Troubling times we’re living in, for sure.
New Orleans has essentially shut down to halt the spread of COVID-19, the global pandemic that separates the true leaders from the whiny privileged, and that obliterated any doubt about the intentions of a certain 1% of people. Bars are closed, gatherings are greatly restricted, and life as we know it has dramatically changed.
At least we have the movies. Right?
Nationwide, cinemas have been shut down. While bigger chains like AMC and Regal will likely survive, the smaller independent ones are going to struggle. Studios are collapsing the theatrical window to send new releases directly to homes, and opportunities for theaters to collaborate are presenting themselves, despite the growing GoFundMe pages set up as precautions.
For the moviegoers stuck inside their domiciles – all of us, actually – there’s a high volume of film selection noise to reckon with. So many choices, so much time, tons of patience to learn.
Fret not. In what we at Big Easy Magazine will attempt as a regular series of articles, I have begun compiling a list of streaming recommendations that even the most experienced cinephile probably hasn’t seen or heard of. For this initial column, all flick picks are freely available to everyone – no subscription or purchase necessary – on services like Youtube and Vimeo. In future pieces, we’ll explore other platforms, but strive to gravitate towards the obscure, the challenging, the exciting, and the hardly heard of.
With your permission, this is the Stay-Home Movie Mixtape, Vol. 1:
The Green Fog
Director and experimental media artist Guy Maddin shouldn’t be a stranger to fans of the odd. His movies tend to incorporate aesthetic from older genres and eras of film. My absolute favorite of his was his most recent effort The Forbidden Room, co-directed with Evan Johnson. It’s a Russian nesting doll of a story, going down a rabbit hole within itself, where one aspect of a tale leads into a bigger world, all the while getting smaller, further away, and yet clarifying/recontextualizing the beginning. This is a taste of what Maddin does, nowadays anyway.
The Green Fog was just made available by Maddin and krewe in light of the current outbreak, and you should be happy-ing all over yourself. It’s a remix essay, almost found-footage-ish, re-tooling of visuals, atmospherics, thematics, and tones, based on Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo – widely considered as one of the all-time best films ever, right up there with Citizen Kane. And similar to another Orson Welles project, F for Fake, Green Fog works with an air of magic and reverence, in this case for the city of San Francisco. Set aside an hour, and be astonished.
Having premiered at the 30th Annual New Orleans Film Festival last year, Dui Jarrod’s web series King Ester is now online in its entirety, on the official website and Youtube. The premise of the show is incredibly bold, about a transwoman navigating New Orleans in the leadup to the evacuation order ahead of Hurricane Katrina, all the while trying to find herself and how she fits in.
I can understand why local viewers might be apprehensive about this material, as Katrina is still raw and traumatic for all of us, and reliving the anxiety of the days prior to the storm would likely be unpleasant. But I highly suspect that the story of a young transwoman, in this city and at that time, will be compelling enough to entice at least one play.
Skydiver AKA Instructional Video #4: Preparation for Mission
I’ve been a fan of Eugene Kotlyarenko’s for years now, even becoming a good online friend of his. I was happy to facilitate a local screening of his brilliant 0s & 1s way back when, and will stan for even the smaller works of his catalog. He utilizes our digital lives, the multiple open screens and windows through which we gather information but often get lost through, to articulate and express how things are and how things feel, as of now and as they always have been.
Skydiver was announced on his Facebook page about a decade ago. Released in parts, and completely in character (it stars him in the lead), the film/video/diary/series is a back and forth collection of Skype style (I believe he used Apple software) webcam conversations with friends, family, and lovers, all the while he gets involved in a tight-knit and dangerous revolution cult.
About surviving heartbreak, about impressionable youth getting caught up with the wrong crowd, and about losing oneself through that tiny camera above your monitor, Skydiver is too under-appreciated and in need of re-discovery.
From Star Wars fan films to filmmaking collectives making, scene for scene, their version of RoboCop, taking popular movies and making something new with them has always fascinated me (I even tried this in the late 90s, but that’s another story). Imagine doing something along the lines of lovingly using your camera and computer skills to do your own interpretation of a favorite film, but on LSD.
Shrek Retold is what’d you get.
And that’s as far as I’ll describe it. Just watch.
Adult Swim has given us hours of weirdo laughter, but now has spawned a generation of filmmakers who develop longer-form projects in the same vein (The Greasy Strangler for one). While M.O.P.Z. is under 15 minutes in length, you’ll feel as though a feature has warped through your body, and laid an egg inside.
From Todd Rohal (Uncle Kent 2), this short’s concept is that of a Canadian cable TV tape recording of a robot-ish slasher movie about an Elementary School janitor who, to avoid his duties, builds a cleaning bot that eventually goes berserk. And it’s shown sped up, as if in a heightened fast-forward.
The result is deliciously hilarious, devilishly demented, and wildly creative. Give in, why don’t you.
Send comments, thoughts, and criticisms on the above list – as well as recommendations for future mixtapes – to firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe, stay inside, and wash your hands!