Bright Wall/Dark Room.
6 days ago
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The opening scene from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986)

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1 week ago
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ecantwell:

This issue is so fantastic. Why? Let me count the ways:
Kara Vanderbijl’s essay on Blue Velvet is up at rogerebert.com and got Kyle Maclachlan’s stamp of approval
Jimmy Stewart
Terrence Malick + Arielle Greenberg = poetry2
Erica Cantoni partners with Coach Taylor to bring you some truth about teamwork
Albert Brooks quits his job and moves to Arizona and Karina Wolf is there to tell us all about it
Richard Linklater
Matt Brennan delivers a stunningly perfect meditation on Far From Heaven
THREE of these essays are about films that take place in Texas
Brianna Ashby’s illustrations are more gorgeous than ever
AMERICA.
Go subscribe now! Or read your subscription! And then go outside because it’s summer.

ecantwell:

This issue is so fantastic. Why? Let me count the ways:

  1. Kara Vanderbijl’s essay on Blue Velvet is up at rogerebert.com and got Kyle Maclachlan’s stamp of approval
  2. Jimmy Stewart
  3. Terrence Malick + Arielle Greenberg = poetry2
  4. Erica Cantoni partners with Coach Taylor to bring you some truth about teamwork
  5. Albert Brooks quits his job and moves to Arizona and Karina Wolf is there to tell us all about it
  6. Richard Linklater
  7. Matt Brennan delivers a stunningly perfect meditation on Far From Heaven
  8. THREE of these essays are about films that take place in Texas
  9. Brianna Ashby’s illustrations are more gorgeous than ever
  10. AMERICA.

Go subscribe now! Or read your subscription! And then go outside because it’s summer.

(Source: brightwalldarkroom)

Cite Arrow via ecantwell
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So, this happened.
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The July issue is NOW AVAILABLE!
This month’s theme is Americana, with brand new essays on Boyhood, Blue Velvet, The Last Picture Show, Friday Night Lights, Far from Heaven, Lost in America, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as well as a poem inspired by Badlands.

The July issue is NOW AVAILABLE!

This month’s theme is Americana, with brand new essays on Boyhood, Blue Velvet, The Last Picture Show, Friday Night Lights, Far from Heaven, Lost in America, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, as well as a poem inspired by Badlands.

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1 week ago
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We are insanely excited to officially announce some very BIG news:
Beginning this week, RogerEbert.com will be running one essay from each new issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine on their website.
We are partnering with them to make this possible, thanks to the work of their editor-in-chief (and writer/critic extraordinaire) Matt Zoller Seitz, who reached out to us and offered us a chance to be a part of the amazing work they’re doing to further Ebert’s legacy and spirit by continuing to build an international community of passionate critics, writers, and fans through the site.
We feel immensely blessed to be associated, in any way, with Roger Ebert (who was, for many of us, the man who first helped us fall in love with movies), and we couldn’t be more excited about this collaboration! 

We are insanely excited to officially announce some very BIG news:

Beginning this week, RogerEbert.com will be running one essay from each new issue of Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine on their website.

We are partnering with them to make this possible, thanks to the work of their editor-in-chief (and writer/critic extraordinaire) Matt Zoller Seitz, who reached out to us and offered us a chance to be a part of the amazing work they’re doing to further Ebert’s legacy and spirit by continuing to build an international community of passionate critics, writers, and fans through the site.

We feel immensely blessed to be associated, in any way, with Roger Ebert (who was, for many of us, the man who first helped us fall in love with movies), and we couldn’t be more excited about this collaboration! 

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1 week ago
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On Rewatching Halt and Catch Fire 1-6

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Christopher Cantwell, co-creator of Halt and Catch Fire (and long-time Bright Wall/Dark Room contributor), discusses the discussion around his show—its lead, Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), the difficult decisions that go on in the writer’s room around anti-heroes and “petting the dog”—and makes the case for why people should give the show a chance to tell its full story before rushing to judgement. 

(His wife Elizabeth lays out a similar case, elegantly, here).

So let’s discuss Halt and Catch Fire! The seventh episode airs tonight on AMC - are you watching? Have you been watching? If not, WHY AREN’T YOU WATCHING? Let’s keep this thing going!

Here’s Chris…

ifyoucantwell:

Since the show’s premiere, I’ve been fairly good about avoiding all discussion about the show. Fairly good. It takes an insane amount of willpower and I fail constantly, and Elizabeth just goes and looks at stuff anyway and then I find out what people are saying for better or worse. There are days where I’ve felt positive, and days where I’ve been so depressed I’ve felt physically ill. It is what it is; it’s my first time on this roller coaster and I’ve found myself ready for neither praising high-fives nor the blindsiding gut-punches that come frequently and often simultaneously. 

But I’m very glad Elizabeth saw this post, because Melissa is so right! It was tremendous to read a thoughtful criticism like this (and I’m amazed Melissa actually re-watched the previous five episodes, too). 

One particular I was immediately struck by in her writing: “save the cat.” That is the HEART of the issue with Joe MacMillan, and has been from the very beginning. The only difference is, in our writer’s room, we call it “petting the dog.” We really do! And we—along with our fellow writers, our showrunner, our producers, the network, Lee—have been discussing at length for going on three-and-a-half years now precisely when to let Joe MacMillan “pet the dog.” 

Joe MacMillan! Man. He is a tough one. Rogers and I created him in a small windowless office in January 2011, admittedly without the forethought or audacity to believe he would ever traverse past a sample pilot episode on paper. But lo and behold, we’ve had the good fortune to be able to tell his longer story. 

An admission: there were multiple (multiple) drafts of the pilot developed with the network and Gran Via where we attempted to humanize Joe more from the get-go. Juan Campanella, the director of the pilot, is an ambassador of warmth and beautiful human nature and one reason we brought him in was precisely to help figure out Joe (aside from being a brilliant director, Juan is also a brilliant writer). 

But it was exceptionally challenging. Joe’s human underpinnings are so difficult to reveal in the right way. Too much in one direction, the character loses spark and magnetism, all bark, no bite. Too much the other, he risks being cold and opaque and sociopathic. Writing him is a constant tightrope walk. 

Another admission: Joe’s stories were ALWAYS the hardest to break in the writers room. Every single time. For the exact reason I stated above.  ”Okay, what about Joe?” Dead silence. But because of that struggle, we often found discoveries about him to be all the more rewarding. 

Ultimately, we made a choice: we barely refrained from showing that Joe was even remotely capable of petting any dog for the first five episodes. 42 minutes x 5 = WHOA. Half the season! Was it the right move? I don’t know! I know it asks a lot, maybe too much, but I also feel like that’s what makes the reveal he’s human so much more gratifying.  If we had immediately cracked through his mask right out of the gate, I just don’t know if it would have had the same impact. The mask would have been flimsy, had no real purpose except to be dropped. Maybe we just couldn’t figure out the right way to do it. But for me, the mask needed to be stronger, needed a sledgehammer to even crack it, which is why the last scene of episode 105 is my favorite of the season, because to me it is The Beginning of Human Joe. It’s an arrival.

I will say that Lee Pace has definitely informed how this character is written. He is such a thoughtful and powerful human being that I feel there is no way his portrayal of Joe could ever be 100% emotionally dead, even when the character is at his worst. I think there are other actors who would’ve done things Joe did this season and people would’ve gone “FUCK YOU NO!” (I guess people have already done that, but…). With Lee, we knew we could challenge ourselves and see how far we could push the character, because the actor’s humanity would anchor us. Now, I’m not saying we wanted to see what we could get away with, but… I hope we haven’t pushed him too far. Joe is still going to do terrible things. That is part of his makeup. But there is also much more person to be revealed in there. Ideally, I’d love to spend an entire series completely stripping the character down to his essentials. We often talked about how Season 1 in many ways is really about the “reverse engineering” of Joe MacMillan himself. The same is true for all the other lead characters as well. 

In fact, THAT is the part of Joe’s character that excites me the most. I don’t think any of us are interested in maintaining an anti-hero for very long, really. For one, we’ve seen that executed very well already, and two, the character (and audience) deserves more.

We want to get to human Joe, we just want to EARN it, and make it HARD for him to get there. It’s tricky, right? 

One important distinction, at least in my head, is that Joe isn’t interested necessarily in classic financial gain or absolute power. The thing that I cling to when writing Joe is that he BELIEVES in what he’s doing. Genuinely. He believes he’s right. He wants to do this with all his heart, and he’ll do anything to make his dream a reality. Literally, anything. And it’s made him this train-wreck of a person. And to me, there’s a kind of wonderful innocence in that. 

I love the way Lee approaches Joe, because no matter what scenario we throw at him, Lee is able to justify Joe’s actions in his mind as the right and necessary thing to do. He justifies the mask, the suit, the identity, the behavior as a means to an end for his vision. But he could be wrong, and he very well may be proven so. 

This coming Sunday’s episode is a good one I believe, but my stomach is already in knots over it. Because I’m already asking myself “did we reveal too much of Joe this time? Is it not enough? Did we pull back? Did we push him over the edge?” The truth is, there’s no real answer. That’s what makes the character fascinating to me. He’s elusive and can’t be pinned down. Too much sunlight and he wilts, too much shadow and he risks being an empty phantom and a caricature.

Anyway. Thank you, Melissa! Today you made me like the internet. 

othermelissawyatt:

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I do love this show and think it’s fascinating, but I also think it has issues and one of them just might be that it is sometimes too subtle for its own good. This becomes especially apparent when you go back and watch all the episodes back-to-back and get a better feel for character arcs than watching one episode a week. 

So this is partly about Stuff I Noticed This Time Around and a response to this sweet, impassioned plea from the wife of one of the show’s creators. This is going to be another long one, I suspect. More under the cut.

Read More

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1 week ago
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Issue #14 comes out on Tuesday! The theme is Americana, and to that end we have essays for you on Boyhood, Badlands, Blue Velvet, Friday Night Lights, The Last Picture Show, Far from Heaven, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Lost in America.

Get it the day it comes out by subscribing now!

Issue #14 comes out on Tuesday! The theme is Americana, and to that end we have essays for you on Boyhood, Badlands, Blue Velvet, Friday Night Lights, The Last Picture Show, Far from Heaven, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Lost in America.

Get it the day it comes out by subscribing now!

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1 week ago
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Summer Movies: The Sandlot (1993)

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A CRASH COURSE IN HOW TO STOP BEING AN L-7 WEENIE AND START HAVING THE BEST SUMMER OF YOUR LIFE

by Erika Schmidt 


Meet Scottie Smalls.  

He’s your classic 1960s grade school nerd. Squeaky clean baby face. Hair slicked and parted on the side. Khaki shorts. Collared shirt tucked in with a belt. Baseball cap with a giant, stiff bill that sticks straight up. Bedroom full of complicated erector set creations. Concerned mom. Distant stepdad.  

Scottie’s new in town, and, as his grown-up voiceover tells us at the beginning of The Sandlot, “It was a lousy way to end the fifth grade because I had zip time to make friends before summer. And that’s about where it all started.” 

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Where it all starts is when Benny Rodriguez (Oh! Benny Rodriguez!) turns up in front of Scottie’s house, rechristens him “Smalls,” and invites him to come play ball. He gently instructs Smalls to toss the cap with the oversized bill into the fireplace. It’s only the first of many valuable lessons The Sandlot offers. 

Know your baseball  -OR-  Do not admit ignorance. 

If you do not already know who The Great Bambino is, find out. Or you will be ridiculed.  

Dress the part. 

For those without a Benny Rodriguez to outfit them with a new/old cap, here’s what your ensemble should include: dirty jeans (holes are okay); t-shirt or ¾ sleeve baseball shirt (stains are okay); worn-out cap with a bent bill (you can achieve this bend by wrapping a rubber band around it and leaving it overnight); sneakers (PF Fliers are best). 

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Know how to hurl an insult.  And how to make a s’more. 

This double lesson comes courtesy of Hamilton “Ham” Porter, the player most put out by Smalls’ lack of useful skills and knowledge. (You’re KILLING me, Smalls!) Hold nothing back when your team’s honor is at stake. Maintain eye contact and go for the jugular. Toast the mallow. Put the mallow on the graham. 

Use any means necessary to make that lady yours. 

It is not beneath you to fake your own drowning in order to steal a kiss from your dream woman. Especially if your dream woman is bombshell lifeguard Wendy Peffercorn, and you would otherwise have no chance in hell of ever touching her. Here’s the plan. You will trick her into giving you mouth-to-mouth. You will throw your arms around her neck and kiss her. Your friends will watch in awe. “This Magic Moment” will play. She will slap you and chase you off the premises. You will be banned for life from the pool. But you will also marry Wendy Peffercorn and have eight million babies.  

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Don’t forget to spit.

Go ahead and steal some Big Chief chewing tobacco. “All the pros do it!” Take it to the carnival. Share it with your friends. But do not: a) neglect to spit, or b) go on the tilt-a-whirl. You will puke all over yourself and everyone in the vicinity. It will be gross. But “Tequila” will be playing, so it will also be kind of delightful. 

Stop for fireworks  -OR-  Leave some room for wonder.  

Remember you are playing America’s sport. Play a night game by the light of the fourth of July fireworks. Skid into home and look up. Pretty great, right? 

Beware of dog  -OR-  Respect The Beast. 

Do not hit the ball over the fence at the far end of the outfield. You will never get it back. If you want to know why, ask Squints to tell you. 

If you meet The Babe in a dream, follow his advice. 

Heroes get remembered; legends never die. Follow your heart, kid. You can never go wrong. If your heart tells you to save the day by jumping over the above-mentioned fence, stealing back the ball signed by Babe Ruth, getting chased through town by The Beast, and finally making friends with The Beast and James Earl Jones…well, just make sure you’re wearing a pair of brand new PF Fliers. 

Don’t underestimate the power of play. 

Once, in sixth grade, my class was standing in line at the water fountain. This kid named Bryan was taking a long time drinking—I mean, he was really gulping it down. It was taking forever.  

Someone finally piped up: “Hey, come on! My clothes—” and everyone else in line joined in to yell, “—are goin’ outta style!” It was the first time I experienced a communal movie reference. It felt good.  

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I don’t remember the first time I saw The Sandlot. I never saw it on the big screen. I just remember it being part of the kid vernacular in my hometown. The classic one liners in The Sandlot are almost all delivered by child actors who seem to have been directed to ham it up as much as possible. Emphasis is important:  

If you’da been THINKING, you wouldn’ta THOUGHT that.   

And THAT’S how I got us into the BIGGEST PICKLE ANY of us had EVER SEEN.  

YOU play ball like a GIRL. 

For-EH-VUUUR. 

I grew up in Indiana, in a small town on Lake Michigan. I played my fair share of baseball, mostly in empty lots much like that in The Sandlot, but with more trees. We also played a lot of basketball—half court in people’s driveways. Every house had a basketball hoop. The type of friendships that form playing street sports are really special, and sadly lacking in today’s world of overscheduled, overprotected children. The boys in The Sandlot spend all day outside getting dirty, yelling at each other, laughing at each other, and generally taking everything really seriously before leaving it behind at the end of the day. That is what summer should be.

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Erika Schmidt grew up in Indiana, lived in Chicago for years, and recently relocated to Berkeley, California. She is the 2013 recipient of the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award for short fiction for her story, “Story About a Family.” 

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David Lynch, interviewed on Canadian television, about Blue Velvet (1986)

The woman conducting the interview is possibly not his biggest fan:

"Do you think you’re a genius or a really sick person?"

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1 week ago
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Richard Linklater // On Cinema & Time

(a video essay created for Sight & Sound, November 2013)

(Source: vimeo.com)

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