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The venerable and exceedingly intermittent Plastic Podcast, which has outlived the two blogs with which it was intertwined, and whose audio archives were difficult to ...

The Plastic Podcast

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Plastic Podcast

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Daily Plastic is a Chicago-based movie blog, a collaboration between Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks, the same pair who brought you the wearable movie tote, the razor-thin pencil pocket, and that joke about aardvarks. If you know the whereabouts of the blue Pontiac Tempest that was towed from the Plastic Parking Lot on the evening of August 7th, 2008, or more importantly if you've recovered the red shoebox that was in its trunk, please contact us at your earliest convenience.

Davis was the chief film critic for the late, great Paste Magazine (which lives on now as a website) from 2005 through 2009, and he counts this interview with Claire Denis among his favorite moments. Every once in a while he pops up on Twitter. He's presently sipping puerh in Chicago, even at this hour. Meanwhile, Parks, whose work has appeared in TimeOut Chicago, The Hyde Park Herald, and Paste, is molding unsuspecting, college-aged minds in the aforementioned windy city. Media types are warned to stay clear of his semester-sized field of influence because of the distorting effects that are likely to develop.

The © copyright of all content on Daily Plastic belongs to the respective authors.


Erika Bók in Béla Tarr's Sátántangó

Look at this image from Béla Tarr's film Sátántangó. In one long tracking shot, a girl named Estike played by Erica Bók walks down a dirt road, and the camera tracks backward in front of her. Often we can see what must be — barring an unlikely digital effect or an overly elaborate crane — the freshly made tracks of the camera dolly, clearly visible on the ground behind her. We accept them without question because they make sense within the story: maybe they were made by a cart or by a vehicle that recently travelled down the same road.

In other words, a mark made by the machinery of cinema has an internal explanation within the narrative, and it's only when we stop to think about how the film works, technically, that we even notice it. But that's exactly what Béla Tarr's films ask us to do, especially the 7.5-hour Sátántangó. They ask us to stop and think, to meditate on what we're seeing, and he gives us plenty of time to do that with shots of people walking for minutes at a time.

Lately I've been interested in films that, intentionally or not, allow the evidence of their production to harmonize with their themes. Such evidence isn't an error but an amplification, a subtle echo, a brush stroke.

The first issue of Unspoken Journal appeared today, and it's dedicated to Tarr. I've contributed a rumination on Sátántangó.

While Sátántangó is often described as a detailed self-contained world, like all films it shows evidence of the filmmaking process, sometimes unintentionally as in the photographer’s reflection, sometimes playfully like the visible brush strokes of the Impressionists, and sometimes individually in an active viewer’s mind. What is most unusual about Sátántangó is that the film itself seems to mingle with its own themes of external, quasi-spiritual forces. As the characters react to foreign elements, the cinematic machinery breaches the narrative hull, hinting at something outside the film: the filmmaker, viewer, and apparatus of its art.

Read more at Unspoken Journal, edited and assembled by Yvette Biró, Edwin Mak and HarryTuttle. The issue is full good stuff.

Laika / Focus Features
  • Neat: David Bordwell observes that the Coraline animators took an unusual approach to perspective and depth cues. (via Where the Stress Falls)
  • Troubling: New Yorker Films is closing. The loss of this major DVD and theatrical distributor, whose roster is heavy with the work of international master filmmakers, could have a significant impact on what we can see in the States. Related: the history of New Yorker Films was discussed on The Leonard Lopate Show two years ago. (via Long Pauses)
  • Uncertain: Paul Starr gives the difficult problem of newspaper viability a thorough, rigorous examination in The New Republic. Remember that Roger Ebert called the newspaper film critic a canary in this coal mine. But here's another point of view, about magazines, from Cathie Black.
Stefana McClure
Don't Look Now: closed captions to a film by Nicolas Roeg, red transfer paper mounted on rag, 18.2 x 27 inches, 2004

I wrote this short column for Paste Magazine some time ago and then forgot about it for a while. It's about the unique and curious work of artist Stefana McClure, and I'm glad to see it resurface on the web. Ironically it was cut from the magazine in the great 21st century paper shortage with which we're now all familiar.

Delphine Seyrig in Alain Resnais' Muriel

Bay Area film writer Brian Darr polls his fellow San Francisco cinephiles at the end of every year to gather a list of favorite repertory or revival screenings, and reading the entries is always a testament to how much film is available to see outside the house. It's also fun to participate, since it means looking over all the year's screenings that weren't eligible for any sort of awards, even though they're often the highlights of the year. As Brian says, "No two eyes can witness all the splendid film presentations that occur in a year here," and "[c]ollectively, these fifteen lists might provide a reasonably accurate view of the range and depth of cinematic experiences to be had for a Frisco Bay rep-head in 2008."

Here's my entry, and from there you can find the others.

I was extra lucky to participate this year since I was only in San Francisco through May. Still, it was hard to whittle my list to ten. As J. Robert Parks has shown, the offerings in Chicago are rich as well, and one of my resolutions is to take better advantage of them this year.

For more year-end list commentary, see 2008 in Negative.

This week the New York Times gives us three profiles of old souls, two of them unplanned:

  • Michael Kimmelman reveals the present-day whereabouts of Bruno S. who, some thirty years ago, emerged from nowhere to give a remarkably odd performance as the title character in Werner Herzog's The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. Kimmelman's portrait describes Mr. S.'s apartment as a labyrinth that rivals Ken and Flo Jacobs' Manhattan flat and notes that the space includes a curious piece of furniture, courtesy Mr. Herzog.
  • Harold Pinter has died.
  • And, on Christmas Day, so has Eartha Kitt.

    Chiang Kai-shek sends me pots of tea
    Gayelord Hauser sends me vitamin D
    And, furthermore, Ike likes me


  • Neat: How cool to see graphic artist Chris Ware's take on Ozu's Tokyo Story, as highlighted by Doug Cummings at
  • Clever: Google has observed a correlation between certain queries and the presence of the flu. Organize those queries geographically and, voila, you have Google's Flu Trends.
  • Funny: I can imagine someone applying George C. Scott's disgust in Hardcore to any number of clips, but someone on YouTube has applied it to Rick Astley. (via Matt Prigge)

  • You may have heard that instead of moving on to other things, Jay Leno is staying on at NBC even after they give The Tonight Show to Conan O'Brien. Why? Because they're giving him an hour of prime time every day to continue a show very much like the one he's doing now. I can't imagine this is the future that O'Brien envisioned; see Conan's non-comment.
  • Did you hear about the stage actor in Austria who thought he was sticking himself with a prop knife when actually it was a real one? "He collapsed on stage with blood pouring from his neck and the audience started to applaud the spectacular special effects," says The Telegraph.
  • Sorry, that's not our sort of thing. We're all about movies and such.
  • Oh, who cares. Here's Stephen Fry in five parts:

Continues in parts 2, 3, 4, and 5

It's quick summary week in the Elsewhere department:

Listen, people. Can't Wellington the Wiggly Worm and Booker T. Bluebird live together in peace?

Halloween is fast approaching, so if you're planning to decorate your stoop or dress up that bale of hay that's sitting on your front lawn, you're going to need some pumpkins, first off. Second, you're going to want to carve faces into one or more of them, just like the one shown here. It's the traditional way. All your neighbors are doing it. But if you need instructions, check this site, which has more pictures of sample jack-o-lanterns for you to copy.

• • •

Too much work? The other tradition is turning off the porch light, reclining with an oversized bag of individually wrapped, bite sized candy bars, and watching a scary movie. For suggested rentals, we're turning to the gray lady's Dave Kehr, bloody historian:

Psycho, of course, was the great game-changer of the horror genre. Hitchcock’s masterpiece did away with any residual, romantic notions of the supernatural. True horror was to be found in the malformations of the human mind, and in the graphic violence practiced upon human bodies. By the time The Texas Chainsaw Massacre appeared in 1974, there was no turning back: the old dark house was now populated by psychopaths rather than spirits, and the ruling metaphor was the butcher shop.

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