Sep 18, 2018

Screen Captures #1

Hello webiverse, how have you been doing? Planet ESR has been inactive for some time, so much that both of my readers have stopped asking when the heck the next issue is coming out.  As of this coming weekend, it will be six years since we debuted a new issue, at 2012’s edition of Word On The Street. 

What the hell have I been doing in all this time? Not much, other than work things. (Sacre bleu! You don’t do ESR for a living? Mais, non!) Well, I did get a short piece on Curtis Harrington published (Thanks, Jason!). Also, I was supposed to contribute an article to a book-length study, and before I knew it, they published without me- no communication, nothing (I’m STILL pissed off about that one). Additionally, there were a couple of attempts to revive ESR as a publication, each followed by the resignation that I just wasn’t ready yet.

Other than that, creatively speaking, the only real feat of these intervening years was in, to put it politely, archiving. Much of my spare time was devoted to / frittered away on downloading old TV listings from newspaper archives. This began as research for another project still on the back burner, and manifested into a hobby where I’d make spreadsheets of old movie schedules, etc. Why? Am I that OCD? Well perhaps. Truthfully, I think everyone in this industry has to be obsessive. Otherwise why would we willingly subject ourselves to cruel and unusual punishment? (Shoot during a hurricane with a free cannelloni dinner as reward, and you’ll see what I mean.) 

In fact, obsession is part of human nature. What we choose to obsess over, however, can sometimes be declared as abnormal. I’ll leave the analysis to Niles Crane, but perhaps, deep down this hobby was an excuse to distract me from obsessing over what next to do with my life. As always, I tend to bury myself in the past, to look backward, because there’s nothing to look forward to.

But, it is time to change that school of thought.

This year, I had a milestone birthday that ended with a zero. My day job also had a milestone anniversary that ended with a zero. These events have compounded my constant self-deprecation. What have I accomplished in all this time? What have I gained with sacrificing x number of years of my life for someone’s dream? Most people my age have houses, kids, and are even thinking of retirement. I’m still in the same mindset I was twenty years ago, still trying to figure stuff out, still trying to grasp onto something out of reach. Another major event this year has forced some self-realization. 

I hesitate to extrapolate on personal things, but this is relevant to why you’re reading these words at all. Earlier this year, my dad had to go to a nursing home. I had to attend to his personal affairs and clean out his place. There are few things as invasive as tending to the personal effects of someone still living. It’s dirty. But thankfully, this cleanup went a lot smoother than it could have, because my father always kept his affairs very orderly. This forced me to re-examine myself. What kind of milestone am I leaving behind? How can I improve my life right now? How can I build a better future?

This hot summer has been spent with much reflection. To be as general as possible, I’ve learned that I’ve become a prisoner by design. I’ve allowed myself to be ruled by factors that ask for more, and do not reward back. I blame no one but myself for this quandary, but the time has come to take my life back. As the weather hopefully cools, it’s time to get back to loving life again, and to return to the things that I’ve forgotten about, which define me as a human being. 

As part of this self-examination, I’ve started writing journals again for the first time in years. And as writing continues to be part of my daily mantra, I will feel confident enough to return to publishing: not just to ESR, but a couple more projects I’ve entertained over time. I’ve made false promises in the past about restarting these vocations. In these six years, this is the most mentally prepared I've felt to do this.  I still have a long way to go, but it's a start.

And that, my friends, is how we get to this column. 

Another activity of my self-imposed Sabbatical was in reading collections of work by columnists. I’ve long wanted to do a regular film-related column. Blogging regularly is like writing a column, I concur. And with each new edition of Screen Captures, I hope to achieve a body of work that will serve at least two purposes.

First, I hope that each new edition will entertain its readers with whatever arcane topics strike my fancy at the moment. This is an exercise for me to return to a regular regimen of writing about what kindles my creative passions.

More crucially, it will hopefully serve as a record of independent screenings and events, plus the movers and shakers who make that happen. This city has seen dramatic changes in the past few years. Gentrification and sky-high real estate has forced the closure of many favourite haunts. Artists continue to struggle for the same pieces of the pie; only problem is, the pie itself has gotten smaller. Since its debut in 2001, ESR has always felt part of the indie culture scene, as that is chiefly where we have sold our wares. Even if we sell socks, while others in the underground sell gloves, there is nonetheless a kinship. We’re all addressing a need for something not offered by the mainstream.

Over time that scene has diminished in some ways, and mutated in others. I hope Screen Captures will exist as a living record of that vital piece of culture, as it continues its sine wave pattern on the fringes.

Forgive the indulgences of this first endeavour: I just felt it necessary to begin with a long, personal tract to help you understand how we got here, and where we’re going.


Independent Screenings Of Note:

Apparently there was some big film festival in the city recently. As a result, people tend to be “movied out” for the rest of September. But for those of us who couldn’t afford the $89.75 just to say they inhaled some of the same O2 as Bradley Cooper, and are looking for something beyond all the hoopla, here are some noteworthy independent screenings happening over the next seven days. (Wouldn’t you know it? Two are on the same night. It happens a lot in this scene.)

Thurs Sept. 20 - Directed By Women Screening Series 
The first in a series of free screenings of films directed by women, features Shoes (1916), directed by Lois Weber. This film was recently restored, and entered into the National Film Registry in 2014. Silent film pioneer Lois Weber’s work has been enjoying a renaissance in recent times. It was generously featured on TCM last year, and this spring, The Toronto Silent Film Festival showed 1927’s Sensation Seekers
Media Commons – Roberts Library; 130 St. George St., 3rd Floor. Toronto, ON. Admission is free! Doors open at 6:15 PM, films begin at 6:35 PM. Admission is free!
Click here for future titles in this series.

Thurs Sept. 20 - Ad Hoc# 12: David Morris in person with his films
The not-for-profit collective continues their impressive screenings of independent-experimental cinema with Concordia professor David Morris in person presenting his films: (Shekhina) Series - Projection (Super8, 1990), Ruakh (Super 8 and 35mm), and MPQ suite (digital).
Morris’s films are composed and edited in camera, and shot (with few exceptions) frame by single frame (‘pixilated’). The Super 8 films are shown in original at approximately 12 frames per second. 
Pix Film Gallery; 1411 Dufferin Street, Unit C, Toronto. 7 PM. Admission is free!

Fri Sept 21 – CINSSU Free Friday Films
It's back to school season, which means that the cheapest movie date on a Friday night is also back in action! The Cinema Studies Student Union has a stellar line-up this season devoted to the theme of "Music And Film". This week, it's Bob Fosse's 1972 Cabaret, with Liza Minnelli.
Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Ave, Toronto. 7 PM. Admission is free!

Sun Sept 23 - Art House Theater Day
As a tribute to cinema in the art house, The Revue Cinema is showing Agnes Varda's 1962 nouvelle vague classic, Cleo De 5 a 7. The event is free, but it is recommended to get a ticket beforehand by visiting the event page at Eventbrite here.
Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto. 6:45 PM. Admission is free!

(Have an upcoming screening to plug? Drop me a line at: mail at screening dash room dot ca)

DVD - BluRay Releases This Week:

Sept. 18 sees two new releases from Arrow: Peter Fonda’s revisionist western The Hired Hand, and Teruo Ishii’s cult classic, Horrors of Malformed Men.

And from ClassicFlix, the complete Blondie 1957 TV series. Now this I’ve gotta see! Chic Young’s classic comic strip character was in a series of 28 films by Columbia, from 1938 to 1950, featuring Penny Singleton as Blondie, and Arthur Lake as Dagwood. Lake reprises his role for the TV series; Blondie is played by Pamela Britton. 

Other Events of Note:

It's a literary weekend in TO.

Sat. Sept 22: Broken Pencil returns with Canzine, Canada's largest zine fair, at the AGO. 317 Dundas St. W., Toronto. 11AM - 7 PM. Admission is $5 by donation.

Sun. Sept 23: Word On The Street is back at Harbourfont. This huge fair of books, magazines, readings and all things literary is at Harbourfront Centre, 10 AM - 5 PM. Admission is free!

Mar 10, 2018

Eurofantasmo! #1

Since my last birthday had a zero in it, I decided to keep my mind occupied for the day instead of moping around in my bathrobe, drinking cheap sherry and watching reruns of "Flo". (Not that there's anything wrong with sitting around in your bathrobe, drinking cheap sherry and watching reruns of "Flo", if the spirit moves you.)

Therefore, on the big day, I did a couple of things that I hadn't done in years: I hosted a screening and printed a zine! One overcast Sunday afternoon, the very first issue of Eurofantasmo! made its official, though inconspicuous, debut at the screening.

Eurofantasmo! chronicles the rich history of Europe's genre cinema circa late 1950s to 1990; each issue tackles a different subgenre or topic. The debut issue focuses on superhero or super-criminal movies made in Italy during the 1960s. These twelve digest-sized pulse-pounding pages review eleven such films, including Danger Diabolik, both Kriminal films, Satanik, and both Superargo movies.

While still toiling away at the new, revamped ESR (which has already been pushed back twice), I had the idea to do this little zine. Consider it the side dish to the main course still in progress. This project nonetheless provides an outlet for my lifelong fascination with and exploration of European genre film (and I still feel I'm scratching the surface). I felt it was a necessary diversion to preparing the new ESR. It also proved to be a pleasant throwback to the old days: thinking about design, proofreading, stapling and collating.

And considering after three months, I have yet to receive any feedback on it, yep, it really is like the old days. (Granted, I'm behind in mailing out some copies to people who wanted a mag but couldn't attend the screening.) I still have some if you're interested! The next issue will likely go to print next month.

Oh, and what was the screening? I showed the Stephen Boyd-Sylva Koscina caper film, The Manipulator. Whatever I can do to spread the word on this quirky delight.

Mar 9, 2018

Screenings: Jan - Feb, 2018

ABOVE: The Other Side Of Hope

Feature films, made-for-TV movies, theatrical shorts viewed in the past two months.

January 2018 viewings:
The Bounty Man (1972; John Llewellyn Moxey) (TV)
The Cat of the Worm's Green Realm (1997; Stan Brakhage)
Cocaine Fiends (1936; William A. O’Connor) *
Coupling (1999; Stan Brakhage) *
Creation (1979; Stan Brakhage)
Cyberville (1994; George Haggerty)
The Dante Quartet (1987; Stan Brakhage)
The Devil's Honey (1986; Lucio Fulci)
The Electric Horseman (1979; Sydney Pollack) *
Emergency Landing (1941; William Beaudine)
Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015; Wim Wenders)
Eye Myth (1967; Stan Brakhage) *
A Ghost Story (2017; David Lowery)
Gonks Go Beat (1964; Robert Hartford-Davis)
Good Day For A Hanging (1959; Nathan Juran)
Gun Fight (1961; Edward L. Cahn)
Hamburger Hamlet (1974; George Haggerty)
Hellcats of the Navy (1957; Nathan Juran)
High Powered (1945: William Berke)
Homes On Wheels (1992; George Haggerty)
I … Dreaming (1988; Stan Brakhage)
In Between (1955; Stan Brakhage)
Jail Bait (1954; Edward D. Wood, Jr.) *
Jaws of Death (1976; William Grefe)
Lucky (2017; John Carroll Lynch)
Mall Time (1988; George Haggerty)
Minesweeper (1943 William Berke)
The Mirror (1975;  Andrei Tarkovsky)
Mongo's Back In Town (1971; Marvin J. Chomsky) (TV)
The Monk (1969; George McCowan) (TV)
Moonlighting Wives (1966; Joe Sarno)
Mothlight (1963; Stan Brakhage) *
Night And The City (1950; Jules Dassin)
The Other Side Of Hope (2017; Aki Kaurismaki)
Ring of Terror (1962; Clark L. Paylow)
Robotopia (1990; George Haggerty)
Rocky Mountain Rangers (1940; George Sherman)
Santo and Blue Demon Versus Dracula And The Wolf Man (1972; Miguel M. Delgado)
Shaker Run (1985; Bruce Morrison)
Virginia Creepers (2009; Sean Kotz and Christopher Valluzzo)
Window Water Baby Moving (1959; Stan Brakhage)
Zambo King of the Jungle (1972; Bitto Albertini)

February 2018 viewings:
Anticipation of the Night (1958; Stan Brakhage)
Borderline (1950; William A. Seiter)
Captain America (1979; Rod Holcomb) (TV)
Captain America II (1979; Ivan Nagy) (TV) *
Cornbread, Earl and Me (1975; Joseph Manduke)
Cry Danger (1951; Robert Parrish) *
Death Squad (1974; Harry Falk) (TV)
Detroit 9000 (1973; Arthur Marks)
The Devil's Express (1976; Barry Rosen)
Eye Of The Labyrinth (1972; Mario Caiano)
GalaxyQuest (1999; Dean Parisot)
Ganja and Hess (1973; Bill Gunn) +
Haunts Of The Very Rich (1972; Paul Wendkos) (TV)
The Lift (1985; Dick Maas)
Night of the Living Dead (1968; George A. Romero) *
One Down, Two To Go (1982; Fred Williamson)
Orchestra Wives (1942; Archie Mayo)
OSS 117 Unleashed (1963; Andre Hunebelle)
Seeds Of Evil (1974; James H. Kay)
Sirius Remembered (1959; Stan Brakhage)
That Man Bolt (1973; Henry Levin, David Lowell Rich)
A Touch of Satan (1970; Don Henderson)
The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975; Miguel Iglesias)
The Wold Shadow (1972; Stan Brakhage) *
Xanadu (1980; Robert Greenwald) *

* denotes a repeat watch (all others without asterisks are first-time viewings)
(TV) is a made-for-TV movie
+ (I had previously seen the re-released version of Ganja and Hess, which was cut down, had additional scenes shot, had numerous re-release titles, and a different director credit; I saw that one on video with the title Blood Couple. Still, until now, I had never seen the original Ganja and Hess, restored to DVD and released by All Day Entertainment. I am counting it as a first-time viewing as it is indeed a completely different movie experience.)