Tag Archives: Filmmaking

Spike Lee Interview (NY Magazine)

US filmmaker Spike Lee interviewed by the NY Magazine here. Love him or loathe him (with Lee there seems to be very little wiggle room) he is always fascinating and challenging. And he is, undeniably, important.

Returning to Brooklyn—a very different Brooklyn—with Red Hook Summer, the outspoken filmmaker talks with Will Leitch about the timidity of Hollywood, reality-TV minstrelsy, and what it’s like to have inspired the president and the First Lady’s very first date.

When I was 13, I had a picture of you and Michael Jordan on my wall.
The poster where he was holding my head up?

That’s the one, from your Nike commercials with him. Five years after that, you were making Malcolm X. No offense, but I’m not sure you could get Malcolm X made today. Did you have more power then?
I do not think the word is power. I think that it is a different climate today. I do not think Oliver Stone gets JFK made today. Unless they can make JFK fly. If they can’t make Malcolm X fly, with tights and a cape, it’s not happening. It is a whole different ball game. There was a mind-set back then where studios were satisfied to get a mild hit and were happy about it; it helped them build their catalogues. But people want films to make a billion dollars now, and they will spend $300 million to make that billion. They are just playing for high stakes, and if it is not for high stakes, they figure it is not worth their while.

People keep talking about Red Hook Summer as a return to your roots. Do you feel that way?
I am glad you asked that, because I am going to try to shake the narrative as much as I can. This is not Spike going back to his roots. Red Hook Summer is another chapter in my chronicles of Brooklyn. I am a professor at NYU—I’ve been one the last fifteen years—and one of the courses they are teaching in cinema studies this summer is “Scorsese’s New York.” The postcard has a map of Manhattan and a dot where each Scorsese film took place. For me, it’s Brooklyn. She’s Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, Clockers, Crooklyn, and Red Hook Summer.

The movie has a lot of Carmelo Anthony.
We actually painted the shrine to him on the courts for the movie. It’s still there.

There’s a perception that Carmelo isn’t ­really from New York, that he’s really from Baltimore. But the people of Red Hook don’t feel that way.
They claim him. They claimed him when he was at Syracuse. We claimed ­Michael Jordan—he was born in this neighborhood, Fort Greene.

But here is the genesis to the whole thing: When the Knicks traded for Carmelo, he got a deal with Boost Mobile, and they came to me to do a digital piece on Carmelo. So I said, “Let’s go to Red Hook.” Then, one Saturday morning, [co-screenwriter] James McBride and I were eating breakfast at Viand. Do you know where Viand is?

I do not.
It is the best coffee shop in New York. It is on 61st and Madison. One Saturday morning, James McBride and I were eating breakfast there. We both have kids, and we were talking about what kind of film our kids would see. One thing led to another. I talked about Red Hook, he grew up in Red Hook, his father and mother were preachers, you have the Carmelo thing, and that is how it all came together.

Besides writing and directing, I am producing this thing, too, so I know that time is money. The film was shot within a ten-block radius. We shot it in eighteen days, three six-day weeks. She’s Gotta Have It was shot in twelve days and two six-day weeks.

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Dark Side of the Lens

The breathtaking, award winning video from artist and waverider, Mickey Smith


Pumping Iron (1977)

Pumping Iron is a cult classic. A perfect piece of kitsch pop culture. Watching it again recently reminded me why.  It is brash, theatrical, surreal, horribly over-the-top, sometimes tender, (un)intentionally comic…in other words, an absolute treat.

Bodybuilding has always been an unusual sport. A bizarre marriage of unfettered testosterone and peculiar, obscured femininity. But it is also one that requires superhuman dedication, sacrifice and ambition. Pumping Iron captures this alternative world at is vainglorious, preening peak, as its “star”, the incomparable Arnold Schwarzenegger, lifts, boasts, bullies, taunts and struts his way to the 1975 Mr. Olympia title.

You either love or loathe Arnie, but on whichever side of the fence you fall (and there is much to dislike) he is a remarkable character. Watching him here is an enormous guilty pleasure as he crushes his friends and foes alike, exploiting physical and psychological weaknesses wherever he finds them, imposing his extraordinary, relentless will on everyone and everything.  He is cruel, charismatic, intelligent, and desperate for attention…for all the attention. He is an enormous, pompous, muscular slab of peacock. The king. And this is his court. It is absolutely captivating.

Others come into his orbit – Franco Columbo, the hugely likeable but slightly tragic Lou Ferrigno (and his overbearing Brooklynite father who pushes and parades his son like demented ringmaster), the quiet family-man Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Serge Nubret – but however close they may have been to Arnold (Columbo was a longstanding friend) if they are not useful, they are ultimately useless. The ego drives everything and nothing else matters except victory. His mental dismantling of Ferrigno is equal parts heart-breaking and thrilling.

Pumping Iron launched Arnold’s career, and watching him here you are aware that his star is in its ascendancy – as, you feel, is he as his swaggers his way to triumph. But without his arrogance and absurdity, Pumping Iron goes from being a fantastic study of human nature to a merely interesting exploration of a weird and wonderful underworld that few of us would ever glimpse.

It is one of those rare documentaries that by both luck and design captured perfectly a place and time. It is completely bonkers and utterly brilliant.

The full documentary is on YouTube. Here is part 1 of 12:

Sounds of Aronofsky

Exactly what it says. Sounds from the films of Darren Aronofsky.

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom Featurettes

Wes Anderson has released four “featurettes” in the run-up to the release of his new film Moonrise Kingdom.  It is a typically off-beat move by the director. And here they are.

The first is here

And 2, 3 and 4 are…

(via The Guardian)

Philip French: Top 10 Movie Sequences

The peerless Observer film critic, Philip French, has drawn up his top 10 movie credit sequences, including Seven, The Wild Bunch, The Magnificent Ambersons and A Bug’s Life. The full list is here.

I also liked Blue Valentine:

If you are interested in title sequences and design, then this is a great place to spend a few hours trawling the archives and reading interviews Art of the Title


Boxing Gym: A Frederick Wiseman Documentary

Boxing Gym

I recently re-watched Frederick Wiseman’s documentary, Boxing Gym. I was lucky enough to catch it at the brilliant IFC Centre on Sixth Avenue, New York, in 2010. Like so much of Wiseman’s work it was gripping then. And it remains so.

Boxing is a sport of incomparable skill, wit and dexterity. An ability to improvise both physically and mentally, to read the tides and adapt accordingly, is something that is hard to teach. If it can be taught at all. It is a quality that separates the great from the merely “good”. But boxing is also a sport built on repetition and devotion, on a quasi-religious fidelity to routine. Only through a strict adherence to ritual solitude can fighters lay down the foundations for glory. Through the thousands of rounds, punches, dips, ducks and jumps that condition the body and purge the mind.

The ambient sounds of a boxing gym, the metronomic buzzers and bleeps, the whip of the skipping rope; the dull thud of the punch bag and medicine ball, the staccato thrup of the speedball, the exhalations and the beat of the footfalls. All create a natural cadence, a lyrical lilt, that pay homage to this habit. It is a cadence that permeates Wiseman’s wonderful film.

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