A weekly film commentary track podcast.
A weekly film commentary track podcast.
Princess Mononoke (1997)
This week on The Spectator Film Podcast… Princess Mononoke (1997) 5.22.20 Featuring: Austin, Maxx Commentary track begins at 30:31 — Notes — — Listener Picks — Do you want to pick a movie for us to discuss on the show? Here’s how: Make a donation of $20 or more to ofwemergencyfund.org Check your email for a donation receipt, and send a screenshot of your donation to email@example.com or @spectatorfilmpodcast on Instagram In your email or DM, include 1.) your name 2.) the movie you’d like discussed on the show and 3.) a brief overview of your thoughts on the movie. That’s it!
The City of the Dead (1960)
This week on The Spectator Film Podcast… The City of the Dead (1960) | 5.8.2020 Featuring: Austin, Maxx Commentary track begins at 12:48 — Notes — Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Carol J. Clover — This is a seminal book in academic criticism on the horror genre. We highly recommend this book, and although we didn’t quote the passages at length during our conversation of The City of the Dead, we’ll include Clover’s analysis of “White Science” and “Black Magic” from the second chapter, “Opening Up’: “The world at the opening of the standard occult film is a world governed by White Science—a world in which doctors fix patients, sheriffs catch outlaws, mechanics repair cars, and so on. The intrusion of the supernatural turns that routine world on its head: patients develop inexplicable symptoms, outlaws evaporate, cars are either unfixable or repair and run themselves. Experts are called in, but even the most sophisticated forms of White Science cannot account for the mysterious happenings, which in turn escalate to the point at which the whole community (school, summer camp, family) borders on extinction. Enter Black Magic. Some marginal person (usually a woman, but perhaps a male priest or equivalent) invokes ancient precedent (which in a remarkable number of cases entails bringing forth and reading from an old tome on witchcraft, voodoo, incubi, satanic possession, vampirism, whatever). Her explanation offers a more complete account of the mysterious happenings than the White Science explanation. The members of the community take sides. At first White Science holds the day, but as the terror increases, more and more people begin to entertain and finally embrace the Black Magic solution. Doctors admit that the semen specimens or the fetal heartbeats are not human; sheriffs realize that the “outlaw” has been around for four hundred years; mechanics acknowledge that the car is something more than a machine. Only when rational men have accepted the reality of the irrational—that which is unobservable, unquantifiable, and inexplicable by normal logic—can the supernatural menace be reined in and the community returned to a new state of calm. That state of calm is not, however, the same as the opening state of calm, which is now designated as a state of ignorance. It is a new, enlightened state in which White Science, humbled in its failure, works not arrogantly against but respectfully with Black Magic. It is an ABC story, the C being a kind of religioscientific syncretism” (97-98). “Brief History of the Concept of Heterotopia” by Peter Johnson from Heterotopia Studies — This quick essay is a wonderful introduction to the concept, even to those unfamiliar with Foucault. We’ve only discussed the concept of heterotopia several times in the past, but Peter Johnson’s website heterotopiastudies.com will certainly be one of our resources should we ever discuss it in the future. Signs and Meaning in the Cinema by Peter Wollen — Despite its brevity, this book is one of the most exciting entry points to film studies I’ve encountered. The field may have passed Wollen by, but this book remains incredibly engaging and informative. We’ll include some passages highlighting the system of signs Wollen appropriated from Charles S. Sanders: “An icon, according to Peirce, is a sign which represents its object mainly by it similarity to it; the relationship between signifier and signified is not arbitrary but is one of resemblance or likeness. Thus, for instance, the portrait of a man resembles him. Icons can, however, be divided into two sub-classes: images and diagrams. In the case of images ‘simple qualities’ are alike; in the case of diagrams the ‘relations between the parts’. Many diagrams, of course, contain symboloid features; Peirce readily adm
Time Bandits (1981)
This week on The Spectator Film Podcast… Time Bandits (1981) 4.24.20 Featuring: Austin, Maxx Commentary track begins at 15:44 — Notes — We watched the Criterion Collection release of Time Bandits for the show this week. It’s a solid release with strong supplemental materials and an engaging commentary track recorded by the filmmakers in 1997. “Time Bandits: Guerrilla Fantasy” by David Sterritt — Here’s the accompanying essay with the Criterion Collection release of the movie. “‘Time Bandits’: The Ever-Lasting Importance of Terry Gilliam’s Best Fairy Tale” from Cinephilia and Beyond — As usual, Cinephilia and Beyond proves to be one-stop shopping for anyone looking to learn more about the films they enjoy. On this page you’ll find a PDF of Gilliam and Palin’s Time Bandits script, Gilliam’s original storyboards, and other material from the production and marketing of the film. Britton on Film: The Complete Film Criticism of Andrew Britton by Andrew Britton, Ed. Barry Keith Grant — Here’s the link to a published collection of Andrew Britton’s film criticism. We’ve only relied upon Britton’s writing in our preparation once before, but the precision of his insights is genuinely remarkable. Britton avoids over-reliance on structuralist language, and the clarity of his arguments make his writing very enjoyable. We’ll include some of the relevant passages from his essay “Blissing Out: The Politics of Reaganite Cinema” below: “Artifacts which tell us that we are being entertained… also tell us that they are promoting ‘escape,’ and this is the most significant thing about them. They tell us that we are ‘off duty’ and that nothing is required of us but to sit back, relax, and enjoy. Entertainment, that is, defines itself in opposition to labor, or, more generally, to the large category ‘the rest of life,’ as inhabitants of which we work for others, do not, in the vast majority of cases, enjoy our labor, and are subject to tensions and pressures that the world of entertainment excludes. It is of the essence that entertainment defines itself thus while appearing, at the same time, as a world unto itself. It does relate to ‘the rest of life,’ but only by way of its absolute otherness, and when the rest of life puts in an appearance, it is governed by laws which we are explicitly asked to read as being different from the laws which operate elsewhere. The explicitness of these strategies—the fact that they are always mediated by some form of direct address—is the crucial point. It is a condition of the function of entertainment that it should admit that the rest of life is profoundly unsatisfying… Entertainment tells us to forget our troubles and to get happy, but it also tells us that in order to do so we must agree deliberately to switch life off” (100-101). “The feeling that reality is intolerable is rapturously invoked but in such a way as to suggest that reality is immutable and that the desire to escape or transcend it is appropriate only to scheduled moments of consciously indulgent fantasy for which the existing organization of reality makes room. The ideology of entertainment is one of the many means by which late capitalism renders the idea of transforming the real unavailable for serious consideration” (101). “It leaves out everything about the existing reality principle that we would prefer to forget, redescribes other things which are scarcely forgettable in such a way that we can remember them without discomfort (and even with uplift), and anticipates rejection of the result by defining itself as a joke. Thus, Reaganite entertainment plays a game with our desire. It invites us to take pleasure in the worlds it creates and the values they embody, but because it is also ironic about them, it co
The Human Centipede (2009)
This week on The Spectator Film Podcast… The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009) 4.17.20 Featuring: Austin, Maxx Commentary track begins at 11:41 — Notes — The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory by J. A. Cuddon — This book’s a very helpful resource for grappling with the otherwise challenging or inscrutable terminology frequently encountered in academic writing. I’m linking to the 5th Edition, which also credits M. A. R. Habib, although I used to 4th Edition for the definition of diachronic/synchronic I’m including below: “A term coined c. 1913 by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913). A diachronic approach to the study of language (or languages) involves an examination of its origins, development, history and change. In contrast, the synchronic approach entails the study of a linguistic system in a particular state, without reference to time. The importance of a synchronic approach to an understanding of language lies in the fact that for Saussure each sign has not properties other than the specific relational ones which define it within its own synchronic system.” “Eat Shit and Die: Coprophagia and Fimetic Force in Tom Six’s The Human Centipede (First Sequence) and The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)” by Dolores B. Phillips from The Projector — This essay by Dolores B. Phillips provides lots of insightful analysis, examining the politics of coprophagia and how it’s been depicted on film. Additionally, this essay comes from The Projector: A Journal on Film, Media, and Culture, which is completely open-access! This particular issue of The Projector focuses on the theme of food and consumption in horror cinema. We’ll include some insightful passages from Phillips’ essay below: “The Human Centipede’s cult and commercial success suggest that it readmits excrementality—and that it is the epilogue of Laporte’s History of Shit, which tracks the return of excrement to the fields of cultural production. Excrement becomes capital, shit alchemically transformed into the coin of the realm. The films shift the register of excremental politics: much of its study (Warwick Anderson, Jed Esty, David Inglis, Achille Mbembe, George Bataille) concentrates upon the purgation, elimination, and celebration of shit. Indeed, excrement has a particularly potent political resonance in postcolonial fiction, where shitting in beds and leaving heaping mounds of filth in toilets is a particularly insulting intrusion into the homes of dispossessed middle class citizens and intellectuals whose lives are disrupted by political flux. Its ingestion adds a new dimension of cruelty and spite to images of effusive excretion and excessive consumption. As they avail themselves of an ironic posture toward recycling waste,images of coprophagy also align themselves with themes of decadence, humiliation, and hyper or mismanagement of the body.” “…a deconstruction of the conflicting social settings of the subject in an age of information oversaturation. Instead of a solitary figure bent over a keyboard or a mobile device, face illumined by a single screen into which she stares, rapt, substituting virtual interactions for real-life connections with others, and instead of the endless connectivity with others offered by social media and the instantaneousness of immersion in the internet, the HUMANCENTiPAD and Six’s precursor films offer an intermediary: the individual sutured to others, ingesting excrement and extruding it. The solitary netizen is revealed as a fiction—she reads and is read by others. She is bound to them by the streams of information into which she dives, searching for stimulation and novelty, impatiently demanding updates by obsessively and repeatedly pressing F5. This is because the viewer is as much a segment in the centipede as its victims” “Our own vertiginous enjoyme
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
This week on The Spectator Film Podcast… La Belle et La Bête (1946) 4.10.20 Featuring: Austin, Maxx Commentary track begins at 20:27 — Notes — We watched the Criterion Collection Release of La Belle et la Bête for this week’s episode. It’s an amazing release, with lots of tremendous bonus features and two commentary tracks. Perhaps one of Criterion’s best releases. Also available on the Criterion Channel. “Beauty and the Beast: Dark Magic” by Geoffrey O’Brien from The Current “On the Making of Beauty and the Beast” by Francis Steegmuller from The Current “Cocteau, Jean” by Richard Misek from Senses of Cinema — Great Director profile from Senses of Cinema Jean Cocteau and His Films of Orphic Identity by Arthur B. Evans — While this book foregoes discussion of La Belle et La Bête to focus on Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy, it remains an insightful introduction to anyone looking to learn more about Cocteau’s films. Other books on Cocteau can be weighted down with obscurity, but this one’s a very reliable entry point for those looking to learn more. Fantasy Film: A Critical Introduction by James Walters — I haven’t finished this book at the time of posting, but so far it’s a terrific resource of information that’s slightly lacking in insight; perhaps a light recommendation for those interested in the fantasy genre. That being said, Walters discusses society’s ideas of the spiritual and supernatural and how they were influenced by the advent of film in the early 20th century. This portion of the book can easily be connected to our conversation of Jean Cocteau’s poetic filmmaking approach as “seance photography,” and may be worth reading for anyone interested to learn more. “Gender Politics – Cocteau’s Belle is not that Bête: Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête (1946)” by Susan Hayward from French Film: Texts and Contexts (Ed. Susan Hayward & Ginette Vincendau) — Here’s the link to French Film: Texts and Contexts, which features Susan Hayward’s Lacanian analysis of the film. Given the impressive list of contributors to this book, it’s probably an interesting read and may show up again as a resource for future episodes. The Enchanted Screen: The Unknown History of Fairy-Tale Films by Jack Zipes — Only read the chapter on Beauty and the Beast stories so far, but this book is fantastic. Wonderful insight into the historical lineage of the story in addition to discussion of the film adaptation itself. We’ll likely be using this book as a resource for future episodes. We’ll include some worthwhile passages below: “The issue at hand in [The Beauty and the Best fairy tale] is fidelity and sincerity, or the qualities that make for tenderness, a topic of interest to women at that time, for they were beginning to rebel against the arranged marriages or marriages of convenience… and Mme Le Prince de Beaumont did an excellent job of condensing and altering the tale in 1756 to address a group of young misses, who were supposed to learn how to become ladies and that virtue meant denying themselves. In effect, the code of the tale was to delude them into believing that they would be realizing their goals in life by denying themselves” (227-28) “There is a false power attributed to Beauty as a virtue. By sacrificing oneself, it is demonstrated, the powers that be, here the fairies, will reward her with a perfect husband. The most important thing is to learn to obey and worship one’s father (authority) and to fulfill one’s promises even though they are made under duress. Ugliness is associated with bad manners like those of her sisters. The beast is not ugly because his manners are perfect. Beauty and the Beast are suited for one another because they live according to the code of civility.
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
This week on The Spectator Film Podcast… A Clockwork Orange (1971) 4.3.20 Featuring: Austin, Maxx Commentary Track begins at 14:52 — Notes — Film as a Subversive Art by Amos Vogel — We didn’t reference Vogel’s brief review of A Clockwork Orange during our episode, but it’s worth investigating for anyone interested. Vogel was a tremendous writer, and this book is a classic of film criticism. Highly recommended. Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange edited by Stuart Y. McDougal — This Cambridge Film Handbooks edition of essays discussing the film was one of our primary resources in framing our conversations for this episodes; essays by Janet Staiger, Margaret DeRosia, and Peter J. Rabinowitz were particularly insightful. As is the case with most of the releases in this book series, this is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in the film. On Kubrick by James Naremore — Here’s an accessible and steadfast introduction into Kubrick’s work, which balances an historical account of his career alongside some thoughtful analysis and personal response. While I recommend it as an introduction, it certainly still has much to offer those (unbearable) people who’re already thoroughly familiar with Kubrick’s career/films. We don’t reference it specifically during this episodes – many of the resources it uses were made redundant by our other research – but its chapter discussing A Clockwork Orange remains an insightful and fun introduction to critical discussions on the film. Don’t Look Now: British Cinema in the 1970’s edited by Dr. Paul Newland — We didn’t make reference to this book in the episode, but its a tremendous resource for learning about British cinema during this period. A Clockwork Orange is featured in an essay by Justin Smith examining the film’s demonstration of male anxiety. “Kubrick, Stanley” by Keith Uhlich from Senses of Cinema — The Great Director Profile of Stanley Kubrick from Senses of Cinema.