I first encountered the Quay Brothers at a screening of The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes at Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center in 2006. In that film, on the eve of her wedding, a mezzo-soprano opera singer (Amira Casar) is kidnapped by the sinister Dr. Droz (Gottfried John), and brought to his island where he intends to capture her voice for his musical automata. A piano tuner, Felisberto (Cesar Sarachu), is brought to the island to service the automata for Droz’s diabolical opera. At the curtain, I was hooked. And the stop motion effects and surrealist dreamscapes of that film, define the Brothers Quay oeuvre.
by Joyless Staff
Sound Unseen 2015 runs this week, November 11-15. Truly one of Minnesota's most unique cinematic forums, Sound Unseen pulls in a variety of films for, by, and about musicians. From conventional documentaries to narrative films starring musicians to films directed by musicians, Sound Unseen delves into what it means to be a music film. The Joyless Creatures staff took a look at a sliver of what the festival has in store.
by Joyless Creatures Staff
"What's your favorite scary movie?" a creepy voice asks Drew Barrymore to open Wes Craven's 1996 film, Scream. We at Joyless Creatures decided to ask ourselves the same question. Here follow our Halloween picks – from chilling characters and half-human monsters to legitimate encounters with hell itself, these movies are guaranteed to keep your Halloween spooky and your dreams troubled.
by Matt Levine
Over six short years, Alex Ross Perry has made a name for himself as one of American independent cinema's most unique and audacious voices. From 2009's bizarro Impolex, shot on 16mm for about $15,000; to the black-and-white The Color Wheel (2011), a willfully abrasive comedy-drama that refuses to shy away from cultural taboos; to last year's Listen Up Philip, which expands the story of an egotistical writer into a number of staggering, unforeseen directions, Perry seems to enjoy setting up a template only to pull the rug out from the audience in delirious fashion. His latest film, Queen of Earth, might be Perry's most accomplished and powerful work yet, an overwhelming comedy-psychodrama-thriller (or something) with a piercing depiction of its two leads' vociferous relationship: old friends Catherine (Elisabeth Moss) and Virginia (Inherent Vice's Katherine Waterston) reconnect at a secluded cabin and realize they've drifted dangerously apart. Perry recently spoke with Joyless Creatures to discuss the motivation behind his newest film, the art of the cinematic close-up, the connection between European arthouse films and American exploitation, and more.
by Jeremy Meckler
This review is our third entry in the Joyless Canon—our 100 favorite movies, from enshrined classics to guilty pleasures to left-field oddities, which (we hope) define our personalities as film-lovers. Every few weeks, we’ll analyze another of our canonical entries in-depth. Check out our Index page for other Joyless Canon (JC) selections.
Orson Welles's filmography is rife with beautiful, formally ingenious films, so much so that his name has been uniformly canonized by cinephiles and the art world alike—from early breakthroughs Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons to later classics (Touch of Evil holds the title as the last real noir ever made and The Trial is, to date, the most intricate and maddening attempt to adapt Kafka to the screen). Welles's artistic ingenuity is almost as notorious as his troubles with the studios. Nearly every film he ever made was tinkered with, reedited, or drastically cut by studio heads worried that it wouldn't make them enough money. And maybe those studio heads were right—few of Welles's films ever made back their budget, but most made lasting and substantive impressions on the cinematic landscape. His films were all out of step with their era, and F for Fake—a film that would prove to be his last—is no exception. Though self-funded and drastically lower-budget than most of his more monumental works, F for Fake is a formally radical riddle that is at once documentary, autobiography, and a frenetically edited narrative enigma, its form as groundbreaking as Citizen Kane's deep focus and jumbled narrative.
It is sometimes difficult to separate a man’s art from a man’s personality. Oftentimes artists hide behind their work, and their true selves are never displayed to the public. Other times, artists throw themselves in front of their work and obscure their unique creativity, instead basking in the attention that their art produces. With a filmmaker like Orson Welles, it is difficult to decide what kind of a man he was. Marlene Dietrich’s final line of dialogue in Touch of Evil intimates at the futility of such an answer: “He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about people?” While she’s referring to Welles’s character, Hank Quinlan, she might as well have been talking about Orson Welles himself. Welles even admitted those lines were about himself, but sadly, in the end, the many things said about Welles had a detrimental effect on his career.
Since its inception, Sesame Street has had one central icon—the biggest, baddest bird on the block. Caroll Spinney has played Big Bird (and his spiritual foil, Oscar the Grouch) for the show's entire 45-year run. Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker's documentary, I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, delves into the history of this iconic character and the man who plays him. From his humble beginnings working with Captain Kangaroo and Bozo the Clown to his deep friendship with Jim Henson, I Am Big Bird is a comprehensive and moving look at this figure that is quintessential in so many childhoods. It is also a love story, pulling from home movies and Sesame Street footage to depict the lifelong love affair Caroll has shared with his wife Debra, a crew member he met on the Sesame Street set. The film played at the Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival and opens for a limited run at the Film Society of Minneapolis Saint Paul from May 15-23.
In advance of this documentary, Caroll agreed to a short phone interview. Little did I know that I wouldn't just be interviewing him, but also Big Bird and Oscar, who made appearances throughout our conversation.
by Joyless Staff
Five Lost Novels That Are Superior to the Classic Movies They Inspired
How often have you sat down to watch a classic film, either an older picture or one that you personally hold dear, and discovered that it was in fact based on a novel? “Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry was once a book?” you might exclaim, and yes, it’s true—that movie, obscure as it is (sorry), was a book and a good one.
Every year, Hollywood recycles the same old shit, or remakes great foreign films, virtually never succeeding at making the new movie of equal quality to the original. Decades ago, prior to the internet and cable television, pulp novels used to sell by the millions, and so publishers pumped them out by the dozens. Hollywood gobbled up these cheap properties. So many of the greatest noirs—and I’m not even talking Hammett, Chandler, or James M. Cain—are from hot little potboilers that are forgotten today. The same is true for Westerns and some of the coolest movies you’ve ever seen, probably without your even knowing it.
by Joyless Creatures Staff
Film critics generally love list-making and canonization, for reasons ranging from the legitimate (an effort to highlight underappreciated gems and open a discourse on the cinematic climate) to the self-serving (the tendency to stubbornly offer our own favorites as the unimpeachable "best"). Even the most list-happy critics, though, can agree that there's an inevitable downfall: whether you choose ten or twenty or fifty "bests," there will always be just a few more that narrowly missed commemoration. With that in mind, we thought we'd offer a few additional Best Movies of 2014 that didn't appear on our semi-official Best of 2014 list (published in early January). From the well-known to the obscure, these five selections deserve mention alongside the twenty films we enshrined a few months ago. Check 'em out if you haven't already; just keep in mind that beyond these five choices, there are still more cinematic treasures from last year that, worthy though they are, didn't make our proverbial cut.