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I have been reading SEAN PENN: His Life and Times (awful, AWFUL title, which just buffs up the cliche image of Penn, the right wing blogger image of Penn, as a humorless luvvy prat with politico megalomania)*, and it struck me how many films from the past 5 or 10 (or even 20) years I have missed, or overlooked, or would really like to [re]view again; and - not to belabour this FILM 4 fixation of mine - but just how easy it would be to put together really thrilling and stimulating FILM SEASONS of all kinds.

I dont just mean glum, worthy, cerebral, or over actorly torture.
One point of departure that suggests itself is FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, Amy Heckerling's 1982 teen high school comedy, that inadvertantly opened a lot of doors. (Based on a Cameron Crowe article, btw; but bearing roughly the same relation to the Real of that reportage as Saturday Night Fever does to Nick Cohn's original gumshoe work.) It could be argued that the 'aesthetic' of FAST TIMES - and specifically Penn's uber stoner JEFF SPICOLI - is one of the most influential things of the last two decades in US culture. You can hear Spiccoli's "gnarly" P.O.V. in everything from Wayne's World and Beavis & Butthead to Adam Sandler and a lot of the post-Farrelly 'Frat boy' humour that runs through American culture like bad goo through a day old do-nut. I'm not saying you have to LIKE this stuff or agree with it - but its infuence is unarguable. I dunno. I just thought of this. But it does suggest at least the prospect of overview, of not just shoving films out as unrelated PRODUCT, with no social or politico context.
(Also, that Film Season doesnt have to automatically = dour. E.G.: How about a season investigating the precedents for SPINAL TAP, too?)

Even if you dont like the films Penn does (as director) - it would be SO EASY to use them as jumping off points to look at lesser known films of 70s and 80s America (off the top of my head: Cutters Way, Secret Honour & Southern Comfort; Killing of A Chinese Bookie & Minnie and Moskowitz; Out of The Blue & River's Edge; Last Chants For A Slow Dance and Angel City... oh, I could go on for ever. Whole swathes of film history are being erased - I mean, EVEN AMERICAN FILM HISTORY. (E.g..: it took me a good half hour or more - even with Google and Wikipedia and so called 'Independent Movie Director' databases - to re-locate the unjustly forgotten name and work of JON JOST. Meanwhile, those same 'Independent' databases list people like David Lynch, and other post SUNDANCE directors who - whatever their merits - have never been truly 'Independent' in any meaningful or paradigmatic way.)

Apparently,a major 'cult' film among contemporary black actors and directors is this strange jazzy Allegory of 60s Hip, called A Man Called Adam - directed by Penn's father, Leo. Which in turn conjurs up the idea of ANOTHER season of overlooked works ...: The Landlord, Putney Swope, The Killing Floor, Sweet Sweetback, Killer of Sheep, To Sleep With Anger, Tongues Untied, Nothing But A Man ... again, these are just off the top of my head, no proper research or anything, just films I would LOVE to see again, or see AT ALL in some cases ...

And the Penn biography does start to make me think we're living through a pretty interesting moment, for cinema, in all sorts of ways. But, for the most part, you wouldnt know it looking at FILM4. It would be like being in 1977, say, with New German Cinema and post-Watergate American Cinema and so on, and all this so called FILM channel shows is ... old John Wayne movies and Carry Ons and bad 'light comedies' with aristocratic English twerps.
Er, hang on: that's exactly what theyre doing now, most days. Great.



*SEAN PENN: His Life and Times [The Authorised Biography] by Richard T Kelly [Faber & Faber] |
BTW, even if you (think you) "dont like Penn", or even the idea of a certain kind of vainglorious narcissistic American actor pontificating on everything under the sun ... uh... no, really, this is a really interesting book, for all sorts of reasons. Me, I'm a big Penn fan; but the book is a good between-the-lines over view of Hollywood since the 50s, too.

posted by Ian 9/14/2006 09:05:00 AM

Comments:
"what films get on TV and why" would be a good piece of expose journalism -- we shd get someone young and feisty to write it for us!

*all eyes turn to hkm*
 
haha i pitched something much like this to a famous newspaper (during the craziness on ilm last week) just the other day.*

but you end up needing to know lots of FACTS for it to stick properly and tbh it shd be written by someone who experienced better times for films-on-tv. (i saw most of the euro-art-film canon on decaying vhs tapes of channel 4 seasons from the 80s...)

sidebar: i just CUT my nft/bfi membership.

*by way of following up a pitch i made abt the great and recently revived -- and in this country TOTALLY IGNORED -- 'the passenger' which no paying publication would take :(
 
Even tho I think Antonioni and Nicholson are both vasty overrated ... I LOVE The Passenger. It was also one of many unlikely classics I bought on VHS in and around Finsbury Park in the late 80s early 90s, for, you know, beween 50p and £2.
 
The mark-up on 'quality' is a despicable trend.... BFI DVDs or 'organic' food (which I won't buy on about twenty principles), same deal...

I must admit I share Ian's disgust about Film Four (although it's less of a pressing concern now I'm out in the sticks, where we can't even get Five, never mind FreeView). My two great educators as a teenager were C4 ... and NME. Both have succumbed to the same niche idiocy ... the thing with niches though, surely, is the same as with film seasons, they don't HAVE to be boring, predictable and lowest common denominator ....

(I agree with Ian about Ewan fucking Macgregor too... totally smug ... that VOICE.... and I haven't seen Moulin Rage on the grounds that, like, I don't think my CNS could take it...)
 
actually mark-up on quality is less of a recent trend than a old-skool leisure-industry staple -- there were very similar format wars a century ago between different sorts of phonograph cylinder, in which quality bakelite (or "edisonite" or whatever it actually was) was reserved for "quality music" -- meaning some four-minute snatch of crackly puccini as opposed to "cohen on the phone" or the laughing policeman -- and thus the more expensive item was the high-culture item

of course "edisonite" really WAS more expensive to make than wax -- with current technology, you can have improvement in reproduction quality at the same time as radical reduction in manufacturing and distribution costs, so almost all the prices charged are worked out (and jacked up) via cross-subsidy shellgames of varying degrees of transparency, and a LOT of integrated cross-media complexity (and the bfi's problem is that it's CAN'T cross-subsidise at the same time as having a chartered duty to promote the overlooked and the undervalued)

this is why it would be so good to point an angry young journalist w/a very good head for economics at the WHOLE THING -- including the short-termism at Film Four or wherever (i'm still mired in plain old terrestrial, which is probably why i've been playing the contrarian goat more than getting annoyed in turn!)

problem is that almost all outlets for the info are themselves compromised (= have a cross-licensed "free DVD" on the cover of the very issue that declines to run yr story!)

s&s is unfortunately "not interested in television" -- i had a plan to wear them down on this matter this summer but i have as usual spent my energies elsewhere
 
Some of the most eye-opening pieces of music journalism i've read in past 5 yers have been court case related . NOTHING can surprise or stir us any longer as far as gossip about the private lives of stars is concerned. But small print in contracts, and economics under the microscope, lift up a whole other 'rock'. Trouble is, music reportage falls between 'gossip' and 'lifestyle', and economics rarely gets a light shone on it. (Or if it does, I presume, it's in the Financial Times or somewhere similar.)

Its considered boorish, I think, still, to interrupt the Romantic gestalt with nuts n bolts questions of this sort.

Even ecomic idiocy - cf Tony Wilson & Factory - is re-spun as part of the good old free spirited anarchic RnR way of doing things.
 
the possible court case of dvd manufacturers vs newspapers (or was it hmv vs newspapers) for loss of earnings due to front-mounted dvds would be/is/was interesting if it actually happened etc, etc.

quality dvd mark-up is a bit like what mark said perhaps but... the big studio films *also* have plenty of *extras* and are still cheaper. with new foreign films, i think it really is economies of scale.

with old films obviously it costs money to clean them up -- that's the equivalent of 'edisonite' i suppose, that's what we saps pay for. as with remasters.

on the other hand i like remasters, they sound good; and these days £15 for a dvd -- all in all, not much more expensive than a london cinema ticket (if you eat popcorn, you gotta make serious bank).
 
£15 for the cinema?1? Most of us (i.e the human race) don't actually live in London. If you choose to pay through the nose for the privelige of living in that polluted, crime-infested, bomb target, grease pole that's your own problem...
 
Interesting update on all this. FILM 4 is showing Wong Kaw-Wai's IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE tonight (11.40) (LA Confidential is on at 9.00 - for only the 14th time this month.)
But get this - I just saw an advert on Tv for tomorrow's TIMES. Which has a FREE DVD on its cover of ... yes, IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.
 
re pop economics, a member of a girl band, girls aloud or something was recently slagging off her bandmates (they don't even drink!) and ended with '..and the money's shit'. I bet the Management lawyers got busy after that remark '...henceforth you shall refrain from discussing ANY financial aspects of Sony Corp..'

Tangentially, this reminds me of a friend of a friend, a video editor on The Bill who once idly remarked to a colleague in the pub '..but it is a load of shit isn't it?' Pandemonium. It was revealed to him that the survival of the programme, and the livelihoods of everyone involved in it, depended upon the unthinking support of everyone working on it
 
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