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by Cynthia Fuchs

9 Aug 2011

When Natalie Maines told a London audience in March 2003, “We’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas,” she could not have imagined the fallout. But as she and fellow Dixie Chicks Martie Maguir and Emily Robison discover, her outspokenness had political and economic costs back in the States. That story is traced in Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, screening on 9 August, as the Closing Night Film for Stranger Than Fiction‘s Summer Season, and followed by a Q&A with Barbara Kopple. Directed by Kopple and Cecelia Peck, the film shows crowds smashing CDs with a tractor and campaigns mounted online and at concerts, as former fans made plain their outrage. The Chicks respond by figuring out who they are, not in relation to a fixed fan base or the “brand” they had come to be, but to themselves and other audiences. Maines observes that the controversy “is a part of who we are as a band now.” And so they make a decision to reframe the controversy as a matter of free speech. With help from producer Rick Rubin, they make a new album and then set to marketing it. The film makes a special point of showing the Chicks on the road and at home (dressing their kids for Halloween, at the hospital where Robison has twins), underscoring how these experiences are intertwined. As much as the film shows their healthy integration of professional and personal politics, it also makes clear the significance of the Chicks in broader contexts, including free speech, the growing anti-war movement, and their experience as women in the music industry.

See PopMattersreview.

by Lee Dallas

8 Aug 2011

The cornerstone of Jane Campion’s career, and the film that she will probably remain best remembered for, was 1993’s indescribably haunting The Piano, starring Holly Hunter as a mute mail-order bride shipped to meet her husband in the wilds of New Zealand with her daughter and beloved piano in tow. Cannes was kinder to Campion this time, to say the least: she became the first female director in history to win the festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or for feature film. More success followed: The Piano became an art-house sensation worldwide, and Campion, along with Hunter and nine-year-old actress Anna Paquin, earned an Oscar for her work. The film immediately posited Campion as one of the most significant female directors in the world, and remains one of the touchstones of that slippery category, “women’s cinema”.

Read the rest of the entry within our 100 Essential Directors series.

by Aaron Leggo

8 Aug 2011

The look of a Tim Burton movie is unmistakable and he has managed to define a unique style (a sort of decrepit, fantastical exaggeration of something recognizable) in nearly all facets of his cinematic designs. He tends to favour a polarizing colour palette, with dark blues and greys being offset by splashes of red or a rainbow of pastels. He did employ a black-and-white approach for his biopic about cult classic filmmaker and tragic figure Ed Wood (his most grounded film to date and quite possibly his best, too), but he rarely strays from his iconic blend of gothic darkness and whimsical brightness (see the deceptively dark summer blockbuster Batman Returns [1992] for one of the best examples of this). Burton’s strict adherence to a singular style may feel repetitive in later movies, but his overall filmography reveals a gifted storyteller with a slightly demented Willy Wonka-esque flavor all his own.

Read the rest of the entry within our 100 Essential Directors series.

by Joshua Ewing Weber

8 Aug 2011

Born in Jim Crow Mississippi and raised in riot-era Watts, the early years of Charles Burnett were typical of the people living in his neighborhood and atypical of the people making or being represented in film at the time. And while cinema has since aspired to capture some aspects of the South Central neighborhood where Burnett grew up—mostly the gangs, cops, and Korean groceries—we remain frighteningly unfamiliar with the lives of the people who live there. Burnett’s films are necessary because they confront this reluctance. But this is not what makes them great.

What makes Burnett great is that he is far more interested in the poetic mundanity of everyday life than he is in polemics. His early work especially relies on this quiet, observational style. Ditching plot-driven narrative for a series of loosely connected vignettes, Burnett’s seminal Killer of Sheep and his assured first short Several Friends (1969) can feel more like cultural artifacts than movies. Kids pummel a passing train with rocks; men wrestle a washing machine through a tight doorframe; a woman rubs lotion on her leg. It’s easy to forget there’s a camera in the room.

Read the rest of the entry within our 100 Essential Directors series.

by Russ Slater

8 Aug 2011

In his review of SXSW 2010 Jayson Harsin described British band Zun Zun Egui as “funked up [Talking Heads] meets Indian folk music and Jimi Hendrix.” as well as agreeing that they may just be “The Greatest Band In Britain Right Now”.

Well, Zun Zun Egui have recently signed to Bella Union in the UK, announced details of their forthcoming debut album Katang, expected on 3rd October, as well as a new 12” single “Fandango Fresh” which will be released in August, and comes with this extra special video.

This is most definitely a band to keep an eye on.

//Mixed media

Tricks or Treats? Ten Halloween Blu-rays That May Disrupt Your Life

// Short Ends and Leader

"The best of this stuff'll kill you.

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