Posts Tagged ‘documentary’
March 11, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
We’ve posted the first chapter of Big, Bent Ears, Sam Stephenson and Ivan Weiss’s “Serial in Documentary Uncertainty.” If you missed it, we launched the series last week; it’s a combination of video, audio, photography, and writing in various arrangements and states of completion. This week, Sam and Ivan examine the overlap between two of their projects, one focused on the writer Joseph Mitchell and the other on the Big Ears Music Festival, featuring the musician Jonny Greenwood and the Wordless Music Orchestra, among others:
At some point that week, though, the word ear began, well, ringing in ours. The Knoxville music festival is called Big Ears, recalling Mitchell’s “bent” ones. We now wonder whether the type of careful, concentrated sonic experience on display at Big Ears—where the audience is invited to move outside their comfort zones and immerse themselves in new sounds—is analogous to Mitchell’s old-fashioned manner of venturing out into the back alleys of New York to hear people talk.
Read the piece here. The next installment comes in two weeks, on March 25—stay tuned.
March 4, 2015 | by Dan Piepenbring
Many of you know Sam Stephenson from his excellent contributions to the Daily over the years. But he also has, with Ivan Weiss, a documentary nonprofit called Rock Fish Stew—they’ve worked on projects about everything from jazz to baseball. And starting today, they’re collaborating with The Paris Review on a new series of multimedia pieces called “Big, Bent Ears: A Serial in Documentary Uncertainty.” As they explain in the prologue,
We pursue hunches, welcome distractions, give ourselves space to associate freely. There’s something indulgent in this approach—childlike, some might say—but we try to balance our impulses with learned rigor … We’ll offer combinations of video, audio, photography, and writing in various arrangements and states of completion.
So why the name? Whose ears are both big and bent, save perhaps certain breeds of dog? Sam and Ivan explain:
The name Big, Bent Ears derives from our two current projects, the Joseph Mitchell Project and the Big Ears Documentary Project. Joseph Mitchell, the midcentury chronicler of the back alleys of New York City, was renowned for his uncanny ear … his first collection was called My Ears Are Bent.
Big Ears is one of the country’s preeminent experimental music festivals. It features the likes of composer Steve Reich, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, music-art icon Laurie Anderson, tUnE-yArDs, Nazoranai, and the Kronos Quartet, among many others … In an age of quick hits and attention deficits, Big Ears focuses on long listening and the noncommercial craft of music and sound.
Read their prologue here, and check back on March 11 for the first chapter of their story. We’re looking forward to seeing what they come up with, and how far afield they roam.
Dan Piepenbring is the web editor of The Paris Review.
October 29, 2014 | by Adam Sobsey
Finding a Hall of Fame for Dock Ellis.
Let’s get Dock Ellis into the Hall of Fame. Oh, not really, of course—by the Hall’s statistical criteria, he isn’t even close. But after a visit to Cooperstown in September, I found myself imagining a Hall of Fame that would enshrine him.
Ellis is unquestionably famous, after all—infamous, too. He is the subject of No No: A Dockumentary, which headlined the Hall of Fame Film Festival I attended last month; a Society for American Baseball Research panel event a few weeks later; a psychedelic song, recorded in 1993, by Barbara Manning; and, especially, an excellent book, published in 1976, by The Paris Review’s own Donald Hall, Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball. Evidence keeps mounting that Dock—always flamboyant, often controversial—was the emblematic player of his era, the seventies, with its dubious introduction of such artificialities as the designated hitter and Astroturf; the acrimonious battle for free agency; and all those drugs.
Ah, yes, drugs. Ellis, who died in 2008, is best known as the pitcher who, in 1970, threw a no-hitter while tripping on acid—appropriately, his name in a box score reads, “Ellis, D.”—but that freak feat is a red herring, and it’s not even his most freakish. On May 1, 1974, Dock decided to send a message to the Pirates’ archrivals, the intimidating Cincinnati Reds, who had cowed Pittsburgh into competitive docility. “We gonna get down,” Dock decided. “We gonna do the do. I’m going to hit these motherfuckers.” Donald Hall recounts Ellis’s plan and its execution. The first guy Dock hit was Pete Rose (who should also be in the Hall of Fame, though for very different and far more genuine reasons). After he hit three batters, walked another who ducked and dodged four pitches, and threw two beanballs at future Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, Ellis was mercifully removed from the game with this remarkable stat line: zero innings pitched, no hits, no strikes thrown, three hit batsmen, one walk, one run allowed. “Dock Ellis faced four batters in the first inning,” the box score decorously explains. Dock’s own explanation of himself in No No says more: “It’s not that you’ve got to watch how I pitch,” he insists. “You’ve got to watch how I play.” Read More »
September 10, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
On Sunday, I saw Salinger. Having seen the trailer, not to mention the posters, my companions and I had reason to expect a certain degree of bombast. As such, we came armed with skepticism and whiskey, hoping to hear some interesting interviews, see some neat archival footage, and learn a little something in the bargain. What we learned is that you cannot go into this movie without a highly organized game plan.
I will not attempt a review of Salinger; plenty of people much smarter and better qualified than I have done so already. What I can do, by way of a public service, is extend the following warnings to anyone who would attempt to play a drinking game while watching Salinger, because it is a road fraught with peril.
We entered into the experience with a level of naivete that, today, seems laughable. We had only one half-formed rule: whenever anyone on screen says “recluse,” everyone takes a drink. Alas! Within fifteen minutes we had depleted the miniature bottle of whiskey I had recently been given in a gift bag. The documentary clocks in at 129 minutes. On the other hand, sufficient supplies would have left us supine and slack-jawed. In order to help other moviegoers, my companions and I quickly compiled a list of warnings.
If one wishes to play a drinking game while watching Salinger, and wishes to avoid illness, potential alcohol poisoning, or complete inebriation, under NO CIRCUMSTANCES do the following:
- Drink whenever a random actor inexplicably says something with tremendous authority.
- Drink whenever a random actor or writer whose career is based in areas completely unrelated to the writing and/or criticism of fiction holds forth with tremendous authority from an empty movie theater, an empty five-star restaurant, or the back of a moving vehicle.
- Drink whenever one hears the sounds of typewriter keys, presumably hard at work on mysterious manuscript that will eventually be imprisoned in vault.
- Drink whenever a reenactor who looks nothing like J. D. Salinger sits around being tortured by the world/humanity/horrors of war.
- Drink whenever horrors of war are indicated with literal battlefield sound effects.
- Drink whenever a structure commonly referred to as a “house” is described as a “bunker.”
- Drink whenever you see a covered bridge.
- Drink whenever someone who harassed J. D. Salinger talks with a total lack of embarrassment about bothering him.
- Drink when you start to feel exactly the way you did when you first saw Bambi and realized you were Man and evil and you hated yourself and humanity (which is what is really scary about Bambi, not just the shooting).
You may drink in the following circumstances:
- When you discover WHAT HAPPENED TO J. D. SALINGER.
Prepared in consultation with Matthew Colvard, Taylor Anne Lane, and Peter Wolfgang.
April 8, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Documentary filmmaker Les Blank has died, at age seventy-seven. In memoriam, a clip from one of his many films devoted to traditional American music, The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins.
March 28, 2013 | by Tim Small
Alexa Karolinski is an old friend. I first met her in 2005, when I was the editor at VICE Italy, in Milan, and she was a particularly bright intern at the VICE Germany office. Alexa quit VICE a few months after I met her; she then moved to Paris for a while, started working in television for ARTE, met her husband, moved back to Berlin, and then moved to New York three years ago, where she studied documentary filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts. And now she is a film director. Oma & Bella, her first feature-length film, began as her thesis, and was then released in German cinemas after being accepted at the Berlin Film Festival last year. If, like me, you have any sort of fascination with World War II, food, and your grandma, it is an absolutely must-see documentary.
Oma & Bella tells the story of best friends Bella Katz and Regina Karolinski (Alexa’s grandmother), two octogenarian Holocaust survivors among the oldest surviving members of Berlin’s Jewish community, who moved in together when Regina had a hip operation. They spend most of their time cooking traditional Eastern European Jewish food, giving that food to their family, talking about food, organizing dinners, going food shopping, preparing food, washing the utensils they use to prepare food, putting food in Tupperware and freezing it, and occasionally taking a break from the food in the form of an amble to the park or the cemetery. With a delicate grace and a warm sense of humor, Alexa made one of the most touching portraits of an elderly couple―and of Holocaust survivors―I have ever seen on screen.
A few months after the movie was released, we collaborated on The Oma & Bella Cookbook. That is to say: when Alexa told me she wanted to make a cookbook that would collect the movie’s recipes, I begged her to let the Milan Review design it.
I recently got on Skype with Alexa to talk about her movie, grandparents, and food.
So, tell me—exactly when did you decide to make this movie?
It began about three years ago, when I was living in Berlin and decided that I wanted to learn how to cook. At the time I couldn’t cook anything more complicated than scrambled eggs and I decided that one day, my children—the children I don’t have yet—should be able to eat the food I grew up with. Therefore, I needed to learn that from my grandmother, and from her best friend, Bella, who she lives with. So I started cooking with them and then I kind of decided very quickly that it wasn’t enough to just cook with them, that I would have needed to write down the recipes and make a cookbook out of it.
It must have been daunting.
Yes. And they don’t cook with measurements—they go by eye—so I had to learn how to cook with them and invent the measurements just by watching them cook. So basically I started this cookbook project, and within that cookbook project I was looking for a visual landscape. And one day I kind of decided, knowing that I was going to go back to film school, to rent a camera and, just for fun, film them. Then I cut a two-minute teaser out of that, just to teach myself how to use Final Cut. And then, when I moved to New York, I showed this around, mostly just to show some friends how much I love my grandmother and how amazing she is. And people were like, This is gonna be your thesis film, and I kind of thought, Yeah, I guess it is. Read More »