Auteur Essay: Matt Zoller Seitz on Wes Anderson

This superb (and thorough) look at Wes Anderson‘s auteur influences was mentioned on the current episode of the Cinecast. The House Next Door founder, freelance writer and film director Matt Zoller Seitz narrates and edits a collection of side by side and annotated scenes from Wes Anderson’s filmography and connects the director’s aesthetic to Hal Ashby, Mike Nichols, Charles Schultz, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, François Truffaut and the written work of J.D. Salinger. High praise indeed, but the key here is that Anderson re-invents his influences into his own auteur stamp, one that has been imitated (From Napoleon Dynamite to Garden State), yet nevertheless remains instantly recognizable about the crowd.

The series: The Substance of Style, is in 5 parts, ending with a fully annotated playing of the sublime opening prologue of The Royal Tenenbaums.

The First Part is tucked under the seat.

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A Change of Face for the Leading Man?


With Hollywood’s once fresh, young faces aging with wisdom, experience and (for the most part) honorable careers, it’s safe to say there are limits to the roles Leo Dicaprio, Matt Damon, Ethan Hawke, Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire and their seasoned comrades of this attractive graduating class will be able to snag. This inevitable ‘passing of the torch’ has been in effect since the start.  Would you like to know more…?

Sign of the Times: Pontypool.

zombiebadge[A big special thank-you to recurring Cinecast guest host Matt Gamble (and author of Where the Long Tail Ends) for allowing us to re-print his essay on Bruce McDonald’s semiotic horror picture Pontypool, apropos of its Canadian DVD release yesterday. Matt tackles the meaning and the metaphor of the word Zombie, where the genre has been, and were it is going:]

Pontypool: Or How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear the New Zombie

Being born in 1976 I have missed most, if not all, of what I would consider the major tide changes in horror film making here in the United States. The two closest to my heart, and in my opinion the two most important films, being Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Some might say that I was able to witness a similar precedent with The Blair Witch Project, which is a fair point to make. But I think that over the course of time since The Blair Witch Project was released has proven the film to be far more influential in the marketing of films, and specifically the rise of viral marketing, then it has influenced the horror genre.

But while The Blair Witch Project certainly was influential, Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were revolutionary by comparison. Both were low budget shock fests that relied far more on mood and atmosphere to set the table for the scares they were about to serve the audience then most of the other low budget fare of their time. Night of the Living Dead was serious whereas other horror films of the day were campy. And The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, despite its reputation, isn’t bathing in gore as many of its contemporaries were, but rather is a subtle and subdued fright fest. Neither are particularly scary by today’s standards and styles, with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre relying on an general level of creepiness rarely matched in any other film, and Night of the Living Dead almost suffocating the viewer with tension. And while these two might not be the best horror films ever made, particularly in the case of Night of the Living Dead where most people, myself included, view its sequel Dawn of the Dead to be the superior film, but these two films introduced audiences to new concepts and styles in horror, with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre masterfully manipulating audiences with its “based on actual events” premise. As much as I would like to discuss The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the lack of zombies in the film make it a bit difficult to directly correlate to the film that made me want to write this piece in the first place. But Night of the Living Dead on the other hand, brought about a whole new and terrifying meaning to the word zombie, which is quite relevant to what I wish to discuss.

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The Filmosophy Manifesto

filmosophy in A Scanner Darkly
A Scanner Darkly: the pure manifestation of fluid film-thinking’

It has been a long held suspicion of mine that bad film criticism is a product of filmgoers who are themselves habitually poor listeners. I do not mean to cast aspersions upon those who for whatever reason neglect to recognize subtext in the films they watch, rather it is upon those who fanatically pursue the subtext as a pre-established end that I direct my observation. I would much prefer the inarticulate ‘it sucks’ analysis to the sort of posturing of value that is made when, for example, the significance of a film is reduced to how it fits into the director’s oeuvre, presupposing the merit of auteur theory. This preoccupation with context beyond the limits of the frame to the detriment of perceiving the film’s intrinsic quality is a rampant and dismaying epidemic of lazy criticism.

Still, some concession is owed the variety of activities that fall under the umbrella term ‘film criticism’, as a professional film review for mass consumption should not be considered ‘lazy’ if it has nothing lofty to aspire to; there is an inherent mercantile logic to reigning in the analysis (i.e. prevent plot spoilers) and emphasizing the commodity aspects of the work like a consumer report on a blender. My concern lies squarely on the emulation of this mercantile approach by amateur cinephiles and academicians. Would you like to know more…?