Since his death from cancer at age 32, comedian Bill Hicks's (very previously) legend and stature have only grown; American: The Bill Hicks Story (previously) fills in the details of a life cut tragically short, blending live footage and animation, and is narrated by the 10 people who knew Bill best. A comic's comic and unflagging critic of hypocrisy and cultural emptiness, American: The Bill Hicks Story is now streaming for free on Snag Films.
What Does D-Day, MLK JR and Tennessee Williams have in common? NO, not that D-Day. The other D-Day. [more inside]
Johnny Cash once called 1968 the happiest year of his life. It was the year his masterpiece At Folsom Prison came out, the year he was named the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, and the year he married the love of his life, June Carter. So it was a fortunate time for a young filmmaker named Robert Elfstrom to meet up with Cash for the making of a documentary. Elfstrom traveled with Cash for several months in late 1968 and early 1969. The resulting film, Johnny Cash: The Man, His World, His Music, is a revealing look at Cash, his creative process and his ties to family. [via]
One of the more famous suppressed films of recent years is Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, an early work by writer/director Todd Haynes (Safe, Velvet Goldmine, Far from Heaven). Filmed in 1987, the short film -- which relates the rise and fall of Karen Carpenter with a cast of Barbie dolls -- barely got a year's worth of festival time in 1989 before the twin iron boots of A&M Records and Richard Carpenter came down on Haynes.
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We've all seen variations on the personal time-lapse video -- a snapshot every day for six years, or a look at a young girl's first decade. But nobody's done it quite like Sam Klemke. For thirty-five years the itinerant freelance cartoonist has documented his life in short year-end reviews, a funny, weary, eccentric, and hopeful record dating all the way back to 1977. Recently optioned for documentary treatment by the government of Australia, you can skim Sam's opus in reverse in the striking video "35 Years Backwards Thru Time with Sam Klemke," an ever-evolving home movie montage that grows grainier and grainier as it tracks Sam "from a paunchy middle aged white bearded self deprecating schluby old fart, to a svelt, full haired, clean shaven, self-important but clueless 20 year old."
Harpo's Place A tribute to Harpo Marx, by his son Bill.
"There's something very shabby about a noble grave... Political power and the power of wealth result in splendid graves. Really impressive graves, you know. Such creatures never had any imagination while they lived, and quite naturally their graves don't leave any room for imagination either. But noble people live only on the imaginations of themselves and others, and so they leave graves like this one which inevitably stir one's imagination. And this I find even more wretched. Such people, you see, are obliged even after they are dead to continue begging people to use their power of imagination." - Yukio Mishima via Kashiwagi in The Temple of the Golden Pavilion. On this, the anniversary of Mishima's transformation into a headless god, a collection of video links. [more inside]
The Emperor's Bunker. "The Japanese, with sadness and irony, stressed that Hirohito couldn't even speak properly. This was partly to do with the fact that he didn't have to speak - people spoke in his name and he was isolated from real life". "The Sun", the third part in Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov's 'Men of Power' tetralogy after the gloom of Moloch (1999), about Hitler and Eva Braun, and the despairing tones of "Taurus" (2001), focused on the wheelchair-bound Lenin in his death throes, "The Sun" seems almost upbeat. This, after all, is a film about reconciliation. More inside.
Gary Westfahl's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film is an attempt to do for SF film what David Thomson's brilliant "A Biographical Dictionary of Film" does for film in general - to provide a well informed and wholly subjective survey of the most important people who contributed to the field. The BESFF is very much a work in progress, and half the fun is seeing who author Gary Westfahl has chosen to include this month. His entries so far range from the obvious to the surprising to the deeply obscure. Always though, his witty and often compassionate pocket reviews of these carreers show how seriously he feels SF cinema should be taken, and by extension how betrayed he feels by those within the field who don't.
The Filth and The Fury. I went to see this film last night and it has to be one of the best music documentary (or, if you will, rockumentary) films I've seen. It charts the Sex Pistols rise and fall and is surprisingly funny and touching. It even manages to capture Seventies Britain in all its revolting glory. I think I shall now go and put a safety pin through my website.