Tag Archives: Comps

Executive Omission

David Hesmondhalgh’s mammoth, brilliant, funny, and carefully argued The Cultural Industries (3rd Edition) articulates its plan to explore the changes in Cultural Labour (among many other things) during the post-1980 era, both explaining and evaluating the changes and continuities within institutions and the texts they’ve created.  That’s great; H continues, categorizing cultural laborers as Symbol Creators, Technical Workers, Creative Managers, Unskilled Workers, and Owners and Executives.  When he gets to the detailed analysis of these groups, though, he spends the lions share of his time on Symbol Creators (as Makers of Texts) — and winds up ignoring “Owners and Executives” completely!


Am I supposed to take this personally?  I spent more than half of my 25-year career as a “cultural industries executive” (I prefer the term “Culture Industry,” but that’s a rant for another day) — so, David, what am I, chopped liver?


“Weird Al” Yancovic, “Take Me to the Liver”

(Starts at about 3:30)


Rev. Al Green, “Take Me to the River”


Talking Heads, “Take Me to the River” (from Stop Making Sense)


  • They make a nice chopped liver sandwich [Kenny & Zuke’s, pdf]
  • Like Bubbe made, only better — and they dare you to finish it [Katz’s Deli]


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Totally Rad(ley)

Reading David Andrews’s Theorizing Art Cinema — with its frequent references to his previous scholarly work in Softcore studies — put me in the mood to check out some Radley Metzger films, to re-familiarize myself with his “aspirational” art-core porn.  I’d started his 1970 Lickerish Quartet (available on Fandor) mostly to check out the library scene (I’m planning on swiping the decor, if not the wardrobe, for my new office, sometime during the summer), but started watching an earlier, inferior movie (Carmen Baby, 1967) more attentively.  I’m not sure why.  It’s a fairly standard narrative-number formula, mostly boring but spiked by one or two noteworthy scenes.  You might not look at long-necked bottles of Vino the same way again, thanks to one “erotic” dance sequence; there’s another protracted “love-making” scene in which the horizontally grinding couple is shot through multi-color cocktail glasses and brandy snifters (you can tell Metzger thought his tracking shot was pretty cool — he repeats the whole thing a second time for good measure).

I can’t really argue that it’s very good, but it has the virtue of being available on-call (like the film’s titular good-time girl) — and easily watched for free if you’re an Amazon Prime member.  The price is right!  But don’t be too snooty if you don’t like it; you can read all about highbrow disdain for Metzger’s artsy-fartsy aspirations here, in Andrews’s Soft in the Middle: The Contemporary Softcore Feature in Its Contexts, and feel bad about yourself if you are.  On the other hand, if you like to see pouty Italians roll their eyes as they rub up on one another, thrashing around in tight (shoulders-up) close-up reaction shots during acts of simulated oral sex — this one’s for you!

Carmen, Baby trailer — hope you like wine glasses!

Lickerish Quartet trailerwith excellent acclaim pull-quotes from Denby and Warhol (among others)!

  • Update!  You can buy Anna Biller’s Viva directly from her website! [Life of a Star]
  • I think I’m going to spend some time reading through Biller’s blog, too.  Pretty interesting, self-reflective stuff [Anna Biller’s Blog]
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Everyone’s a critic

According to David Andrews, “Personal taste isn’t the province of the film scholar.  It is the province of the mainstream film critic” (Theorizing Art Cinema, 33).  In other words, instead of constructing elaborate theories of or rationales about why the movies we love are the best ones and the most worthy of watching — that is, the movies that we think should be the most canonical — scholars should ward off the temptation to “articulate or defend that very personal form of connoisseurship” in favor of being “more detached, telling us what is going on and how that relates to what has gone on in the past” (33).


Well, sure.  But I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.


My (academic) career traveled an old-school (ahem) route from the English Department to Film Studies to Media Studies, and many of my (aged) colleagues followed a similar route (kids today, they seem to jump right into “media studies” or something comparable).  The chief reason for people to spend a decade in grad school studying literature, as I recall, was that these folks loved to read the stuff; further, they (that is, the PhDs I left behind when I jumped into the Media Industry proper) specialized in the books they liked to read most.  Nobody suggested that the Dryden scholar, for instance, should be more “detached” and shouldn’t like and advocate the (unreadable, imo) works of the Restoration; in fact, text-based “taste hierarchies” were sort of expected of ’em (and part of how profs would compete and attract grad student followers).  For film/tv acads that trickled into the electronic disciplines from literature, then, the whole point of being in film and tv is to study (and champion and pontificate about) things they love most (full confession: in my own case, I preferred watching Hitchcock to reading William Dean Howells).  Yes, Andrews is right: it is “better” to step aside from the tangentially related discipline of “film (and tv) criticism” to be more critically removed — well, better if you’ve got an agenda grounded in Cultural Studies, Marxism, Political Economy or some other discipline that treats creative works as means to an end, texts to prove larger socio-political-cultural points (and Andrews’s unspoken assumption is that one should).  But didn’t “aca-fandom” make the (ivory tower) world safe for personal taste?


Interestingly enough, the “detached” perspective Andrews advocates seems to be more descriptive of my former colleagues in television: it is the hallmark of a good tv programmer, as an example, that his or her personal preferences do NOT get reflected in the acquisition or scheduling of anything on a network (and the reverse — that revealing one’s taste on-air via scheduling or acquisition is a sign of amateurishness — is also true).  And for the record: I think Andrews might be a lot more believable on this “detached” score if he didn’t keep advocating the (crappy, at best) films of softcore “art-cult” filmmaker Tony Marsiglia — but to each his own, right?


Chantal (Marsiglia 2007)

Maybe you’ll love it?  Even more than Showgirls?


And I hope my (middlebrow? nobrow?) roots aren’t showing, but my favorite film in this sorta genre is Coyote Ugly:



  • I’m a Radley Metzger fan — where can I find me a copy of Anna Biller’s homage to his work, Viva?  Andrews makes it sound like fun! [YouTube]
  • Andrews’s book about soft-core sounds pretty fantastic too.  I’ll be checking it out post-comps! [Amazon]
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Power, Pleasure, and Peeping Pre-Porn

I’ve begun working my way through Linda Williams’s Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the ‘Frenzy of the Visible,'” and I was particularly struck by her description of the difference between the gendered subjects of Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies; one of her arguments is that hard-core porn is present in the construction of cinema itself, at its origin, in the 19th century scientia sexualis (per Foucault) that evinces a compulsive “desire to see” that undergirds all of cinema (p 36-39).  I’m doing a disservice to the argument, of course, but I’d do an even worse job at summarizing her debunking of Laura Mulvey and siding with Luce Irigary over questions of essentializing women (the kind of Freudian analysis that made me bail on academia decades ago).  The point that intrigued me, though, was Williams’s description of the difference between Muybridge’s men and women: men are depicted in his famous, landmark motion studies as being “natural” in movement, with few, utilitarian props (baseballs, garden hoes, etc), while women are accompanied by borderline-narrative details and costuming (flouncy garments, chatty scenes of conversations, smoking cigarettes, etc).

Of course I had to hunt for some documentation, to see for myself — and this stuff is fascinating, hypnotic, and naughty — it’s perversely pleasurable, so to speak.  Surely I’m not the only late-night surfer whose frenzy of the visible makes him — and, duh, her — desire to see more?


Muybridge Collection: Female Subjects, 1884-87


If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably gonna want to check out nekkid-fella hopscotch, right?



More, including two nearly-nekkid dudes engaging in some good, clean blacksmithing (around 1:50; does that seem “near-narrative” to you?  Does to me.  Hmm …):


Note: it’s not for nothing that Muybridge’s buddies called him “Eadweird” behind his back.


  • Gender-egalitarian Muybridge-style leapfrogging: animation for a better world, for sure [YouTube]
  • Faculty homepage for the scary-smart — and occasionally hilarious — Linda Williams [UC Berkeley]
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Currying Anger

Maybe it’s because I just flew through Hoberman and Rosenbaum’s Midnight Movies, but I couldn’t help thinking about Kenneth Anger’s Kustom Kar Kommandos when I stumbled upon Tim Curry’s disturbingly 1979ish “Paradise Garage.”  Why shouldn’t the NYC underground of the ’60s have collapsed into the Rocky Horrorified new wave of the ’90s?  I think I remember seeing the video for “Paradise Garage” paired with Curry’s similarly fantastic “I Do the Rock” at the Uniondale Mini-Cinema the first time I saw RHPS, but that was a very long time ago, and I might have dreamed the whole thing (by “whole thing,” of course, I mean 1979).

“Paradise Garage”

Kustom Kar Kommandos (Anger, 1965)


“I Do the Rock”


  • I wish I could have attended this RHPS event at the Mini-Cinema, but I was busy wasting my time as a freshman in college [Rocky Music]
  • Get Institutionalized! (Or cut out this button and tape it to your computer, like I’m doing) [Cinema Treasures]
  • SIX classic Anger films — watch Puce Moment (1949) right now! [Ubu]
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