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Civic Youth: Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss on Boys State

Boys State (courtesy of Apple/A24)

One week each summer, a thousand-plus bright and accomplished U.S. teenage boys gather at their respective state capitals. Randomly divided into two parties (the Nationalists and the Federalists), they establish party platforms and select party leaders. At the end of the week, they go head-to-head in a mock election. The program they’re participating in, Boys State, was created in 1935 by the American Legion as a way of counteracting a burgeoning socialist movement (the American Legion Auxiliary launched Girls State in 1937). In the years since its inception, this nationwide initiative has introduced the concept of U.S. democracy to countless soon-to-be high-profile political players, including Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Clinton.  Boys State, a new documentary from Amanda McBaine and…  Read more

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The Complete Films of Agnes Varda, Batwoman, Star Trek: Discovery: Jim Hemphill’s Home Video Recommendations

Earlier this year I wrote about Criterion’s Bruce Lee: His Greatest Hits boxed set and declared it one of the best Blu-ray releases of all time. Less than two months later, the producers at Criterion have already topped themselves with the 15-disc The Complete Films of Agnes Varda collection, a comprehensive look at the work of one of the French New Wave’s grand masters. The set contains 39 features and shorts, arranged not in chronological order but in a series of intelligently curated programs, as though the movies were being shown in a public retrospective; there are discs devoted to Varda’s early work, her time living and working in California, films dealing with marriage, and more, with Criterion’s usual bounty…  Read more

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Watch: Kirby Ferguson’s Conspiracy Explainer, Trump, QAnon and the Rise of Magic

Kirby Ferguson, who landed on Filmmaker's 25 New Faces list in 2011 following this Everything is a Remix web series, is back with a new work that explains the QAnon phenomenon and places it in larger political context. For anyone who found themselves Googling "Marjorie Taylor Greene" this morning (Or was perhaps mystified by a colleague's late-night email screed), the video offers a bit of a primer on the internet phenomenon as well as analysis. As Jason Kottke summarizes at Kottke.org, Ferguson sees QAnon as a form of magical thinking, breaking down six specific characteristics: 1. Obsession with symbols and codes (e.g. pizza as a “deep state” code for child trafficking) 2. Dot connecting (e.g. linking 5G with Covid-19) 3. Behind every event…  Read more

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Watch: Michel and Oliver Gondry’s Music Video for “Model Village,” by IDLES

Director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and brother Olivier, who previously worked together on music videos like the Chemical Brothers's "Star Guitar," have just released a new quarantine-made clip for the Bristol band IDLES. Using a blend of lo-fi animation (Michel's cardboard cutouts shot by a suspended-overhead iPhone) and CGI (Olivier's desktop wizardry), the clip, which suggests a Richard Scarry adaptation of Animal Farm, moves from a racist village to the moon. From an article on the video at WePresent: The song is really about the dangerous small-mindedness born out of villages which can sometimes act as breeding grounds for far right politics. The lyrics paint a very strong visual picture of the kinds of characters you’d find…  Read more

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Back to One, Episode 121: Kevin Alejandro

Kevin Alejandro is finishing his fifth season playing Detective Dan Espinoza on Netflix’s Lucifer. He’s also graced your small screen in such series as The Returned, Southland, and True Blood. In 2017 he graduated from the Warner Brothers television director’s workshop and directed an episode of Lucifer. Since then he started his own production company and has turned into a multi-hyphenate, churning out award winning shorts, including the absolutely hilarious Adult Night. He’s back in the director’s chair on Lucifer’s fifth season (part 1), which drops August 21st on Netflix. On this episode, he talks about how the need to create between jobs perpetuated that desire to direct, how learning how your body works opens up avenues in your mind,…  Read more

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Making a Pandemic Horror/Thriller During a Pandemic: The Quarantine-and-Bubble Strategy of Banishment

Banishment

As studio and television filmmaking creaks back into production, a first wave of microbudget films made amidst the coronavirus-related shutdowns enters post. One such film is the horror-thriller drama Banishment, which launches today an Indiegogo campaign for its post-production costs. Shot in and around a secluded cabin in Lake Placid, New York for just $5,000, the film fashioned its own safe production protocols before official industry guidances, like the recent “Safe Way Forward” plan, were issued. Nonetheless, the basic tenets of today’s safe production — quarantining, social distancing, mask-wearing on set — were all adhered to. But one other element of today’s production plans — a separated pod system — wasn’t implemented simply because the shoot basically constituted of one…  Read more

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“Very Much Like Short Cuts, and the Medfly was Duterte — That Was My Pitch”: Ramona S. Diaz on A Thousand Cuts

A Thousand Cuts

While recent right-wing attacks on the free press here in the US have rightly been sounding alarm bells, in a global context they are merely wake-up calls. Sure, Trump deeming the “lamestream” media “fake news” is dangerously juvenile, but it’s also a far cry from, say, the Duterte administration finding the founder and CEO of the Philippines’s top online news site Rappler guilty of “cyber libel” — a travesty of justice that happened just this past June. And the politically orchestrated verdict comes with both a hefty fine and potential prison time for “2018 Time Person of the Year” Maria Ressa along with a former colleague. Though it’s not hard to see why Ressa, a superhumanly dogged journalistic force (with a…  Read more

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Shadowplay: The Artistic Benefits and Technical Challenges of Ozark‘s HDR Workflow

Jason Bateman in Ozark (Photo courtesy of Steve Dietl/Netflix)

Ozark is a “dark” show in every meaning of the word. The story of a criminal Missouri clan laundering Mexican cartel money through their riverboat casino is literally, metaphorically and photographically bleak. “Ozark is about what happens in the shadows of our society, in the underbelly, and the fear and anxiety that permeates that environment,” said cinematographer Armando Salas, ASC. “Everyone can relate to that feeling on some level—the feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes with knowing you’re doing something wrong. We try to embed that feeling in the look of the show.” Sunlight rarely reaches the denizens of Ozark’s resort community. If financial advisor-turned-felon Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his wife and partner-in-crime Wendy (Laura Linney) are…  Read more

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