Charlie Chaplin Comedic Two-Reelers (1914-21) at Anthology Film Archives (Jul 30-31)

by on July 29, 2011Posted in: Essay

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Breakout British independent “Weekend” (2011) opens BAMCinemaFEST

by on June 16, 2011Posted in: Essay

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Caveat Emptor, cnt’d

by on April 20, 2011Posted in: Alt Screen

She says, he says:

Caveat Emptor: A Reader Reports (Thanks!) and We Respond

by on April 20, 2011Posted in: Alt Screen

Just got word from a friend of the site about yesterday’s Editor’s Pick, director Satyajit Ray’s Distant Thunder:

Watched Distant Thunder at Lincoln Center. Digital projection, digital print contained French subtitles so English subtitles were layered nearly halfway up the frame and were largely out of sync. French subs were better also so I was distracted by trying to half read those. The film was okay, but who knows considering the terrible viewing experience.

Moving forward, we’d love to include details on projection specs: digital versus celluloid, 16mm versus 35, restored versus archival. But it’s actually a lot more cumbersome than it may sound. We currently compile our listings from press releases and program calendars wherein that info is indicated only when it’s a selling point: New 35mm Restoration! The Most Complete Reconstruction Since Its Original Premiere! We could blanket-email publicists with our queries, but there are a lot of problems there:

  1. (1) It means tons of additional work for us and, uhh, we have day jobs.

  3. (2) Publicists aren’t necessarily appraised of the technical specs on any given series and likely won’t enjoy the headache of emailing their programmer about every projection. As there are limited amounts of goodwill in this world, we’d like to spend ours wisely.

  5. (3) Alt Screen has a week-plus lead time for compiling the showtimes for any given calendar day. But theaters often discover that prints can’t be projected (because of missing or non-English subtitles, deterioration of color stock or soundtrack, excessive scratches, frame jumps and jitters, etc) within a few days of the first projection–very often during the first projection. And since announcing a last-minute DVD substitution isn’t going to help any venue lure in an audience, theaters would have no vested interest in keeping us appraised. So it seems to me that no information is better than unreliable information.

The most likely possibility is that we’ll limit future inquiries to the daily Editor’s Picks. That wouldn’t be too hard. We could also indicate that information wherever it’s publicly available, but that would mean the listings weren’t formatted consistently. There may well be some radically efficient way to gather this information online, some wiki-wonder to be engineered…or maybe not.

In any case, you should totally contact us about any sublimely beautiful or unwatchably bad prints you’re exposed to: We love getting emails from you. Seriously.

[Frame enlargement from Bruce Conner’s A MOVIE, 1958]

Is There A Grown-Up Here?

by on April 14, 2011Posted in: Alt Screen

As I try to nail down Alt Screen’s basic architecture (who knew integrating a Like button could be so complicated?), I find myself endlessly distracted by the bells-and-whistles of uploadable functionality. Oh how I thrill to their quixotic promise of cooler interfaces to come!
It reminded me of this passage from last month’s Wired magazine about Google founder and current CEO Larry Page:

Still, even as CEO, Page’s nuttier instincts will be tempered by those around him. Indeed, Googlers have learned that the best way to counter some of his more problematic idiosyncrasies is not by having a frank discussion but through misdirection. For instance, Wesley Chan, a top product manager, fundamentally disagrees with Page’s ideas on product design. But he has learned that instead of arguing his case with Page, a better strategy is “giving him shiny objects to play with.” At the beginning of one Google Voice product review, for instance, he offered Page and Brin the opportunity to pick their own phone numbers for the new service. For the next hour, the two brainstormed sequences that embodied mathematical puns while the product sailed through the review.

The obvious differences here are that (a) I am something less than a visionary of the digital future, and (b) there are no task-oriented adults in this enterprise to keep us on target. But I did wake up before 10AM so, you know, give me my prize.

“Typical American, Smiling and Optimistic” Resumes His Life as Typical New Yorker, Miserable and Jaded

by on April 12, 2011Posted in: Festivals

Just got back from the NexT International Film Festival late last night and, not withstanding a little jetlag, I’m feeling pretty good. The new-media and arts-journalism panels I spoke on were informative and surprisingly fun, and I enjoyed getting to know my roundtable colleagues. Two young Bucharest-based critics–Luiza Vasiliu of the city’s alternative weekly Dilema veche (“The Old Dilemma”) and Cristi Luca of Observator Cultural and Tabu–made me feel particularly welcome. Many thanks to them and to Letitia Stefanescu, Ada Solomon and Andrei Gorzo for their generous invitation.
I also made fast friends with co-panelist and Parisian critic-cum-filmmaker Jacky Goldberg (truly the most un-French name imaginable), a reviewer for the uber-hip Les Inrockuptibles where he writes about everything from international auteur cinema to Hollywood studio comedies. Jacky was a peerless partner-in-crime and endless source of amusement, and not only because of his accent (“Thees feelm is colled Thee Leetle Luvfurs“) or trans-Atlantic enthusiasms (his generation’s answer to Jerry Lewis: Nicolas Cage). He also dropped some great anecdotes, including one from an interview with Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) wherein the director cited the late-18th-century painter Jacques-Louis David as a major influence: “David is great. He’s like the Michael Bay of French neoclassicism.”
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At First This Seems Gay But It’s Actually Retarded

by on April 7, 2011Posted in: Laffers, Viral Video

Peter Bogdanovich’s neo-screwballer Bringing Up Baby is playing tonight at Chelsea Clearview. In honor of Barbra Streissand’s career-defining performance (which we love in a non-campy way):


Alpha -> Beta

by on April 7, 2011Posted in: Alt Screen

Aaaand the site’s live. We’re no longer hidden from Google search so when the Singularity finally rolls around there will be no escape for us. My only regret is that we just heard about this “meta-tag” thing twenty minutes ago. It’s really that important? Damn you, deceptively simple Internet!


[Apologies for linking to Time Magazine, that one article is actually good.]

Alt Screen 101: Basics, Backstory and a Few Cheap Jokes to Keep Things Lively

by on April 7, 2011Posted in: Essay

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“Intensely Pleasurable and Also Hard”

by on April 6, 2011Posted in: Unrequired Reading

I’m way into this interview with The Use and Abuse of Literature author Marjorie Garber:

[A]ll reading is reading, and if you read with literary intention, if you pay attention to the particulars of language, to imagery, to sound, to figures of speech, then whether you’re reading the newspaper or a summer beach book or reading a chapter book to your children, there is something literary there. My book goes to some length to talk about how things become literary, become literature, that Shakespeare’s plays themselves were thought of as the opposite of canonical or important or even as literature in their time. When Bodleian funded the Bodleian library at Oxford, he wouldn’t allow stage plays to be there because they were riffraff, they were trash. Very often novels began as alternatives to serious reading (things like sermons or prayers and philosophical meditations) and these things have now made their way into the forefront of what we now call literature.

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Saturday Editor’s Pick: “My Perestroika” (2010)

by on April 2, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Ella Taylor for NPR:

“If you’re under the impression that post-Soviet Russia is a Wild West peopled at one extreme by gold-chained Mafiosi and at the other by starving babushkas hawking single daffodils in the Moscow subway, you may want to treat yourself to a riveting new documentary by New York-based filmmaker Robin Hessman.”

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April 1st Press Release

by on April 1, 2011Posted in: Laffers

1:14pm BAMcinematek issues an email announcing their “bold move to a new presentation format”:

Subject: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: BAMcinematek to ONLY project on DVD


1:19pm Brynn White forwards the message to fellow Alt Screen’ers, commenting:


1:21pm Brynn clarifies her reaction in a follow-up email:

They totally got me on April Fools. Shit.

Personally I don’t enjoy laughing at other people’s expense. What about you, Brynn?
The original email:

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Stop Thinking About it. Stop. No Really, Stop.

by on March 30, 2011Posted in: Uncategorized

A death spiral I am sadly familiar with:

“Brokering my own attention span is my attempt to reassert control. I will spend my attention wisely and get the most out of it by investing it wisely in things that will “reward” it. But I fear that expecting to profit from paying attention is a mistake, a kind of category error. Attention seems to me binary—it is engaged or it isn’t; it isn’t amenable to qualitative evalution. If we start assessing the quality of our attention, we get pulled out of what we were paying attention to, and pay attention to attention to some degree, becoming strategic with it, kicking off a reflexive spiral that leads only to further insecurity and disappointment. Attention is never profitable enough, never sufficient.”

[via The Daily Dish Beast]

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