanski "An Officer and A Spy", Bruno Dumont "Joan of Arc", Kavich Neang "Last Night I Saw You Smiling", Pema Tseden "Balloon", Arnaud Desplechin "Oh, Mercy!", Abel Ferrera "Tommaso", Dardenne Brothers "Young Ahmed", Jayro Bustamante "La Llorona", Christophe Honoré "On a Magical Night", Nanni Moretti "Santiago, Italia", Quentin Dupieux "Deerskin", Bora Kim "House of Hummingbird", Rose Glass "Saint Maud", Cédric Klapisch "Someone, Somewhere", Hlynur Pálmason "A White, White Day", Koji Fukada "A Girl Missing", Renée Nader Messora "The Dead and Others", Kelly Reichardt "First Cow", Olivier Assayas "Wasp Network", Lee Isaac Chung "Minari", Midi Z "Nina Wu", Valentyn Vasyanovych "Atlantis", Feng Zu "Summer of Changsha", Oliver Laxe "Fire Will Come", and Jukka Pekka ValkeapääDogs Don't Wear Pants”.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Northwest Terror Fest: 2020 Edition Postponed | Tour Cancellations & The Washington Nightlife Music Association: A Call for Support


In a season of rapid cancellations and postponements too numerous to count, a set of highlights from this spring, summer and now fall, have dropped from the calendar. Much anticipated among these were the A Winged Victory For The Sullen at Saint Marks Cathedral, the rare return of early 4AD label world music from Dead Can Dance at The Paramount, and postmetal dirgers True Widow at Substation. The month of May would have seen blistering noiserockers Deafheaven at Neumos, the unprecedented return of 1990s dreamrockers House of Love, and minimalist composer and analog tape artist, William Basinski at Columbia City Theater. Also scheduled for June was the annual Mechanismus Festival, subtitled Resistance this year, with an intended lineup including Clan of Xymox, Boy Harsher, and a surprise guest of interest. Straight from England, the hypermodern jazz sounds of Kokoroko, and Shabaka Hutchings and The Ancestors at The Sunset and Neumos respectively, were also expected in the month of June. Lastly, and possibly of most note, neither postpunk, noiserock, and industrial stalwarts SWANS or Einstürzende Neubauten will be appearing at The Neptune as scheduled. These only touching on the surface of the localized fallout from the larger overriding cultural and economic consequences of the global pandemic. Regionally, the cultural institutions that will be most harmed and have the least on offer in the way of state and federal infrastructure, loans and grants will be the theaters, clubs and live music forums themselves. In response to this, a coalition of venues have come together to petition the public for support. The Washington Nightlife Music Association has established a set of necessary subsidies, rent, and tax relief guidelines. They are asking registered Washington voters to write the King County Executive Office and appropriate King County Councilmember, and advocate the necessity of these guidelines if the wider Seattle area music culture is to survive through the pandemic and its aftermath.

Another great loss to the early summer lineup is this year's iteration of Northwest Terror Fest. In a statement to their followers, the festival announced their regret at the necessity of the festival's postponement, and established that many of the artists have already committed to a future 2021 date. The festival was planned to take place over the course of three nights at Neumos, Barboza, and The Highline, on the final weekend in May. This fourth installment after its successful first set of years, showcasing some of the most potent sounds from the heavier end of the 21st century have been heard issuing from the mutating offshoots of black metal. The related global scene's ongoing and burgeoning development have encompassed melodicism and atmospheres lifted from shoegaze and spacerock, eruptions of heavy psych rock, industrial drumming, electronic atmospheres, and pure experimental noise. The expansiveness of this sound detailed in Brad Sanders' overview, "Untrue And International: Living in a Post-Black Metal World". Further showcased in the past half-decade of excellent curation in The Quietus' Columnus Metallicus column, covering releases dominantly sourced from labels like, Hydrahead, Ipecac, Deathwish, 20 Buck Spin, Sargent House, Profound Lore, Season of Mist, Roadburn, Flenser, Neurot and Relapse. An all-things-metal festival with a previous Southwest iteration, Terror Fest's three days host a lineup featuring no small quantity of metal issuing from this particular low-lit landscape of black and doom metal mutations. Initially launched under the opportunity to, "Bring Warning to America: An Interview with Terrorfest founder David Rodgers", Rodger's wider curatorial vision for the festival, was detailed in Decibel's, "It's Good to Have Goals and Dreams Can Come True", and in a 2019 interview, the festival's co-organizer Joseph Schafer describing how "The Third Time (Is Still) the Charm". The 2020 edition lineup as it was initially conceived encompassed everything from gloaming atmospheric ambiance and doom riffs, blistering thrash and hardcore, and heavy psych rock, dark pagan and neofolk explorations. Making for a cross-genre spectrum of metal sounds and weighty atmospheres that was to be heard in sets from, Blood Incantation, Sandrider, Cloak, Windhand, Mizmor, Suffocation, Midnight, Repulsion, Visigoth, Obsequiae, and Xibalba.