Primers

by Todd Wardrope

"New Asian Horror" is well on its way to becoming a staid film studies expression like "French New Wave." While there certainly was an explosion of style and variety in the late 1990s, the "newness" has faded into film history. However, if you are reading this, do not be discouraged, for watching most of the movies discussed below will certainly provide you with novel entertainment. For the viewer with discriminating taste, these films offer an amazing and hard-to-repeat experience. Of course, that isn't stopping Hollywood from trying.

Page 03/29/2007 - 5:44pm

by Sean Axmaker

"You ain't heard nothing yet," Al Jolson promised his audience in The Jazz Singer, Hollywood's first talkie feature. That description, "Hollywood's first talkie feature," feels misleading. For one thing, only parts of the film featured sound. For another, Jolson wasn't spending those precious moments talking to the audience. He was belting out minstrel numbers. He was singing. The birth of talking pictures was the birth of the movie musical and for all the changes the musical has undergone, the music hasn't stopped.

Page 03/29/2007 - 4:46pm

By Hollis Gillespie

First, I'd like to warn you that romantic comedies ruined my life, but I don't think the devastation would have been so thorough if I hadn't also, as a teenager, read a truckload of epic romance novels on top of it. It did not at all help to be 14 with "ample breasts bursting with desire." I spent decades just leaning pensively against balustrades in hopes someone would want to sculpt me.

Page 03/29/2007 - 4:12pm

By Liz Cole

Some smug satisfaction can be found in telling another person's story, finding laughs, whether cheap or subtle, at the expense of someone else's efforts and failure. This is what has made modern mockumentaries - faked documentaries - into arguments against art, and against the hubris needed to make works of art. While some of these films have poked fun of easy targets - psychotic stage mothers and Midwestern beauty pageants (Drop Dead Gorgeous), hair metal bands (This is Spinal Tap) and right-wing politicians (Bob Roberts) - sometimes deception is essential to the seduction of good storytelling (Blair Witch Project, Dark Side of the Moon/Opétion lune). Put simply, it's fun to unravel the authority of documentaries.

Page 03/29/2007 - 1:06pm

by David Hudson

Cheech Marin in Luminarias

First, a little fun with numbers. The census conducted in the US in 2000 turned up 35,305,818 folks who classified themselves as "Hispanic or Latino." That's about 12.5 percent of the total population. And yet, of all the films unleashed to the world by the major studios throughout last ten years, big two-hour portraits of life in America, a mere 2.2 percent have been directed by Latinos.

Page 03/28/2007 - 5:48pm

by Gregg Rickman

Shiro Asano imported the first motion picture camera to Japan in 1897, two years after the first Lumiè Brothers screenings in Paris. Unlike the west, where for most of its formative early years the medium was considered working class entertainment, fit only for fairgrounds and the nickelodeon - and thus was able to develop as a vigorous, story-telling medium - the Japanese upper class favored the new medium from the start. As a consequence, until 1920 most films were filmed stage plays, drawn from either the classic kabuki form or the newer, post-1890, shimpa ("new school") theater. This division is the basis of the still-existing divide of Japanese cinema into historical, period films (jidaigeki) and contemporary pictures (gendaigeki). Both forms were stylized, shot in a series of long takes from a fixed, stage-like position, and drew from theatrical tradition as well in its use of female impersonators for women's roles.

Page 03/28/2007 - 5:12pm

by Megan Ratner

Before the indies and even before the French New Wave, Italian neo-realism staked out new cinematic territory. One of those blanket terms that mean all things to all people, neo-realism has few absolutes, though there are elements that set the Italian version distinctly apart. Screenwriter and poet Cesare Zavattini wrote an actual manifesto to guide these films, but their creation was just as much a result of timing, chance and fluke. Unquestionably, their greatest single influence was the anti-Fascism that marked World War II's immediate postwar period. Key elements are an emphasis on real lives (close to but not quite documentary style), an entirely or largely non-professional cast, and a focus on collectivity rather than the individual.

Page 03/28/2007 - 4:41pm

by Cheryl Eddy

Mainstream horror fans have it good, what with films like The Sixth Sense, 28 Days Later, and Freddy vs. Jason flooding multiplexes, video stores and prime-time cable airwaves. Fans of Italian horror, however, have been forced by circumstance to be a craftier bunch. For years, even the most widely seen films in the genre -- Dario Argento's Suspiria, for example -- were carefully sanitized before reaching any American audiences. Fortunately, the DVD era has brought with it a torrent of "uncut and uncensored" versions, replete with lavish gore effects, brilliant color schemes, and pounding, fully restored soundtracks. In short, there's never been a better time to get acquainted with Italian horror films.

Page 03/28/2007 - 4:25pm

by Jeffrey M. Anderson

Those of us who remember the 1980s remember Iran as a villainous empire. In 1979, Iranian activists took over the American embassy and held 54 Americans hostage for 444 days. The crisis helped cause President Carter's downfall and President Reagan spent half his time in office demonizing the Iranians.

Page 03/28/2007 - 4:11pm

by Ian Whitney

Movies were made for horror. In North America and Europe, frightening films appeared not long after the first narrative films. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, considered the first psychological horror film, was made in 1920 and less than 10 years later, horror films were an established genre. Whatever the reason - World War I, industrialization, immigration or other unnerving assaults on the status quo - westerners wanted movies to frighten them. The feeling was not universal.

Page 03/28/2007 - 3:58pm

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