Beginning with the acclaimed 1984 thriller Blood Simple, the Minnesota born and NYU educated Ethan and Joel Coen have had one of the most fiercely idiosyncratic careers in the last 25 years of American film, jointly writing, producing, directing and even (under the alias Roderick Jaynes) editing their films, even when the credits may have misleadingly suggested a division of labor. Often working in a small handful of chosen genres, the brothers’ body of work nevertheless suggests some crazed mashup of classic film styles like film noir, screwball comedy and period dramas, all shot through with the post-modern irreverence of film lovers who have absorbed far too rich an array of cinematic history to ever properly color inside the genre lines.
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Chaplin’s influence cannot be overstated—a true auteur, he would go on to craft a series of stirring, gorgeous, hilarious, simple parables which, while endlessly entertaining, never steered far from their social message. A committed socialist—he would eventually be treated as a subversive agent in the US in one of their more foolish moments of anti-communist idiocy—Chaplin’s filmography is underpinned by a persistent and stirring attack on the de-humanizing power of a faceless capitalist machine. His most indelible moments rely on the juxtaposition between the softness of humanity and the unbendable steel of progress. It’s hard to think of a better visual metaphor for this than the scene early in his Depression-era satire Modern Times when his Tramp character literally gets caught in the gears of a machine. Both amazingly funny and utterly convincing as a visual metaphor, here was the genius of Chaplin. An entertainer with a purpose. Chaplin died on Christmas Day, in 1977, at the age of 88.
It’s easy to throw around the phrase “godfather of independent cinema,” but actor-turned-director John Cassavetes earned it with his sweat and blood. His move out of the Hollywood system is the stuff of film history legend, and he set a powerful example, showing just how much a rogue, impassioned filmmaker could accomplish. Between Faces in 1968 and his death from cirrhosis in 1989, Cassavetes directly a series of visceral, highly personal dramas that still feel caustic, and fresh. Forged through sacrifice and suffering, his films contain some of the greatest performances you’re likely to see.
The Forms released an EP called Derealization back in February, which provides a fresh look at earlier material by the Brooklyn band with remixes and new vocalists. Their song, “Fire to the Ground”, is now helmed by the distinctive baritone of the National’s Matt Berninger. A video treatment was filmed recently on quaint Minetta Lane in New York City, yet it skewers the notion of a cheerful group dance with dizziness-inducing direction by Chunwoo Kae and Ryan Demier of Neue Films. The clean lines of choreography by Lily Baldwin (who has worked with David Byrne among others) belie the underpinning of danger inherent in the music. It all makes for compelling viewing while listening to this haunting tune. And FYI a new release, Choas of Forms, is due out August 16.
Applause all around for the sheer hipsterism of Nokia’s marketing department, where the boardroom might look more like Vice Magazine than Samsung. Nokia has been using indie rock to hype it’s N8 smartphone with a series of Live Sessions filmed entirely with the phone. The lineup so far includes Cults, Transfer, Portugal the Man, he Vaccines, Mona and Ben Howard.