Hello all! This site is no longer active; the Magnetic State Blog Department has moved here.
Check out the brand-spanking new Magnetic State portfolio site! I decided to attach the blog department to the portfolio site by building a customized blog on a fresh installation of my favorite blogging platform, Wordpress. Blogger is very convenient and user-friendly but Wordpress offers extensive customization and I'm a big fan.
Thanks for visiting and I hope you'll subscribe to the Magnetic State Blog Dept. at its new location!
On a skateboard, I am a disaster waiting to happen. Nonetheless, I think the skateboard industry is home to some of the most inventive apparel graphics on the market. Of course, you have to wade through plenty of bad trends (spoof advertising, emulation/plagiarism of horror movies and rap stars, simplistic glorification of drugs, et cetera) but you can usually find some interesting garments if you look hard enough and find the reputable or adventurous brands. Here are a few cool shirt designs I found while browsing today.
An interesting take on the stripe pattern from Atwater. I love the color scheme too - it stops just short of too loud.
Another variation on the stripe theme from Volcom. The asymmetry of the blank sleeve is pleasantly jarring to the eye.
You can always count on Nor Cal for gorgeous, sophisticated type. These antiquated typographical styles are so classy, they make my eyes drool.
All product photos from Zumiez.
This image is part of an in-progress series I've been working on in my free time for a while now. I just decided to share one because they've been fun to make and they are totally different from much of my work. Click the image to view full size.
I recently completed a website design for online poetry purveyors Coldfront. I began by designing their logo, using a decorative cloud element from their previous site as the primary image. Then we embarked on the task of designing a website that would include an ambitious front page that would feature a multi-tiered magazine-style layout. As always, I chose Wordpress as the platform with which to power the site and customize its appearance. The Coldfront editors have yet to migrate the entirety of their content to the new site, but I hope you'll stop by and take a look at the results of our hard work!
And of course, if you're in the market for a new website or blog, please send an email to dan at magnetic state dot com!
I am pleased to launch my most recent website design: the online portfolio of the very talented fashion illustrator Ryan McMenamy. Please visit www.ryanmcmenamy.com. This site is built entirely with valid HTML and CSS, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it, internet!
Oh man. This is gonna change your life so drastically, you will mark this date on your calendar. "Today marks the anniversary of the first time I saw the trailer for Robogeisha," you'll reminisce next year, as you gleefully uncork a bottle of fine champagne. "I've truly evolved since then." The only thing better than the ludicrous special effects concepts in this trailer is the creepy, whispered voice-over of the narrator, who manages to pronounce "fried shrimp" like it's a dirty secret. In this movie, it probably is. You're welcome.
Check out the shirt I designed for my friends in Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers. Their new album The Bear is due out in early September.
Photo by Elmo Thamm.
Here's the design triumphantly emblazoned on the bass drum of Brian 'Boots' Factor. Many thanks, gentlemen!
I recently did a great deal of graphic design work for Health Care for America Now. One of the most satisfying parts of my career is when I am given the chance to use my skills for such a crucial cause. They will rally for health care reform in D.C. this Thursday, June 25th. Click here to learn more!
Wordpress named its new version (Wordpress 2.8, 'Baker,' released today) after jazz legend Chet Baker, so here's a little dose of my man Chet. This performance captures the great vocalist and trumpeter early in his descent into a drug habit that ravaged his looks, his musical skills, and his career. Here, he's missing a tooth from a contentious incident that was allegedly an altercation with an angry dealer. He hits a few sour notes, but otherwise, you can still hear the bittersweet melodies and laid back phrasing that made Baker a pioneer of the 'cool jazz' sound that arose in 50's California. The man was just bursting with beautiful melodies. Baker is the subject of the riveting documentary Let's Get Lost - probably the one film that I would have released on DVD if I could.
I'm looking forward to seeing several old friends perform at Matchless next week - come out if you are in Brooklyn on Thursday, June 18th! Performers include Ivana XL, The Static Age, and a debut performance by Systems, a new band featuring my great friend and former bandmate, Sean Hutcheon. I'll be there with eager ears!
One of my favorite bands is responsible for the biggest apparel design mistake of the year. Oh, those timely 'bling' jokes! I thought it was a hoax until I saw it for sale on their website. Check out Faith No More's 'Gold Chain' shirt and read the comments below. With so many talented graphic artists out there, this is such a sad waste of fabric.
Below are posters for movies I discovered in the book Attack of the 'B' Movie Posters. These posters have got it all: brazen compositions, political incorrectness, memorable titles (Invasion of the Blood Farmers), and amusing slogans ("So Young... So Bad... So What?"). The posters are likely better than the movies themselves, but it still makes me wonder why anyone would feel inclined to go see a movie with a title as bland as The Reader.
Here is my recently completed series of six handmade promotional mailers for Magnetic State. They are due to be shipped out to former and potential clients this week. Each one is unique. They were fun to make and I hope it shows!
I was intrigued and impressed when I saw the cover of the Fiery Furnaces' recent live record, Remember (Thrill Jockey). At first glance, my eyes boggled and my mind knotted at the strange, perplexing shapes. And then it dawned on me that I was reading - or slowly deciphering - the word Remember. Someone has gone out on a limb with this one, and the result is a design that really surprises the viewer with its slow revelation.
Graphic design is about communication, and it's quite unusual for an album cover to abandon legibility and obscure communication the way that this one does. Of course, the title Remember is written legibly in the upper left hand corner of the square, but it's the larger, abstracted version of the word that dominates the composition. I love the way the E's and the M's interconnect with each other and I think the way the R has been simplified is quite brave. If I could change two things, I'd change the color of the first M (it appears to be negative space right now) and I'd include the last R in the composition (why has it been squeezed out of the frame?).
All in all though, this design is a risky one and it's nice to see a good, daring risk once in a while. I can't believe it got approved. One of my favorite quotes is from my former professor Sergio Baradat, who once said, "It's great to pull a rabbit out of your hat, but sometimes, a rabbit out of your hat is not what's called for." The cover design of Remember is an example of that first part - sometimes, it's great to pull a rabbit out of your hat.
Today I've selected ten art and design-related YouTube videos that I hope will inspire and entertain you. The subjects run the gamut from fine art and graphic design to graphic novelists, but they have one thing in common: serious ass-kickery. Enjoy.
Josef Albers: Homage to the Square
Here is a discussion of a painting (‘Aurora’) from Josef Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square’ series. I wish I could go back in time and take a class with the famed Bauhaus/Black Mountain master who believed that color was a “magic force.”
Paul Rand Interview
“Most good things have a timeless quality” according to designer Paul Rand, and this interview with him (on a hopelessly 80’s cable access program) is no exception. Rand is a hero of graphic design; his timeless work (logo designs for IBM, ABC, UPS) and no-nonsense, utilitarian approach to design can be seen here. Rand didn’t offer clients many choices for the solution to a logo design assignment “for the same reason that a doctor doesn’t give you a million choices – if you’ve got a headache, he’ll give you an aspirin. He doesn't give you a choice between that and Ex-Lax.” Visit YouTube to watch parts 2 and 3 of this interview with the coolest dude that ever did it.
Charles Burns in 'Fear(s) of the Dark'
This is artist Charles Burns’ entry in the animated French film ‘Peur(s) du Noir’ (‘Fears of the Dark’). Burns is responsible for Black Hole, the best graphic novel you’ll ever read. He uses his beautifully stark illustration style to tell Cronenberg-ian tales of love and lust that are dark, creepy, and usually populated with mutants. This film isn't available on DVD yet but this YouTube version will tide me over until it is. Visit YouTube for Part II.
Paula Scher: Great Design is Serious (Not Solemn)
Here is Pentagram partner Paula Scher’s speech ‘Great Design Is Serious (Not Solemn)’. Ms. Scher is refreshingly honest about the joys and disappointments of her career; she admits that some of her best work occurred in situations where she was “totally and completely unqualified for the job.”
The artists at the Milwaukee-based design studio Aesthetic Apparatus discuss their inspirations and processes. You know how every Criterion DVD release looks more beautiful than a cold beer on a hot day? These guys are one of the reasons why.
Jeff Koons Interview
Art is a “vehicle that creates anxiety.” Jeff Koons is interviewed here by the Tate Museum in his New York studio. If Warhol's studio was a factory, then Koons' place is an industrial complex. Out of all the museums whose YouTube channels I've browsed over the last week, the Tate's was the most watchable.
David Carson: Design, Discovery, and Humor
This is a quite funny and amusing speech given by David Carson, a graphic designer famous for breaking/ignoring a lot of rules in his work. “Don’t mistake legibility for communication,” he says here. “Just because something’s legible doesn’t mean it communicates; more importantly, it doesn’t mean it communicates the right thing.”
Matt Groening: 'My Wasted Life'
This is part one of a BBC program called ‘My Wasted Life’ about Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Groening recalls the sweet surreality of his own youth as well as the cultural roots of Bart and the gang. My favorite Groening comic: Bongo's Dream House.
Jenny Holzer: PROTECT PROTECT (Whitney Exhibit)
This video considers the politics of Jenny Holzer’s work on view in 'PROTECT PROTECT' at the Whitney Museum. Jenny Holzer has always been one of my favorites due to her skill at uniting image and word; the intersection of visual and literary arts has been a lifelong fascination for me. See the Whitney exhibit this week; its last day on view is Sunday, May 31st.
Here is your new muse. Watch this video once a day and behold the wellspring of creativity that is sure to erupt from within your spirit.
Do you need to get your portfolio online or upgrade your web presence? I'd like to build your site - and at a very low price. I've been building websites for the last year (mostly Wordpress-based blog/magazine sites like the one I built at www.fivechapters.com) but I'd like to begin building portfolio sites (view the one I built for my own work at www.magneticstate.com). My goal is to build simple, professional sites with intelligent navigation and a layout that makes your work shine. Take advantage of my cheap rates while they last and drop me a line at email@example.com.
The two most entertaining movies I watched this week were Miami Blues and Beyond the Mat.
Take one look at the film still above and you'll understand why I had to watch Miami Blues. This is a bizarre movie that's a lot of fun to watch; the schizophrenic tone of the film wanders between dark comedy, cop thriller, and B-movie drek. This forgotten nineties flick stars the inimitable Alec Baldwin in a full-throttle performance as a con man prone to thievery and suspicious sidelong glances. In most scenes, Baldwin can be seen slugging on a beer while proudly displaying his beastly chest hair. The wafer-thin 'plot' of the movie is nonsensical and bizarre - Baldwin kills a Hari Krishna at the airport by breaking his finger (?), and spends the rest of the movie dodging the cops while posing as one. Overall fun to watch for the weird performance by young Baldwin in his prime and tacky nineties Miami Vice wardrobes.
Beyond the Mat is a documentary about pro wrestling. These real-life stories might pull a Star Trek on you by entertaining and fascinating you even if you don't normally give a shit about the subject matter. Judging by the tales in this film, Mickey Rourke's chewed-up has-been in The Wrestler probably feels almost biographical for many former pros (especially Jake 'The Snake' Roberts). The most arresting character is Mick Foley (aka Mankind), a kind and sensitive family man whose on-stage persona is a savage madman. Foley gets a dose of reality when he sees his kids' visceral, potentially traumatic reactions to the beatings that Dad takes at work. Beyond the Mat reveals that pro wrestling is "fake, but not as fake as you'd think." These guys are choreographed and trained, but they often bleed real blood and literally put their lives on the line.
A.J. Fosik has a show that goes up at White Walls (San Francisco) on June 13th. View more of his recent work here. A.J. and I had a few classes together at Parsons and his work has developed into something astounding. These pieces look like Carlos Castaneda acid visions of animal spirits from another realm. They also remind me of the evil puppets in Joe Dante's portion of Twilight Zone: The Movie. I am impressed with the complexity of the structure, the attention to detail (check out the veins protruding from the bottom of the head), and a sense of mythology that is just as sophisticated as the mouth-watering use of color. For those of you in the San Francisco area, I'd recommend going to see the White Walls show because I bet that up close, these things look like they are going to devour you, digest your spirit, and regurgitate it in the form of a thousand brightly colored pieces.
This amusing set of 9 mock open/closed signs comes from the clever people at Aesthetic Apparatus (go here to see the other side of the signs). Not only are these folks charmingly self-effacing and clearly having lots of fun, but everything that comes out of their studio looks like a million bucks.
To call a film the Citizen Kane of its genre has become the ultimate (and ultimately absurd) superlative. Orson Welles' 1941 masterpiece represents a watershed moment in filmmaking and is considered by many to be the best film ever made. Therefore, it sounds pretty preposterous/awesome (depending on how drunk you are) to say that Shakes The Clown is "the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies." Anyways, I was curious about this phenomenon, so I did some research. It turns out that some writers are not afraid to call something (egg rolls, for example) the Citizen Kane of anything (food, let's say). Is it funny, or is poor Orson rolling in his grave? Here are some of the results of my research.
'Whore,' "The Citizen Kane Of Streetwalker Movies Starring Megan Fox And Rumer Willis" (Defamer)
This movie stars one young woman who is famous because she's hot and another who is famous because her dad is a big R&B star. Does it warrant a Citizen Kane comparison? Methinks not. I would have been willing to accept "the Touch of Evil of streetwalker movies," however.
'You Got Served' is “the Citizen Kane of break-dancing movies! And yet it still isn't any damned good.” (Mountain Xpress)
"Isn't any damned good"!?! I disagree and respectfully take umbrage. I consider the scene in Served where breakdancer J-Boog segues a coin drop into a boyoing to be equivalent to the famed Kane 'breakfast table' montage where Charles Foster Kane's marriage erodes from idyllic to grueling. And I'm sure we can all agree that The Lil' Saints are the 'Rosebud' of breakdancing crews.
'National Treasure II' is "The Citizen Kane Of American-History-Themed Bruckheimer Thrill Rides" (The Insider)
Nicolas Cage is the opposite of Orson Welles. Welles was a renaissance man who displayed brilliant talent as a director, writer, actor, and producer. Some say he was a genius. Cage, on the other hand, is an untalented actor who has managed to gain box office success using only one facial expression (concerned)*. Most say he is a grade-A dingleberry. Comparing the two is like comparing Twinkies and Filet Mignon. *Also guilty of 'acting' with only the 'concerned' facial expression: Elijah Wood.
'The Room' is "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" (The American Scene)
Now, there's a lot of tough competition for the category of really bad movies (ever see Pay It Forward?). However, The Room is surely one of the most regrettable movies ever committed to film. This drek is a cross between an episode of your least favorite soap opera (I'm looking at you, Days!), your creepiest sexual fantasy, and a horse fart. For those who are unfamiliar, The Room features a nauseating parade of repulsive sex scenes, a delusional (and sinewy) writer/director/star who took this farce very seriously, and a cast of supporting actors more wooden than cigar store Indians. Sheer shit. However, for many viewers, The Room also epitomizes the phrase 'so bad it's good.'
'Superbad' is “the Citizen Kane of dick-joke movies.” (Onion A.V. Club)
God, that movie is funny. Coincidentally, there's an Orson Welles reference in Superbad. Seth complains that when it comes to girls, he's peaked early, and his friend Evan replies, "You're like Orson Welles." (Kane was Welles' hit feature directorial debut, but he faced many obstacles during the rest of his career.) Somehow, I don't imagine that this joke scored big among the legions of chortling McLovins that packed theaters for this one. Still awesome, though.
"Watchmen set to rival Citizen Kane" (UK Metro)
Nerds worldwide recently fogged up their nerd goggles while arguing over what is the Citizen Kane of comic books and the Citizen Kane of superhero movies. To quote the above article: “Okay, so we've established that Watchmen is the Citizen Kane of comic books. But could the upcoming film become the Citizen Kane of movies? Well, no, that title will probably stay with Citizen Kane.” Probably? My whole thing is - how can you be so sure? Now that the nerds agree, I'm certain that the distributors of Watchmen are considering manufacturing their DVD packages with the title Citizen Kane on the cover. Welles' film should thereafter be produced under the title The Film Formerly Known As Citizen Kane. Either that or we should just ditch it.
"Charles Saatchi, the Citizen Kane of the art world, is about to transform himself into the Andrew Lloyd Webber of art." (Jonathan Jones, The Guardian)
I consider this to be the Keanu Reeves of sentences.
"Will video games ever have their Citizen Kane?" (CBS News)
The debate over this question has caused an uproar among gamers. One writer has even called on the community to stop the madness about Kane comparisons. How can they take it all so seriously? I guess these are the things you get upset about when you've been awake for seventy-two hours, you're coated in a thick layer of Doritos crumbs and shame, and your avatar has just been slain by a level-five Demonmaster with a Romulan broadsword. My favorite part of this debate comes from a commenter on this article ("Let The Kane Thing Go") who wondered when we'll have a "big daddy kane of video games."
Drummer Mike Jeffers is “the Citizen Kane of Chicago jazz" (Chicago Tribune)
The only thing funny about this is that a reputable newspaper would print such nonsensical hyperbole.
'Stairway To Heaven' is the Citizen Kane of Rock (What I Hear You Saying Is)
Dear God, please make it stop.
After scrutinizing a few dozen Citizen Kane comparisons, I am beginning to understand how Charles Foster Kane must've felt just before he dropped that snow globe and exhaled his final, dying breath. I feel exhausted, disoriented, and ultimately, annoyed. I had hoped to spend tonight studying the mise-en-scène of You Got Served (with feature-length DVD commentary by Lil' Fizz and Mr.Rad!), but instead, I read a bunch of overwrought writing. I know, I know, it's supposed to be snarky and funny, but most of it is just trite and lame. I'm no Hemingway, but I sure feel like one after spending a few hours reading DVD advertising copy and comment threads on video game blogs.
A few other interesting tidbits I came across during my exaustive research efforts (read: three Google searches) include Donald Trump on Citizen Kane (from the brilliant Errol Morris) and Citizen Kane 3D.
Here are my top three favorite moments from the 1997 documentary Trekkies:
1. Married pair of Trekkie dentists insist that all of their employees work in Star Trek costumes; they also discuss their Trek-themed sex life
2. 'Hamlet' is available in a Klingon translation
3. Trek fan on his annual Star Trek party: "Every year it gets a little more fun... this year we had a girl attend!"
I teach art classes for visually impaired teens at the Lighthouse International (see previous post for our robot pinata project). We recently made papier mache masks in my class. After completion, the students used their masks for theater exercises in their Drama class (I sat in on one Drama class and was quite surprised by the abandon with which the students took on the characters of their masks). Some of our students are blind, but most of them have some degree of sight.
I am extremely impressed with the results of this project and very proud of these talented artists. Here are some highlights. Enjoy!
In my art classes at the Lighthouse International, many of our art projects are sculptural and require hands-on building and the use of tactile senses. The students and I recently built a robot pinata out of papier mache and recycled materials (cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, etc). The robot was named XC3R60 - an anti-human droid sent from the future on a mission to destroy mankind. But mankind destroyed him first, and we added insult to injury by feasting on his delectable insides. Here are some photos of our pinata smashing in Central Park on a warm, beautiful Saturday in April.
Esdriel winds up. The video monitor on the robot's chest read's 'Must Kill Humans.'
Emmanuel scores one for the humans.
Here you can see the robot's papier mache belly shortly before Amanda struck the fatal blow.
They will demand that you listen to Insane Clown Posse.
Go for the Reese's!
Have you ever dreamt about movies? Maybe you dreamt you were in a film, watching a film, or that your teeth were falling out and transforming into tiny Val Kilmers. Email your one sentence movie dreams to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name in the email or indicate if you'd prefer to have your movie dream(s) listed anonymously. Include your URL if you'd like me to link to your site. Make sure each dream you send is no longer than one sentence long.
The results will be posted on this blog and on Twitter later this week.
I'm curious about how movies and movie stars are embedded into our collective unconscious. Personally, I recently had a bona fide Freddy Kreuger nightmare (he had six Freddy gloves protruding from his hat, spinning like a blender) as well as a dream in which I was being directed by Martin Scorcese in his new feature (set at my grandmother's house, of course). Please resist the urge to fabricate or exaggerate, and keep your steamy Hugh Jackman fantasies to yourself (unless they're really funny and really truly dreamt).
P.S. This blog was featured on the New York Times City Room blog on Friday. Cool!
Michael Sayers is the owner and manager of Photoplay Video & DVD, a movie rental and sales store located at 928 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The store has been a staple of the Greenpoint community for nearly a decade. Michael is formerly the Programmer at Film Forum (he was once interviewed by Leonard Lopate!) and his knowledge of cinema is astounding and encyclopedic. I have been a part-time employee at Photoplay since 2003 and Michael has been a truly great friend over the years. He doesn't give a shit about publicity - he recently half-jokingly referred to business promotion as a "sign of weakness" - and I'm sure he only agreed to this interview because he's very generous and because he loves talking about movies. I hope you enjoy my chat with the extraordinary Michael Sayers. -Dan Redding (Note: this interview was featured on the New York Times' City Room blog here. Many thanks to the editors.)
Dan Redding: Can you tell me about a film that’s been a particularly memorable theatergoing experience for you?
Michael Sayers: I remember seeing Blue Velvet at the Waverly Theater at midnight, the week it opened. And just being completely blown away by it. Not knowing what (David Lynch) was doing or what it was supposed to be… I’m just remembering how funny it was. Amazing. Seeing Scarface at 42nd Street with a late night crowd was another great one. People were just going apeshit, you know?
What actor bothers you more than any other?
(long, long pause) There must be some that I hate, but I can’t think of any.
(laughter) That’s okay. You seem to have a very positive disposition, so-
Well, I’m never very fond of, um, what’s her name? Chipmunk face.
No! I like her.
No. The one who ruined Appaloosa.
I didn’t bother watching that one.
She’s in those Bridget Jones movies. Zellwegger.
Oh, God, she’s the worst! Fucking Zellwegger. She and Nicolas Cage are one and two on my shit list.
But Cage is a talented actor! You can’t ignore his good movies.
Sure I can.
Oh, no, he’s amazing in those movies! Adaptation, Wild at Heart…
I kind of think of those movies as great in spite of him.
No, I think he helps make those movies great. Face/Off. Brilliant.
Face/Off is so obnoxious! Cage’s bad films greatly outweigh the good. He reminds me of DeNiro in a way… DeNiro is perhaps the most revered actor of his generation, and rightly so, but he hasn’t been in anything good – or even decent – in many years. Do you think that DeNiro could ever make a comeback?
I don’t think he’s ever gonna make a comeback. I don’t think he’s interested, obviously, since he chooses what scripts he’s in. I don’t think he’s interested in taking on any serious dramatic roles, clearly. He hasn’t done any in twenty years, right? Twenty-five years?
What actor will you go to see at the theater no matter what he or she is appearing in?
Isabelle Huppert is a very interesting French actress. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is always picking good stuff. Charlotte Rampling. Julianne Moore I’d usually go to see.
What did you think of Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt?
Didn’t see it. I guess it’s not true then (that I’d always see him) - I wouldn’t go see that. There’s nobody I would go see all the time. Some actors have a good, like, seventy percent standing. That’s the best it’s gonna get.
Huppert seems kind of obscure. She’s not in that many movies.
Oh, she is, actually. She’s been in two Chabrol films, she was in The Piano Teacher, Ma Mere…
You’ve just mentioned Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher. Haneke famously said that his desire as a filmmaker is to “rape” the audience with his films. Why do you think there is a large audience for such a violent style of filmmaking?
I think it’s just a fascination with the darkest elements of human existence that he portrays: murder, acts of random violence and cruelty, suicide… People are fascinated by the extremes of human experience, which he tends to portray.
I never go to a theater hoping to be ‘raped’ by a film.
I don’t think he actually does that; I think that’s misleading. I think he wants to maybe brutalize the audience in some way. Unlike a rape, his movies leave you enriched in some way. I think his description is a little overstated.
Enriched? I find Haneke’s films so frustrating.
Especially Cache. I found the lack of resolution in the narrative to leave me feeling incomplete and disappointed in a way. I guess I’m a traditional viewer in that sense; I like a traditional narrative. I like it when it’s experimented with, but not when certain parts that I depend on are obliterated.
But maybe he’s touching on subjects which have no possible way to be closed off. He’s dealing with colonialism and racism; issues which are still unresolved in France. He may be treating those subjects more accurately by not tagging on some kind of device that would end the film more comfortably.
Over the years, I have only witnessed you strongly object to a few films. Can you tell me why you dislike The Royal Tenenbaums?
I think it’s cartoonish, empty, whimsical… It pretends to deal with events that are of consequence, but in fact, it doesn’t deal with them. It presents this perverse, entitled, all-white New York, with ethnic stereotypes thrown in in the background - usually for laughs. It’s some kind of fantasy of a rich, white New York where the personal problems of bored, wealthy people somehow dominate. Which is disgusting.
Can you tell me why you dislike The Last House on the Left?
I don’t like films that portray rape as entertainment. I just find them abhorrent. Something is soul-killing in films like that. The idea of degradation as pleasure for an audience is something I find pretty unbearable.
I agree. There seems to be a modern school of filmmakers that draws on those ultraviolent seventies films as inspiration. What did you think of Hostel?
I liked Hostel, because I felt like Hostel turned the tables. You have these young Americans overseas trying to exploit women for their own purposes, taking advantage of the economic situation in Eastern European countries… And then, in fact, (those Americans) wind up as the victims of far wealthier, more powerful people. I felt like it was somehow a commentary on American economic power… Although Hostel II was terrible and had none of that subtle social commentary.
Are the Academy Awards an honorable ceremony or an elitist farce?
An elitist farce, I think. At this point they’re just a way for studios to market their films. I don’t know that they indicate any more than who’s promoted their films most. They’re pretty silly.
Are there any new or emerging directors whose work you find exciting?
Charlie Kaufman’s first directorial effort (Synecdoche, New York) was pretty amazing. Um…
I thought you might mention Funny Ha Ha director Adrew Bujalski in response to this question. You seemed to be a fan of his.
Yeah, I liked that movie a lot, and the second one (Mutual Appreciation) a little less. But yeah, he’s kind of interesting. We’ll see where he goes… The director who did Calvaire (Fabrice Du Welz) is interesting. His second feature, Vinyan, was kind of interesting, too.
Dreamworks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg believes that an oncoming trend of 3-D movies will be a revolution equivalent to the transition between silent and sound. Do you foresee a future in which the art of filmmaking is revolutionized by technology?
No. That’s a ridiculous statement. I think 3-D movies will be only interesting for people seeking sensation. It’ll appeal more to, like, video game fans, or people looking for some kind of virtual reality… They’ve been playing with 3-D for over fifty years and it just doesn’t interest most people.
It just seems like technology is evolving at such a rapid pace.
I think technology may create other entertainment options, but the structure of narrative film hasn’t changed that much in eighty years, really. I don’t think technology is gonna make any changes in the way people watch film. It may dictate where they watch the film, but the structure will remain intact.
Robert Altman once said, “Decent films are just disappearing. Everything’s being made for kids.” Do you agree?
No. I think he was probably responding to that first wave of blockbusters like Star Wars and Jaws, which kind of changed the way people marketed films to teenagers. I think that was probably a pretty dramatic shift. In the early seventies, interesting films were being made for very sophisticated audiences. Between ’67 and ’75, let’s say. After Bonnie and Clyde, when the ratings system fell away… Look at the films Altman had made: M.A.S.H. and McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Images and 3 Women and Brewster McCloud. These were very strange, sophisticated films which were being championed by critics and found cult audiences. But after the mid-seventies, that changed; there was much less of that going on. He had a lot of trouble getting things produced after that point.
You once recommended to me the great novel Flicker, which is about haunted film dating back to the origins of filmmaking. You were also a big fan of David Lynch’s Inland Empire, which concerns the filming of a haunted narrative from the past. What do you think it is about the history of Hollywood and the history of filmmaking that is so intriguing and mysterious to storytellers?
Well, the history of Hollywood has such a dark side to it. It’s filled with suicides and scandals and murders… like the stories told in Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger: these outrageous ups and downs of various directors and producers and actors, and this dark underside that permeates the industry itself. It’s a good premise for a ghost story. Inland Empire is about a script that had been around; they’d maybe started shooting it and there were some mysterious deaths… the story itself was dangerous to tell. Which is also the premise of The Ring. The idea that a film can hurt you.
You once watched a whole season of 24 in 24 hours consecutively.
How would you describe that experience?
Exhausting. Stimulating. That show is pure sensation, pure action, pure narrative. It’s an awful lot of fun. Preposterous. Invigorating.
Does Jack Bauer ever take a shit or drink a coffee?
He has no time for that, no. That would be unacceptable.
I recently had a Freddy Kreuger nightmare as well as a dream in which I was being directed by Scorcese in his new feature. Have you ever dreamt about movies?
(long, thoughtful pause) I don’t think I ever have, actually. That’s funny. I seem to get them out of my system during waking hours. They don’t enter my dream life.
What inspired you to open a video store in Greenpoint?
Wanting to work close to where I live and having something that I could do exactly the way I wanted to do it. I’ve always wanted to be around movies because they’re the best thing in the world.
When you were a kid, were you an avid movie watcher?
Yeah, even as a very young kid, I would circle all the movies in TV Guide that I wanted to watch. My brother and I went to the movies and saw a double feature every Saturday. During my entire childhood. There was a second-run theater in town, and they would show two movies, and they would change them every week, and we would go see whatever was playing. I always wanted to go to the movies.
Does anything stand out from those double features in your memory?
I remember seeing Breakout with Charles Bronson, and seeing a man killed by an airplane propellor, and being stunned. Just stunned by the violence. And it was only a PG, but he splattered like a watermelon on the tarmac. Horrifying…
[At this point, Michael seems to have a visceral reaction to the memory; I try to begin another question but he is clearly distracted]
Wow! You’re still feeling that!
It really got me, yeah.
Have you watched it since?
Yeah, it’s not so bad. But at the time, it was the most violent moment I’d ever seen on film.
I guess there’s something especially compelling to young kids - especially young boys – when they see a movie that’s more violent than anything they’ve ever seen before.
Yeah, and I was only eleven or so.
What’s your favorite movie theater on Earth?
I guess my favorite is probably the Castro in San Francisco. Old movie palace with an organ. That’s as good as it gets. Huge screen.
For the record, what is the meaning of the name Photoplay?
Film studios once wanted movies to be referred to as ‘photoplays.’ They felt it was a more sophisticated word than ‘movies’ or ‘talkies.’ They felt that it just had a little more class to it. And then it was a very, very, very popular magazine from the thirties through the sixties, which covered movie star gossip and such things. But the word never caught on with the general public.
I’m always happy when I see an issue of Photoplay magazine pop up in a movie. It pops up in The Postman Always Rings Twice, John Carpenter’s The Thing…
It was the movie magazine for quite a while if you were interested in the private lives of the stars. But yeah, it does pop up in movies once in a while, usually as an anachronism. It never seemed to show up in old movies, but in movies about that time period, it shows up.
You seem to have it all figured out. What’s the secret to happiness?
(laughter) I wish I had that figured out.
If you were going to recommend one movie off of the new release wall today, what would it be?
I would recommend Obscene, the documentary on Barney Rossett, who founded Grove Press, because it was an amazing story about someone who built his own strange empire based on his own strange personal tastes in literature.
Many, many thanks to Michael Sayers and Photoplay Video.
More interviews by Dan Redding:
Musician Brian Factor (Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers)
Google Designer Ryan Germick
Rapper MF Doom
High School Student Julie Redding
Science Teacher Mark Stratil
Rap Group Jurassic 5
More interviews by Dan Redding:
Musician Brian Factor (Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers)
Google Designer Ryan Germick
Rapper MF Doom
High School Student Julie Redding
Science Teacher Mark Stratil
Rap Group Jurassic 5