Friday, May 26, 2023

Notes on Film: 10 Things I Love About Junesploitation

 by Anthony King

Plus a slew of short films.

Even though the world is still turning, life continues, and podcasts must be recorded, my brain space is almost entirely filled with everything revolving around Junesploitation. The planning, the dreaming, the anticipation of it all. And because I've primarily only been watching things for podcast prep or Blu-ray reviews, I thought I'd give an update on one of my 2023 movie goals. I set the goal of watching at least one short film per day for the entire year, and surprisingly, I've kept up on it. Here are a few I'd like to recommend to you.
The Key to Reserva (2007) is a fascinating documentary/fictional narrative blend all in 10 minutes. But wait! It's not a blend at all! It's a commercial for Freixenet Cava champagne. I'm discovering this all as I'm writing these very words. The film begins with Martin Scorsese telling an interviewer he discovered an unfinished script by Alfred Hitchcock called “The Key to Reserva.” Only three pages exist of this script, so Scorsese sets out to film those three pages plus a conclusion. After Scorsese sets up the whole thing, we're treated to an epic and beautiful short film starring Simon Baker, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Kelli O'Hara in a dialogue-free, very Hitchcock-esque story about a man trying to rescue his wife who is being held hostage. Before the rescue occurs, the film stops, Scorsese enters, and proceeds to say this is where the pages end, before cutting to him and Thelma Schoonmaker in the cutting room putting together a conclusion to the story. I am shocked (and a little embarrassed) to discover this wasn't an actual Hitchcock script, and that makes it all the more interesting.
I recently took a trip through the work of Austrian avant-garde filmmaker Kurt Kren. Like the work of Stan Brakhage, Kren's work is hypnotic and transportive if you allow yourself to go there. Out of the 11 shorts that I watched of Kren's, two really stand out. The first is called 10/65: Self-Mutilation (1965). Kren films controversial performance artist Günter Brus in an act where he's covered in plaster, already a disturbing image, surrounded by medical instruments (scalpels, razors, and other unidentifiable scary-looking tools). As the five minutes progress, Brus begins to insert, use, and abuse the instruments, sometimes methodically, sometimes erratically. It's at once beautiful and disturbing, and, while I'm glad I watched it, I'm grateful it was only five minutes long.

While Self-Mutilation affected me in one way, Kren's 31/75: Asylum (1975) moved me to tears. It's an eight-minute silent film that was filmed over 21 days spread throughout an entire year, the same shot showing the same meadow through the seasons in Saarland, Germany. Kren places cutouts in front of his lens, obscuring the image as if we're looking out a window through tattered curtains. It's not until the final 90 seconds where we get glimpses of the full image. It was at that point that my emotions ran wild and I began to cry. The beauty of this very simple image was so profound after spending nearly eight minutes shrouded behind different obstructions that I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with emotion.
The final short film I'd like to recommend is a silent comedy from 1923 called It's a Gift from director Hugh Fay starring “Snub” Pollard. The film opens with a group of oil men standing on the street brainstorming ways to sell their product. Each has a different gimmick that ultimately fails. Then one mentions an inventor played by Pollard who has devised a new substitute for gas. They send a telegram and that's when we meet the inventor, still in bed, surrounded by ropes and pulleys. Once awake he tugs a rope and a Rube Goldberg-esque machine goes to work cooking him breakfast and bringing the mail. He sees the telegram, gets dressed, gets in his tiny car, pulls out a giant magnet and points it in the direction he wants to go. Once a car passes, the magnet activates and off he goes. This is a hysterical silent film that had me rolling in the way Buster Keaton films do. And I'm convinced this is where Pee-Wee Herman got the idea for his machine at the beginning of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985).

Now onto the topic at hand. Junesploitation starts next Thursday with Teenagers! I'm kicking off my favorite time of the year with a movie that inspired the first musical I ever wrote – Kids (1995). As for my column for the month of June I'll be reviewing what I watched the previous seven days and previewing what I'll be watching the next seven. Here are 10 things I love about Junesploitation.

1. Theme Days! Half the work is already done thanks to our man Patrick. Look at the theme, head to Letterboxd (if you use it), apply some filters, and Bob's your uncle! And there are so many lists on Letterboxd you can utilize for ideas, the possibilities are endless.

2. The Possibilities Are Endless! Here's the great thing about Junesploitation: the themes are only suggestions; watch whatever you want! For someone like me, though, I can get bogged down flipping through lists or scrolling streaming services, and I end up wasting most of my time searching for a movie to watch, so I like setting a plan in place.

3. Plan Ahead! I love me a spreadsheet. Make fun all you want, but I make a spreadsheet each month of what I'll be watching. One, it helps figure out what disc I'm reviewing and when it needs to be done by. And two, it helps me visualize what needs to get done for podcast prep. I don't waste any time scrolling (unless I want to). I look at my spreadsheet, see what I'll be watching for the day, and press play. Of course, I'm not too strict that I don't allow things to change as the cinema spirit moves me. I'm never opposed to discovering new things.

4. Discover New Things! All but two of the movies I have planned for June will be new watches. I'm trying to get better and rewatch things when the mood strikes me, because in the past I've ignored those feelings and focused on watching as many new-to-me movies as possible. So maybe that two will increase to five or 10 or 20. Maybe I'll say “fuck it” and decide to do ALL rewatches for Junesploitation. Maybe I'll mix it up.

5. Mix It Up! The great thing about Patrick doing all the theme work for you means you have a master at the helm. If you decide to stick with the day's given theme, you're going to watch a whole bunch of different stuff. You'll watch a kung fu movie one day, followed by an '80s horror movie the next day, followed by a western the third day. Variety is the spice of life. We're traveling the whole world next month.

6. Go International! If you're averse to watching movies from other countries, Junesploitation is the perfect excuse (read: violent shove) to venture into international cinematic waters. Just looking at the list I see we're going to Italy (Poliziotteschi! Lucio Fulci! Italian Horror!), Hong Kong/China (Kung Fu! Sammo Hung!), and Japan (Yakuza!). Don't be scared, because you'll meet some lovely people along the way.

7. Make New Friends! Like F This Movie Fest, like Scary Movie Month, Junesploitation is a great time where hundreds (if not thousands) of people from the world over are participating in something at the same exact time. Lindsay is in Melbourne, Mikko's in Finland, and I'm in Nebraska, and we're all watching the same type of movie on the same day (except Lindz because she lives in the future over there). We're all watching things with a common goal: to get more sleaze in our lives.

8. Get More Sleaze In Your Life! When my wife walks in and see's explosions sending body parts every which way through the air and says, “What the hell are you watching?” I can say, “Hey. Junesploitation, babe.” Maybe you feel guilty watching kids die on screen. Maybe you feel guilty watching teenage boys peeking at girls undressing. Maybe you feel guilty watching a movie where the “N” word is dropped over a thousand times. Now, I'm not going to tell you how to feel, but you can use Junesploitation as a free pass for those guilty feelings if you want. Don’t say the “N” word. Tell yourself it's for educational purposes.

9. It's An Education! This is a great time to challenge yourself to watch things you normally wouldn't. Get comfortable with those subtitles. Learn to love pu10,nching and kicking. Invite some movies made by people who don't look like you into your life. Don't think you're a fan of westerns? Think again. If you're the type of person who mostly stays in one lane genre-wise, it's time to merge. You're on a 30-lane highway and you should utilize the entire road. It's a playground where you’re allowed to have some fun.

10. Have Fun! “Do I have to watch one movie per day?” “Can I skip a day?” “If I miss a day, can I play catch up?” I joked in a discord I'm in that if you don't abide by the rule you'll be thrown into a Surviving the Game scenario where the FTM crew will hunt you down. The last thing Patrick and the rest of us at this here website want to do is make you watch things you don't want to. You don't have to do anything. You want to keep watching superhero movies or arthouse dramas or Hallmark Christmas movies? Go for it! Junesploitation is all about having fun. As soon as it starts not being fun, stop it. We love all types of movies here at F This Movie! and June is just a time to highlight some of the sleazier ones. If sleaze isn't your thing, remember: the daily theme is only a suggestion. A loose suggestion, at that. I just happen to love these types of movies so pardon my unbridled enthusiasm. Let's go have some fun!

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