Friday, October 31, 2008

More Martiniana

It is now officially 'Adrian Martin Month' here at the blog: he's writing 'em faster than I can read 'em. In the last week, at least four new pieces have appeared. Adrian: you should think about recording one of those Tony Robbins-style infomercials for the rest of us!

Two of the pieces are in the new issue of Undercurrent, edited by Chris Fujiwara. The issue isn't large, but every single piece in it is good and worth reading. For me, one of the highlights is an exchange between Adrian and Andrew Klevan.

Adrian reviews Klevan's book about acting, Film Performance: From Achievement to Appreciation, praising and recommending it. After getting this strong endorsement over with in the first few paragraphs, the review switches tack to do something unusual: without pulling its punches, it mounts a forthright but very constructive critique of the book. The review takes the book to task for several reasons: valorizing classicism; displaying a lack of interest in cinematic modernism; not drawing from anecdotal material like biographies or memoirs; and sidelining the film director and mise en scène in favor of the actor.

Klevan's response essay replies to these criticisms with great openness and generosity, clearly outlining the rationale for the choices he made in the book. The two essays together make for a rare critical dialogue that is plain and direct in its disagreements but ever mutually respectful. (I'm wondering: Are there other examples of criticism undertaken in this gracious spirit of dialogue?).

Other Martiniana of the week:

(1) "Cruising: The Sound of Violence" in Undercurrent;

(2) "The Enigma of Gesture," a report on the Brisbane Film Festival at the FIPRESCI site; and

(3) "'Abolish All Film Magazines!'": the new Filmkrant column.

The Brisbane piece is much more than a film festival report; it smuggles in a sustained reflection on crying in cinema. Here's an excerpt on why we often sense a discrepancy between the tears of a character and what prompts or triggers that emotional outpouring:

Yet maybe it is only bad, conventional movies which have conditioned us, down the years, to expect that an emotion (as effect or release) can cleanly match or be appropriate to its cause: as philosopher Giorgio Agamben reminds us, we are always more and less than ourselves, and our emotional response (or affect) invariably occurs in the zones of the not-enough or the too-much. It is our fate. Life confirms this regularly: we find that we cannot grieve enough as we would like, or openly enough, at the funeral of a loved one or family member (with catastrophic social effects, as for Camus' immortal 'outsider'); conversely, we find that that the tiniest pretext, along a convoluted line of displacements and sublimations, can send us into wailing histrionics, uncontrollable and inconsolable.

* * *

More good reading:

-- Chris Fujiwara on the melodramas of Vincente Minnelli, at Moving Image Source.

-- The Siren on "several very famous remarks made by famous movie people that she never wants to hear again."

-- Michael Guillen on the new issue of Film International, a special on film festivals.

-- Jonathan Rosenbaum on two Jim McBride films, David Holzman's Diary and My Girlfriend's Wedding.

-- Mubarak links to an essay by Nicole Brenez called "On the Subject of Regrettable Searching - Body to Body, the Filmed Body." It opens thus: "Necessarily, the body is a source of worry: subject to accident, decline, death, it is that from which we must escape by, for example, leaving figurative traces that others perhaps will consider art."

-- Danny Kasman and David Phelps interview Lucretia Martel at the Auteurs' Notebook.

-- A characteristically epic and interesting thread at Dave Kehr's place on Japanese cinema, neo-realism and film noir (among other things).

-- Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic has an essay called "Why I Blog".

pic: "I think she's lonesome...even with all that red hair." Ron Howard to Glenn Ford in Minnelli's The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Filmmaker Affinities

Are there filmmakers, scattered around the world, who nevertheless seem to share certain close affinities? One example might be the trio of Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki, and Wim Wenders.

Fundamentally, all three have cinephile sensibilities. Jarmusch and Wenders both lived in Paris for a spell and haunted the Cinematheque there. The three also share broad areas of common taste in filmmakers.

Samuel Fuller appeared in films by Wenders (The State of Things, The American Friend) and Aki Kaurismäki (La Vie de Boheme). In the early '90s, Jarmusch and Fuller made a trip to the Amazon, returning to locations Fuller had scouted for his 1955 film Tigrero, which was to star John Wayne and Ava Gardner. The insurance company refused coverage for the stars if the film was made on location in South America, and the film was abandoned. Aki Kaurismäki's brother Mika accompanied Jarmusch and Fuller on the trip and made a documentary about it.

Nicholas Ray constitutes another common bond. A poster of The Savage Innocents appears in Jarmusch's student film, Permanent Vacation. The film was made with raw stock given to Jarmusch by Wenders and Straub/Huillet. Jarmusch was Nick Ray's assistant when Ray was a visiting faculty member at NYU. Wenders famously chronicled Ray's dying days in the documentary Lightning Over Water. Like Fuller, Ray appears in The American Friend.

Ozu is also a key influence. We can see this especially in Kaurismäki's films, which often feature fastidiously designed domestic interiors carefully composed and captured by a stationary camera. Wenders traveled to Japan to revisit the settings of Ozu films; the result was his documentary, Tokyo-Ga. In Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, Eddie (Richard Edson) reads off names of horses from a newspaper--Late Spring, Passing Fancy, etc.

Certain European modernist filmmakers are also particularly important: Bresson for Kaurismäki; and Antonioni for Wenders and Jarmusch. The trio also shares a globalist sensibility: they have all made films in--and are marked by the influence of--countries and cultures other than their own.

An important thread that runs through their films is a deep love and keen understanding of popular musical forms. There are countless examples to choose from: the rockabilly and Finnish tango bands that are filmed with great musical fidelity by Kaurismäki (watch for the punctiliously correct fingerings during the frequent live musical performances); Jarmusch's casting of musicians in his films (John Lurie, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, etc); and the great variety of musical acts that Wenders has documented or employed (Nick Cave, Buena Vista Social Club, U2, etc). And jukeboxes make an appearance in The Man Without A Past, The Match Factory Girl, and Alice in the Cities. (Although I can't seem to recall a Jarmusch film with a jukebox in it.)

I'm wondering: Any other ideas or examples of filmmakers who share affinities despite being separated by national borders?

* * *

An interesting excerpt from an interview Jarmusch did with Jonathan Rosenbaum in 1994. Jarmusch is responding to a question about why he likes Ozu:

I have kind of contradictory tastes. I like things that are very pure. Ozu's films or the films of Carl Dreyer or things by Joseph Cornell or Cy Twombly or music by Anton Webern. Or the Ramones, for that matter. Things that are very pure appeal to me strongly. I also like very messy things, though. Like Blue Cheer or paintings by Jackson Pollock or de Kooning. I like King of New York, Detour, films like that. Things that are messy appeal to me as well, but my own aesthetics tends to go toward a more kind of pure form of things.

* * *

Some links:

-- David Bordwell on Hollywood market segmentation and Baby Box Office.

-- New blog discovery, thanks to Matthew Flanagan: Spectacular Attractions, run by Dan North, who teaches cinema at the University of Exeter in the UK.

-- Two new posts at Dan Sallitt's place: a letter to a fellow filmmaker about her new film; and on Hong Sang-soo's Night and Day.

-- How useful: Catherine Grant posts a list of links to film studies books that are available for free on the web. Also, she points us to two posts by Henry Jenkins, "Why Universities Shouldn't Create "Something like YouTube"": parts One and Two.

-- Kevin Lee posts video of Kent Jones' Q & A with Arnaud Desplechin at the New York Film Festival.

-- The second issue of the journal Experimental Conversations is up. It's devoted to Spanish avant-garde cinema.

-- A half-dozen essays by Richard T. Jameson are now available online at Parallax View.

-- For those within easy striking distance: James Benning's great RR is playing at George Eastman House in Rochester on November 19.

-- Michael Sicinski's page for October includes reviews of Steve McQueen's Hunger, Johnnie To's Sparrow, Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig's Nights and Weekends, and Errol Morris' Standard Operating Procedure.

Here's an excerpt from the Morris review: "While watching SOP, I had a bit of a mini-revelation about Mr. Morris, and why he so often irks me. From his extended interview-cum-handjob with Robert McNamara, to his series of unaired Kerry ads featuring Bush voters who switched allegiance, even way back to his time as a student at Berkeley, where, he's always quick to point out, he studied analytic philosophy of mind, and dedicated himself to the pursuit of Objective Truth, abjuring all that Nietzsche / Heidegger / Derrida / Foucault nonsense that was swirling around at the time, the guy fits a particular profile that I've never really liked. He's the "reasonable" lefty, wherein reason is equated with a propensity to identify not only with the other guy's point of view, but with the other guy's characterization of your point of view as loony, irrational, and out of touch. Morris has to be the liberal Democrat who can show that he's just making good plain old Common Sense, and does so by bending over backwards to let right wingers have their say. The object of the game, of course, is to display civility and humanism, to allow for the fact that even those with whom we disagree are almost always behaving out of pure motives, and to simply impugn those motives tout court is to allow oneself to be blinkered by ideology. But there is something to be said for Robert Frost's old joke about liberals being too broad-minded to take their own side in an argument. Too much recent Morris exhibits this tendency to a crippling fault, and SOP is no exception."

pic: courtesy The Wind In The Trees.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"What is Modern Cinema?"

Adrian Martin left a comment on the previous post thread: he has a new book out. Sorry, but he's not getting away quite so easy! I'm a long-time Martinian, and this is fabulous news. It needs some megaphone treatment.

The book is called ¿Qué es el cine moderno? ("What is Modern Cinema?"), and is in Spanish. It was launched last week at the Valdivia film festival in Chile. At Quintin and Flavia's blog La lectora provisoria, here are two posts by Adrian: his book launch speech, and his talk on film criticism.

An excerpt from the introduction:

This book – after a small group of general essays – essentially discusses cinema through its artists, its directors. I do not bother to rehash the ancient arguments devised to convince readers of the existence of the cinema auteur – indeed, I have included some pointed reservations about auteurism, when the sole devotion to ‘auteur films’ (in the art-cinema or Film Festival circuit) blocks our ability to see anything else going on at the present moment in cinema – but I do adopt the method that French critic-filmmaker Jean-Claude Biette called a poetique des auteurs (rather than the classic ‘50s politique des auteurs or ‘auteur policy’).

What is this ‘poetics of auteurs’? It entails grasping, in an artist’s work, the overall complex or gestalt of style and content, sensibility and poetic gesture – in order, finally, to probe, apply and extend that “very sensitive instrument” formed by a filmmaker’s personal vision of the world, a regard (in the double sense of both a look and an attitude) that is both critical and loving. And it is my hope that writing about film can, in its own way, also carry on the “amorous vigilance” of that double regard which is so unique to cinema.

Here are the book's contents. Previously unpublished pieces have a single asterisk, and new versions of previously published pieces a double asterisk.

Part 1: Histories

-- What is Modern Cinema?*
-- Ball of Fire*
-- Possessory Credit [from Framework]

Part 2: Pioneers

-- Style and Meaning in Robert Bresson [from PhD, 2006]
-- Crossing Marker [from an art catalogue, 2008]
-- Came So Far for Beauty: Jean-Luc Godard's Lyricism* [2001]
-- Landscapes of the Mind: Roman Polanski**
-- John Cassavetes: Inventor of Forms**

Part 3: Innovators

-- Copious Associative Connections: Raúl Ruiz [edited from PhD]
-- Robert Kramer Films the Event [at Rouge]
-- Chantal Akerman: Walking Woman [at Unspoken Cinema]
-- Things to Look Into: Terrence Malick [at Rouge]
-- Abbas Kiarostami: The Earth Trembles [at 16:9]
-- What's Happening? Story and Scene in Hou Hsiao-hsien [edited from PhD]
-- Aki Kaurismaki: Realismo poético y alguna que otra copa ("Poetic Realism and a Few Drinks") [earlier translation at Miradas de Cine]
-- Pedro Costa: The Inner Life of a Film [forthcoming in Costa anthology, 2009]
-- Ticket to Ride: Claire Denis and the Cinema of the Body [edited from PhD]
-- Tsai-fi [edited and updated from Tren de Sombras]
-- Naomi Kawase: A Certain Dark Corner of Modern Cinema [Kawase anthology, 2008]
-- Apichatpong Weerasethakul, The Immaterial*
-- A Minority Report on Manoel de Oliveira*

There are also two outtakes that will likely be appearing online in a Chilean publication: the Ferrara essay in 16:9 that I linked to last week; and a previously unpublished essay on Philippe Garrel.

Adrian: Congratulations! And I hope we'll be able to read some of these hitherto unavailable pieces at your website when it launches next year.

* * *

Some links:

-- The new issue of Film Quarterly is out, and five of the pieces are available online on pdf, including a history of the magazine by Ernest Callenbach and a piece on film criticism by Geoffrey Nowell-Smith.

-- Surfing, I stumbled upon this archived interview with Jean-Michel Frodon by Fergus Daly on film criticism. It originally appeared in Cinema Scope.

-- Peter Bradshaw on Paul Newman in The Guardian.

-- Lots of good new reading at Moving Image Source, including Miguel Marías on Paul Newman and Jonathan Rosenbaum on the new Orson Welles film by Richard Linklater.

-- Also, Jonathan has a post on "two ambitious web sites".

-- Acquarello has been filing dispatches from the New York film festival.

-- Cinephilic chivalry: David Cairns has single-handedly mounted a campaign to reclaim from oblivion the Julien Duvivier film, La fin du jour. It's not too late to request him to send you a DVD-R of it.

-- An online resources links post by Catherine Grant at Film Studies for Free.

-- Two posts on Touch of Evil: at Doug Cummings's and Dave Kehr's.

-- At The Evening Class, Michael Guillen posts a Q&A with Arnaud Desplechin about his new film, A Christmas Tale.

-- An interview with Mark Peranson, who has made a documentary about the filming of Albert Serra's Birdsong.

-- Tom von Logue Newth on Lisa Dombrowski's book on Samuel Fuller, at Film International.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Filmmaker Overview Essay

There is a genre of film criticism that I find intimidating enough that I've never managed to produce a piece of writing in it. I speak of the filmmaker overview essay. For a film-lover, it's an immensely useful and educational form. I'm always looking out for good examples of it. A couple of terrific ones have appeared online recently.

At 16:9, Adrian Martin writes about Abel Ferrara:

Most great directors have signatures: Max Ophuls’ expansively tracking camera, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s static long shot-long takes, Jean-Luc Godard’s montage-mix of sampled and interrupted sound sources. But Ferrara? There is no consistent affectation, no recognisable manner in his prodigious forms. In the prolific ‘90s, especially, diversity rules: can it be the same director who mastered, so swiftly, the hyper-Michael Mann style of cool nocturnal blue in King of New York, the minimalist ‘stations of the cross’ intrigue in Bad Lieutenant, the stark black and white exploitation-horror of The Addiction, the stately, sombre mise en scène of The Funeral and the hallucinatory, multi-layered collage of The Blackout? [...]

Yet if Ferrara lacks a signature - and maybe that, in our auteur-commodity market, slyly and subversively, is his signature - he has honed an attitude to content and an approach to form that are razor sharp. Ferrara is in the tradition of John Cassavetes and Maurice Pialat: he seeks the truth of the moment, the nub of a contradiction, the telling flashpoint of tension. In interviews or documentaries, that is all he will talk about: ‘getting the shot’, nailing something in an image, a performance, an exchange, a riff. His cinema is a postmodern gestalt, a fusion in dissonance: bodies, environments, songs, colours and edits are so powerfully compacted in his work that we can hardly separate the elements, as we can with the work of ‘cleaner’ directors.

James Quandt isn't read as widely as he should be, mainly because most of his writing is done for the Cinematheque Ontario season programme guide, which is largely unavailable at libraries and newsstands. In the new issue he writes about the latest retrospective he's assembled, the films of Nagisa Oshima:

Much parsed and puzzled over, Shohei Imamura’s famous pronouncement, “I’m a country farmer; Nagisa Oshima is a samurai” may be ambiguous in tone and intent – is it ironic, invidious, deferential? – but it emphasizes the directors’ differences: class, stylistic, and otherwise. Often paired as twin avatars of the Japanese New Wave, a term Oshima (born in Kyoto, 1932) took every opportunity to spurn and disparage, the two fit uncomfortably in that “movement” and with each other. Sharing formal and social audacity, a brilliant ability to exploit the widescreen format, a rejection of the refined and self-sacrificing tenor of traditional Japanese cinema, a propensity for mixing fiction and reality, and certain key themes – sex and criminality, the abuse and resilience of women, incest, the social fissures of postwar Japan, the aggravated acts of outcasts in a tightly battened monoculture – Imamura and Oshima nevertheless can be construed as contraries, if not opposites. (It would be illuminating to pair certain of their films: Imamura’s A Man Vanishes with Oshima’s The Man Who Left His Will on Film; Pigs and Battleships with The Sun’s Burial; Vengeance Is Mine with Violence at Noon.) Where Imamura made defiantly “messy” and “juicy” (his preferred terms) films that celebrated the irrational, the instinctual, the carnal, squalid, violent, and superstitious life of Japan’s underclass, Oshima’s films are primarily ideational, probing, and controlled even when anarchic (e.g. Three Resurrected Drunkards). Which is not to say they are dry (as opposed to juicy) or cerebral. Even at their most complex – the densely structured Night and Fog in Japan, for instance, all but dictates a second viewing – Oshima’s works exhibit such wit, beauty, and furious invention, never mind profound feeling, that their conceptual gambits take on sensual and emotional force. They are less the product of a postmodernist sensibility, as some critics have characterized Oshima’s strategies, than of a desperate intelligence. Oshima made films as if they were a matter of life and death.

The Oshima series has been producing a bumper crop of writing, a lot of it available online. At Artforum, here's Jonathan Rosenbaum:

Oshima's cinema consists of particular interventions in Japan’s internal political debates, and freely draws on forms as well as styles that seem to come from everywhere, including Japan. Some would call this disconcertingly voracious trait “very Japanese,” and it helps to account for the truism that no two Oshima films are alike. Each new feature critiques its predecessors: After vowing to abolish green from his palette in his first foray into color, Cruel Story of Youth, as a way of refusing any trace of domestic tranquillity, he used green frequently and effectively two features later (without suggesting much domestic tranquillity), in his first truly personal work, Night and Fog in Japan, meanwhile countering the earlier film’s neorealist locations and handheld-camera movements with artificially lit theatrical spaces and smooth if restless pans between characters at a wedding party. Both films are steeped in the dark pessimism characteristic of Oshima’s films of the ’60s. [...]

Where Oshima differs most strikingly from an antisentimental, leftist provocateur like Buñuel is in the relative absence of humanism in his work. (Boy, a mainly sympathetic look at a lonely ten-year-old con artist, is a rare exception.) If The Sun’s Burial (1960)—an early shocker about rival street gangs in an Osaka slum—was partly inspired by Buñuel’s Los Olvidados (1950), as the British DVD’s liner notes maintain, the notion of Oshima showing any tenderness toward his doomed punks, as Buñuel does toward Jaibo, is unthinkable—even if Oshima is no less outraged by corpses being dumped like garbage. And the repeated occurrences of sexual assault (mainly rape) in Cruel Story of Youth, The Sun’s Burial, Violence at Noon (1966), Sing a Song of Sex (1967), Death by Hanging, Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (1968), The Man Who Left His Will on Film (1970), Empire of Passion, and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence—usually committed by his protagonists and often seen as acts of rebellion against the Japanese state (a view at least contested in Death by Hanging)—suggest that, with the possible exception of In the Realm of the Senses, feminism and nonviolence are not exactly hallmarks of his leftist positions.

* * *

John Wakeman's two-volume World Film Directors (1988; Norton), which weighs in at 2000+ pages, was the first book of filmmaker overview essays I can remember buying. Today, it seems stronger to me on informational detail than on personality. Richard Roud's 2-volume Cinema: A Critical Dictionary (1980; Martin, Secker & Warburg) is probably my single favorite collection in the genre. The list of writers includes: Noel Burch, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Jean-Andre Fieschi, Tom Milne, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Andrew Sarris, Robin Wood, and many others. The essays in the St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia edited by Andrew Sarris (1998; Visible Ink Press) are less lengthy and substantive in comparison to the Roud, but they have the advantage of including a wider range of filmmakers, many of them recent. Speaking of Sarris, his You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet: The American Talking Film, History & Memory, 1927-1949 (1998; Oxford) has the edge on his classic The American Cinema (1969) in one respect: its filmmaker essays are longer and meatier. A rare example for avant-garde cinema: Arden Press released two excellent volumes under the title Film: The Front Line, written by Jonathan Rosenbaum (1983) and David Ehrenstein (1984). A few years ago, my first encounter with David Thomson's The Biographical Dictionary of Film occurred with the most recent edition (2002; Knopf). I was struck immediately by the cursoriness of recent world/art cinema coverage and, annoyed, I put away the book. I picked it up again recently and loved the older pieces on Hawks and Rivette. I need to cherry-pick my way through it for the good stuff. Jean-Pierre Coursodon and Pierre Sauvage's 2-volume American Directors (1983; McGraw-Hill) is a recent discovery that I'm eager to dive into. Finally, the Senses of Cinema Great Directors database is the definitive resource of its kind on the Interwebs.

Can I ask: Do you have some favorite examples of either books or individual essays, print or online, of filmmaker overview pieces? Perhaps this post could serve as a collecting place for recommendations and suggestions.

* * *

Some links:

-- "Manifesting the Ineffable": Darren has a wonderful conversation with Nathaniel Dorsky at Auteurs' Notebook.

-- Adrian's monthly column at Filmkrant: "Has film criticism entered its decadent phase? That term is used by art historians to designate the historic moment when an art form or medium turns its attention away from everything outside of itself - such as the real world - and looks inward, to its own devices, its own position, its own history. Decadence - or, to use a less loaded word, self-consciousness - tends to come around cyclically, at moments when, for one reason or another, such introspection becomes pressing. The art or discourse must take stock of itself, temporarily, in order to renew itself and continue its outer-directed mission."

-- Steven Shaviro discovers that the new issue of a poetry publication contains a poem credited to him that he didn't write. It prompts him to share some reflections on present-day "avant-gardism." (I'm in the publication too, credited with a poem I've never laid eyes on. Steve and I are both on poet Ron Silliman's blogroll, perhaps the reason why we ended up being unwittingly 'harvested' for this conceptual art project, if that's what it is.)

-- Speaking of filmmaker overview essays, Jonathan Rosenbaum has just posted one from 1988 on Sergei Parajanov.

-- Via Jonathan: an annotated shot list for RR from James Benning; Kristin Thompson's comments on the film from Vancouver (scroll down a bit); and Benning himself has a piece at the Wexner Center blog.

-- Kimberly Lindbergs has a post on fashion and The Thomas Crown Affair. (I must now see this film. Also, the Michel Legrand soundtrack is one of my favorites.)

-- At Owen Hatherley's: Walerian Borowczyk and Jan Lenica's short film Dom (1958).

-- Tucker Teague at Pilgrim Akimbo: "How the Post-Christendom Church Mirrors the Impulse of Postmodern Art."

-- Jason Sperb and Will Scheibel announce a James Bond blogathon at Dr. Mabuse's Kaleido-Scope.

-- At The Listening Ear: an analysis of the crane shot in Ozu's Early Summer.

-- Philip Horne on Thorold Dickinson in The Guardian.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pop Secret

Here's an interesting paradox: some of the best pop music isn't very popular at all. Robert Christgau has written about this phenomenon. He coined the term "semi-popular" to describe music that is 'pop' in a formal, aesthetic sense more than it is in a commercial or sociological sense.

For this post, I gave myself an assignment. I would scour my music collection and pick the best example I could find of a pop music album that is (1) stunning; but (2) little known. I offer: What Up, Dog?, released by the Detroit band Was (Not Was) in 1988.

Was (Not Was) is an unusual group. The two founder-members are Jewish musicians Don Fagenson and David Weiss, both multi-instrumentalists. They command an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop song forms and styles, and they have a rare, Steely Dan-esque gift for composing acerbic songs that are rich in social observation. In a brilliant stroke, because they are confessed non-singers, the Brothers Was use two black soul/funk vocalists to sing their deeply weird songs. The resulting clash of sensibilities, played out against often sunny pop arrangements, results in a strangeness and tension that no number of repeat listenings can dispel.

Over the years the group has assembled a large and unusual roster of guest lead singers including Mel Torme, Ozzy Osbourne, Leonard Cohen, Kim Basinger, Marshall Crenshaw, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Mitch Ryder, and Doug ("My Sharona") Fieger. The singers in each case are slyly pitted against lyric material that is often completely at odds with the expectations we bring to these performers.

Here for you to sample are three tracks from the album: "Anytime Lisa" [mp3], "Wedding Vows in Vegas" [mp3] with Frank Sinatra Jr. on lead vocal, and "Somewhere in America There's A Street Named After My Dad" [mp3].

And now can I ask you to suggest: one or more albums, from your collections, of great pop music that isn't very well known?

* * *

Some links:

-- A highlight of the new issue of Artforum is a Nagisa Oshima overview essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum. Also in the issue: P. Adams Sitney on Temenos 2008; Bruce Jenkins on Bruce Conner; and Amy Taubin on Wendy and Lucy and Ballast.

-- At his site, Rosenbaum has a piece called "Bushwhacked Cinema".

-- David Hudson has a post and podcast from the NYFF panel on film criticism last weekend.

-- Zach on Jon Jost and Irving Lerner (among other things).

-- Rob at Daily Plastic revisits the Coens' Burn After Reading upon encountering other critics' praise of the film.

-- Catherine Morris at Bookforum on three new books on Yvonne Rainer, one of them by the artist herself.

-- Dave Kehr in the NYT on older British cinema.

-- New pieces galore at Moving Image Source including David Schwartz interviewing Andrew Sarris and Molly Haskell; and three Oshima essays (so far) by Chris Fujiwara, Mike Atkinson and Joshua Land.

-- The new issue of Offscreen magazine is devoted to French cinema.