Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Film Moments

An interesting new book from BFI/Palgrave focusing on key moments in film:

edited by Tom Brown and James Walters

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

New blog on fashion and film

Rapsodia satanica 1915

I've set up a new blog exploring the fascinating relationship between fashion and film:

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sofia Coppola article now online

Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette

Pam Cook, 'Portrait of a Lady: Sofia Coppola', Sight and Sound 16 (11), November 2006, pp. 36-40.

This article is available as a PDF. To download, click here.

(with thanks to the British Film Institute)

Update on Cooks Source 'plagiarism' debacle

A useful discussion posted on Plagiarism Today on 8 November 2010 clarifies the issues at stake in the Cooks Source incident, including the differences between plagiarism and copyright violation:

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Hollywood Reporter actress roundtable

On 3 November 2010, the new Hollywood Reporter featured an hour-long roundtable discussion between Oscar-hopefuls Nicole Kidman, Annette Bening, Hilary Swank, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman and Helena Bonham Carter

Friday, 5 November 2010

Plagiarism, Cooks Source and the power of the Internet

Following the Internet storm that followed the publication of an article in Cooks Source magazine without permission, and the assertion by the magazine's editor that the Internet is 'public domain', here is a detailed, informative and perceptive analysis of what happened from Kathy E. Gill's Storify blog (with thanks to Cookierubyshoes):

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

New Nicole Kidman book

I am researching a book about Nicole Kidman for a new BFI/Palgrave series on film stars, and would like to canvass opinions, positive or negative, from the global online community. All opinions will be confidential, and will not be published without your permission.

If you would like to contribute, please email me.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Long live the Phoenix cinema

East Finchley's Phoenix cinema, built in 1910, re-opened last month after a major refurbishment programme. Take the video tour here:

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

'Sita Sings the Blues' Distribution Project

Sita Sings the Blues was released world-wide under a free license in 2009, enabling audiences anywhere to access it completely free. The film is a test case in the QuestionCopyright project -- details on their website:

Archive of the Month (July)

Sita Sings the Blues is available to download from the open-access Internet Archive:

Sita Sings the Blues

Nina Paley's fabulous animated feature Sita Sings the Blues

Unexplained Cinema

From Cinemastyles YouTube channel (see Video Bar on left) with thanks to FilmStudiesForFree:

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

New Spike Lee film on post-Katrina, post-BP New Orleans

From the South Florida Times today:



During the 14th Annual American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach last weekend, films weren’t the only features of the festival that set tongues wagging.

On Saturday, June 26, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and filmmaker Spike Lee had a chat at the Ritz-Carlton Miami Beach Hotel about Lee’s latest HBO documentary, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise. Lee’s latest documentary is the follow-up to his heart wrenching When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, which was released in 2006. In her introduction of Lee, O’Brien shared that Lee’s 2006 documentary won two Emmy Awards and a Peabody.

“I found that, five years later, people still thought a hurricane caused all of that devastation,” Lee, 53, said about the general public’s view of the disaster in New Orleans, Louisiana. “But, it was the breach of the levees.”

According to Lee, the 40 years that went into building and sustaining the levees that walled New Orleans were spent “cutting corners,” which is what led to the breach and subsequent flood of the city, especially the Lower Ninth Ward.

Lee began If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise by filming the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami, where the New Orleans Saints won the game. He felt that with that win, which was inspiring for the New Orleans people in Louisiana and abroad, he had the ending of his documentary.

He then moved on to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, and spent four weeks interviewing for the film, providing ample footage for a two-hour documentary. However, after a British Petroleum (BP) rig blew up off of the Gulf Coast on April 20, killing 11 men and leaking millions of gallons of oil into the water, Lee decided to continue the filming of his documentary. This would become the second, two- hour block of the documentary.

“This is the biggest environmental disaster in the history of the United States. It all comes down to greed,” said an outraged Lee. “My mother always told me, ‘You cut corners and it’s going to bite you in the a** in the future.’”

Lee blames BP for “cutting corners” and causing this latest disaster for the Gulf Coast. The premise of the documentary is that the people of the Gulf are having to “pray to God for yet another disaster in four years.”

Lee is not only outraged about BP’s shady record for oil drilling, but upset that President Barack Obama “took too long to come into the game,” calling the president’s actions “questionable.”

The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker presented clips from both parts of his documentary. The first was a charged scene in which New Orleans native and HBO “Treme” regular Phyllis Montana LeBlanc gives a rousing poem about the state of the Cajun City, five years later.

The second clip begins with a public service announcement given by BP CEO Tony Hayward about the spill, then segueways into a white man holding an American flag.
This man rants for a few minutes, giving the variations of what BP should stand for, including “Butt Plugs,” “Bull-s**t Propaganda,” “Backroom Pay-outs” and ended with “B**ch Please.” Both clips elicited gasps and laughs from the audience.

When asked by an audience member about making documentaries that are socially conscious, and advice for other filmmakers in general, Lee replied: “Everybody shouldn’t have a film like this. You have to do what’s best for you. For me, filmmaker means creating documentaries, feature films, commercials and shorts.”

When O’Brien asked if he would create a feature-length film based on the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Lee replied, “It would be fake. What actor could tell their story better than the people who lived it? My wish is to have people tell their story and their struggle.”

After 45 minutes of speaking about both disasters in the Gulf (Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill), Lee seemed more worried than angry. His major concerns are the predictions that the 2010 Hurricane Season would be a very active one. Lee’s hurricane concerns are amplified by his worry that a vicious storm in the Gulf region could blow the toxic oil back onto land and destroy not only the land itself, but also the fresh water.

While Lee is looking forward to the airing of his documentary on HBO in August, he is apprehensive that the people of New Orleans are still in need of many things they are not getting.

“It’s really sad,” the filmmaker said. “New Orleans has been hit twice by greed.”

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Another excellent fan site

Baz the Great! is a long-running, regularly updated and reliable site dedicated to keeping fans of Baz Luhrmann's films informed about his life and work. From the home page:

Baz the Great! is an Australian-run fansite that I have created to pay tribute to Baz Luhrmann and his remarkable achievements. This fansite features detailed sections about each of Luhrmann's major projects, as well as providing information about Luhrmann himself. I also endeavour to provide up-to-date information regarding Luhrmann's latest projects. Whatever it is you would like to know about Baz Luhrmann, I hope you find what you're looking for right here!
Baz the Great! - A Baz Luhrmann Fansite

The Guggenheim and YouTube

From the Guardian yesterday:

From the bedroom to the Guggenheim: search is on for a YouTube masterpiece

New York museum reaches out to the masses to find the next generation of video artists

  • Jemima Kiss
  • The Guardian, Monday 14 June 2010

  • It is home to one of the world's finest collections of contemporary art, from Mondrian to Mapplethorpe and Joseph Beuys to Rachel Whiteread. But now New York's Guggenheim Museum is using YouTube to source a new generation of creative talent, hosting a biennale of video art this October.

YouTube Play invites submissions from any artist anywhere in the world. Two hundred shortlisted videos will be published on the site.

Better known for finger-biting babies, sneezing pandas and Justin Bieber, YouTube's audience is vast. The Google-owned site serves 2 billion videos each day and 24 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute.

The Guggenheim's influential chief curator, Nancy Spector, said the idea came from a discussion on how the museum could reach a wider audience. "YouTube is fascinating to us because it represents a demographic quite beyond our means – that's very attractive," she said. "We are always wondering about how to reach a broader public."

A panel of artists, designers and filmmakers will pick the best 20 pieces for the four-day Guggenheim exhibit; at four months, the selection procedure is quicker than the typical curatorial endeavour of three or four years. Sponsored by HP, the winning pieces will also be presented at the Guggenheim's sister museums in Berlin, Bilbao and Venice. The deadline for entries is 31 July.

Spector said YouTube's culture of making, sharing and collaborating was producing innovative work. She said judges will be looking not for what is "now, but what is 'next'" – perhaps a tall order for a site that reflects contemporary culture. "This project is aspirational and we hope that people will rise to the occasion," she said. "Many artists today work quite profoundly with popular culture – that is something we recognise and embrace. It doesn't concern me that a tribute to Lady Gaga could end up being an important work of art and we don't want to rule that out."

Video art emerged in the 70s, led by artists including Fluxus artist Nam June Paik, radical performance artist Vito Acconci and Bill Viola, who used the medium to explore themes of spirituality. More recently, celebrated video artists include Pipilotti Rist, Matthew Barney and Saatchi favourite Ryan Trecartin, whose camp, theatrical videos play with themes of an increasingly digitally defined youth culture.

Rather than attract established artists, the Guggenheim hopes to exploit YouTube's scale to appeal to new artists. There are already more refined corners of YouTube where artists are finding a new and international audience for their work, and, rather than fine art, many of those are animators, filmmakers and 3D artists. But the site is also a subject in itself, a symbol of interconnected global culture, collaboration and comment, videos shared and republished in surprising contexts, and the re-appropriation and remixing of popular culture.

"In the 70s video was exclusively a broadcast medium until artists colonised it," Spector said. "Here, it still really has the same DNA, the same properties as video but now uses social networking, for instance, and is being disseminated on the internet. The tools have shifted, and it is interesting to see where that is going to take creativity."

The Guggenheim runs a number of outreach projects. The most recent, "Recontemplating The Void", asked the public to create an artwork for the central space of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed museum and to submit their designs to Flickr.

YouTube's senior marketing manager, Ed Sanders, admitted the partnership with the Guggenheim "looked slightly unusual on paper", but said the meeting of high art and popular culture was exciting. "We've noticed an explosion in creative video as a medium," he said. "Much of this is driven by the growth of sites like YouTube and the democratisation of production – the access to tools, equipment and software. There's a huge creative community online but it is fragmented. Were hoping this project will help bubble things up to the surface."

From the bedroom to the Guggenheim: search is on for a YouTube masterpiece | Art and design | The Guardian

Today is Cheer Up Keanu day

From Time magazine today:


Help Cheer Up Keanu Reeves

By Claire Suddath Tuesday, Jun. 15, 2010

Eleven thousand people think Keanu Reeves might be depressed. And with reason — the man hasn't had a hit movie in years, and his entire acting career can be summed up in one word: 'Woah.' So when a paparazzi photo surfaced on the Internet featuring an unshaven, mopey Keanu eating a sandwich on a park bench, fans started to worry. Was Keanu sad? Lonely? Bored? Was something actually wrong or was he just tired? The Internet, as it tends to, became very concerned.

(Read "Keanu Reeves: The Man Who Isn't There")

Did I say concerned? I meant obsessed. The park bench photo spread everywhere: on gossip sites, on message boards — it even got its own Tumblr blog. People left over 200,000 comments on the website Web illustrators photoshopped Keanu into other sad settings: next to Forrest Gump, surrounded by cats, on the Lost island, in a Lady Gaga video, even next to Stalin and Churchill. Nothing they did seemed to make the major movie star happy. But maybe this will: Today, June 15, is Cheer Up Keanu Day.

"I'm sure he's doing fine," says Daniel Murphy, 21, who created the Cheer Up Keanu Facebook page to advertise the newly made-up holiday. "I don't really think he's that sad, I just think his work is underappreciated." Murphy, and some of the more than 11 thousand people who joined the page, believe that Keanu Reeves' acting is overlooked because of his airhead surfer stereotype. "His depiction of Hamlet was probably one of the best American versions, but everyone still just thinks of him as Ted," he says, referring to Keanu's lead role in the 1989 movie, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. That film grossed $40 million at the box office and includes one of the best nuggets of stoner philosophy ever uttered: "be excellent to each other."

But unlike other celebrity-related Internet fads — Chuck Norris facts, Lesbians Who Look Like Justin Bieber, Rickrolling — Cheer Up Keanu Day seems to be based on true sincerity and affection. "At first I thought this was a joke," writes Marlon McAllister on the event's Facebook page, "but then I did some research and he's actually a really, supremely nice person...let's show Keanu some love!" Fans have offered to give money to cancer research, donate bone marrow or organize charity walks in the star's name (Keanu's sister has been diagnosed with leukemia, hence the interest in cancer charities).

This is the most interesting aspect of Cheer Up Keanu day. While Internet is most commonly used to mock celebrities, Cheer Up Keanu-ites just want to show the star how much they care. On message board discussions of the sad park bench photo, there are almost no mentions of Keanu's good looks or failed Matrix sequels. Even his role in the cult classic Point Break is largely ignored. Instead, people fret over Keanu's strained relationship with his father, or the fact that in 2001 his girlfriend died in a car accident. They swap stories about meeting him — Keanu offered a ride to a hitchhiker! He bought Harleys for a movie's special effects crew! He treated strangers to breakfast! — that, even if only half-true, demonstrate some sort of untapped fondness for an actor of otherwise negligible importance. "[His personality] has made me love his movies," writes an anonymous commenter on "I don't care how great they are. I love to see him, because he makes me happy." In other words, it's pretty hard to hate on Keanu.

And while Keanu seems to be experiencing a mini-version of what Betty White did during the Facebook campaign to get her on SNL, fans may find him less accepting of the attention — his representatives do not want the movie star associated with Cheer Up Keanu Day. They declined to let the star be interviewed and issued a statement saying simply (and somewhat humorlessly), "Keanu Reeves would like to thank all of his fans for their concerns regarding his happiness and wants to assure everyone that all is well. This situation is a result of a misinterpretation of a paparazzi shot."

"He was just eating a sandwich. Of course he isn't depressed," says Murphy. "Cheer Up Keanu Day isn't really about that. We just wanted to show him that we cared." And that is pretty excellent.

Read "Unlocking the Matrix"

Help Cheer Up Keanu Reeves - TIME

Sofia Coppola's 'Somewhere' trailer

Monday, 7 June 2010

Friday, 28 May 2010

David Foster Wallace and The Cinema Book

In a recent post on the Cultural Compass blog at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, Molly Schwartzburg traced some unexpected connections between the first edition of The Cinema Book and the writing of David Foster Wallace.


Infinite Possibilities: A first glimpse into David Foster Wallace’s library

David Foster Wallace's copy of 'The Cinema Book.' Photo by Pete Smith.

Approximately 200 books from David Foster Wallace’s library arrived at the Ransom Center with his papers. When the staff unpacked the collection to check its condition, we could see immediately that the library was not simply a supplement to the archive but an essential part of it. Wallace annotated many of the books heavily: he underlined passages, made extensive comments in the margins, and utilized the front and back inside covers for notes, vocabulary lists, brainstorms, and more. As a reader of Infinite Jest, one book in particular caught my eye: a battered paperback copy of Pam Cook’s edited volume The Cinema Book (New York: Pantheon, 1985). This reference work is heavily used: it lacks both its front and back cover, its spine is held on with two pieces of tape, and the exposed inside cover is inscribed “D. Wallace ’92,” four years before the publication of Infinite Jest.

Infinite Jest is a book about many things, and the mesmerizing power of movies is one of its most dominant themes. One of the book’s central figures is the late James O. Incandenza, an auteur whose filmography has left an indelible mark upon all of the novel’s characters in one way or another. Early in the novel, the reader learns of the extent of his importance in endnote 24. Endnote 24 comprises Incandenza’s entire filmography, which fills eight pages in tiny print. The reader discovers here that it is essential to actually read Wallace’s footnotes (spoiler alert), because only in this endnote do we learn that Infinite Jest is the title of an Incandenza film.

Traces of The Cinema Book may be found throughout Wallace’s novel, beginning with the basic format of the filmography itself: notably, Wallace penned a bracket around the “Special Note” at the front of The Cinema Book, in which Cook outlines the format her citations will take, and Wallace’s citations of Incandenza’s films resemble these closely. Wallace may also have gathered much film knowledge from this volume. The Incandenza filmography is a virtuosic pastiche of film history, technology, and vocabulary. We are told that Incandenza made every kind of film: “industrial, documentary, conceptual, advertorial, technical, parodic, dramatic noncommercial, nondramatic (‘anti-confluential’) noncommercial, nondramatic commercial, and dramatic commercial works” (985). Wallace annotated passages throughout The Cinema Book, with the exception of two theoretical chapters. He noted concrete information such as the names of actors, directors, production companies, film journals, and significant events in film history. His annotations show his interest in a wide range of terms and themes covered in the volume, with particular interest in sections on the idea of the auteur, the technology of deep focus cinematography, new wave cinema, the Hollywood star system, and most film genres (with the notable exception of the “the gangster/crime film,” the only genre lacking any Wallace annotations).

At two points in the volume he explicitly mentions Infinite Jest. In the section on “National cinema and film movements,” he underlines much of the section on Roberto Rossellini’s place in the neo-realist Italian tradition, writing in the bottom margin “Rossellini + ‘ad-hoc’ structure—Infinite Jest” (39). More dramatically, he writes the letters “IJ” no less than four times in the three-page section on “The Hollywood Star Machine.” He underlines several passages with particular attention to the following, which will not come as a surprise to readers of Infinite Jest:

'It has been argued that the erotic play of the “look” around the female star figure in classic Hollywood cinema is an integral part of the narrative drive towards closure and the reinstatement of equilibrium (Mulvey, “Visual pleasure and narrative cinema,” 1975). This argument uses psychoanalytical concepts to address the question of the fantasy relationship between spectators and film and the role of the star in that relationship (see also Cook, “Stars and politics,” 1982; Friedberg, “Identification and the star,” 1982).' [51]

Finally, my favorite set of annotations surround the section on the genre of the musical, written by Andy Medhurst. Medhurst spends a considerable amount of time discussing this genre’s dominant theme: entertainment. Wallace has underlined passages discussing the ways in which this genre taps into viewers’ nostalgia and their desire to experience a “vision of human liberation” in a utopian entertainment experience. Wallace has penned “ENTERTAINMENT” at the top of the page and circled the page number (107). This word is central to the project of Infinite Jest, and it is enlightening to read one of the sources from which its meanings in the novel likely derive.

Unpacking Wallace’s library was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this reader; once this and his other books have been cataloged, I look forward to seeing what insights scholars will derive from the hundreds of books and thousands of annotations beyond the few I have noted here.

by Molly Schwartzburg at 5:55 PM |

Friday, 14 May 2010

New book about Baz Luhrmann

A new in-depth study of Baz Luhrmann's work and career is published today by BFI/Palgrave in the World Directors series.

1. Once Upon a Time in Australia
2. Strictly Ballroom (1992)
3. William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)
4. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
5. No. 5 The Film (2004) and Australia (2008)
6. DVD, the Internet and Nostalgia

More details at: Baz Luhrmann

Thursday, 4 February 2010

New journal from Intellect

The first issue of an exciting new journal published by Intellect has just appeared:

Transnational Cinemas

Volume 1 Issue 1

Cover Date: January 2010


Editorial-Introducing Transnational Cinemas

Deborah Shaw and Armida De La Garza

Concepts of transnational cinema: towards a critical transnationalism in film studies

Will Higbee and Song Hwee Lim

Transnational utopias: Baz Luhrmann and Australian cinema

Pam Cook

Babel’s network narrative: packaging a globalized art cinema

Paul Kerr

YouTube: transnational fandom and Mexican divas

Niamh Thornton

Transnational developments in European cinema in the 1920s

Andrew Higson

Hollywood’s foreign earnings during the 1930s

John Sedgwick and Michael Pokorny



Pietari Kääpä


Sarah Barrow


Germán Gil Curiel


Leah Shafer

Entire issue free available at: Intellect Ltd.