Why I Love The Greasy Strangler- A Video Essay

In this episode of Pulling Focus with Ethan Hatchett, I discuss The Greasy Strangler.

The film is a personal of favorite of mine for various reasons explored in the video. It has influenced a lot of my more bizarre work and I generally hold the film in high esteem for existing at at all.

I hope you all enjoy the video and give The Greasy Stranger a chance!

5 Unique 2017 Films

Great films come out every year, but truly unique films are hard to find. Luckily, 2017 was full of films with distinct voices.  Here are five films from last year that I thought were truly special.

  1. A Ghost Story (Directed by David Lowery)

A Ghost Story is the kind of film that sticks with you for the rest of your life. This film is a testament to what a talented filmmaker can do with a small budget and a great idea.

The film’s premise is simple; Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are a couple and one day Affleck dies unexpectedly. Affleck becomes a ghost and “haunts” their house. It is a very cliched premise, but David Lowery does something amazing (and unexpected with it) with it.

The look of the film is one of the most unique aspects. They shot with Panavision Super and Ultra Speeds for a shallower depth of field and more a natural look.

The aspect ratio is also a unique contributor to the film’s look. The film is 4:3  instead of 16:9 because, as Lowery explained, “I liked the concept of trapping this character in a box, in a very formal fashion. I’ve always been a fan of that aspect ratio. It’s 1.33:1, the classic Academy ratio.”

2. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)

Yorgos Lanthimos has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers with films like Alps, Dogtooth, and The Lobster. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is my favorite work by Lanthimos so far and makes me excited to see what he has next for us.

The story is based around Steven (Colin Farrell), a cardiologist , who takes Martin (Barry Keoghan), under his wing after his father dies. Things turn dark when Steven’s family suddenly starts becoming ill.

It is hard to articulate exactly what makes the film unique. Everything from the choice of camera placement to the timing of words spoken in any given scene is different from many films that came out in 2017. It exudes style. Lanthimos has developed a very clear and effective voice that is unique in the world of film.

The film is tense, funny, and horrifying at times, but it never strays from its eerie tone. Barry Keoghan has an amazing performance, shifting from vulnerable youth to intimidating certainty. It possess the odd delivery of dialogue that is present in Lanthimos’ films, which may annoy some viewers, but I believe it sets the tone very well.

3. The Florida Project (Directed by Sean Baker)

The Florida Project is more understated than the other films on this lost, but it is just as special.

The story follows and group of children who live at a motel in Orlando, FL. There is love, laughs, tragedy, and an ending that annoyed everyone.

As an indie guy myself, Sean Baker is an inspiration. The Florida Project is one of the best and most talked about films of 2017 and it was shot on an iPhone with a cast of mostly unknown actors.

Baker’s voice is unique because of his style and subject matter. A good summation of his films can be summed up in this quote:”When I see a billboard that literally just has five names and they’re all A-listers, I’m just like, What is that bringing to the world that’s new?”

The best word I can use to describe the film simply be raw. It is 115 minutes of raw emotion from such simple images such as children playing in a parking lot.

4. Good Time (Directed by Josh and Benny Sadfie)

Good Time is a film that not talked about enough. The Sadfie brothers are another unique voice in film and this gem should not be overlooked.

Following the trend of simple stories, Good Time is about two brothers (Robert Pattinson and Benny Sadfie) who try to rob and bank and fail. One goes to jail while the other tries to free him.

The film is super fast paced and flies by super quickly. The viewer is quickly invested in the story by the amazing performances and cinematography. Despite the simplicity of the story, you never see what comes next because you simply don’t have time to!

Good Time excels at making you feel as though you were in the situation. You feel just as tense as Robert Pattinson and understand him completely. The relationship between to the two brothers is bittersweet and carries the film well.

5. Ingrid Goes West (Directed by Matt Spicer)

With its eerily realistic premise, Ingrid Goes West is one the better dark comedies made in the last decade.

The story follows Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), as she moves to Los Angeles to stalk an Instagram user (Elizabeth Olsen) whom she idolizes.

Aubrey Plaza is my favorite part of the film. She really surprised me with her performance. Instead of the deadpan character she normally portrays, she actually pulled off a deeper character who was sympathetic and vulnerable while still being dark and quirky.

I admire that Ingrid Goes West is a fully fleshed out film instead of the gimmicky teen comedy I feared it would be. I like how it doesn’t judge its characters for their quirks and just tells the story. It could have easily turned into schlock, but I appreciate the more nuanced version that we got.

What did you think of my list? Are there any films that you thought were especially unique from last year?

Let me know in the comments!

Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs is worth driving to the single, secluded theater in your state to see it. People will move in front of the screen and switch seats 400 times, but you will still be engaged by the film.

Wes Anderson put lots of tiny details into the film that make it awesome to watch. I really enjoyed the “fight clouds” that appeared throughout the film. I have seen many stop-motion films, but I have never seen that classic cartoon gag used before. Anderson pays homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai both visually and with the score) a few times throughout the film which is fun for Kurosawa fans.

Although it sags a bit in the middle, I found the story to be a clever and creative twist on the standard dog storyline. The characters are fun and have enough depth to be invested in (except a select few).

The visuals are awesome. The scenery perfectly melds real-world grit with the cartoon-y whimsy. This is definitely a film that you want to see in the theater because there are many tiny details and jokes you might miss.

Isle of Dogs is definitely going to be one of the best films of the year. Don’t miss it in theaters because of its terribly handled opening!

Why You Should Get FilmStruck (and the Criterion Channel)

“When people ask me if I went to film school I tell them, ‘no, I went to films.'”

-Quentin Tarantino

FilmStruck contains acclaimed films from unique filmmakers such as Yorgos Lanthimos, while The Criterion Channel hosts the iconic and classic films that shaped the medium of Film. Both channels also have video essays, commentaries, behind the scenes footage, and interviews with the cast and crew on many of their films.

When the Criterion Collection left Hulu I was heartbroken. It was the only reason I had Hulu. Netflix and Amazon are great, but they don’t traditionally have a lot of classic films to stream.

I remember trying to find an HD version of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless and I stumbled upon FilmStruck. It was exactly what I was looking for and more!

I believe that you shouldn’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration is a fire that you must keep burning inside your soul. If you are a filmmaker, there is no better way to fuel that fire than by watching films by the masters of the medium.

I have had the service for over a month now, and I am thoroughly pleased. The continually refresh their library so you never run out of things to watch.

I would highly recommend this service to anyone who is interested in Film!

*This is not a sponsored post. I just really love the service!*

Joint Security Area

Joint Security Area is the third feature film from acclaimed, Korean director Chanwook Park.

When a group of North Korean soldiers are murdered on their side of the border, presumably by a single South Korean soldier, an investigation is led by a team from the neutral countries overseeing the border. During the investigation, the team discovers a web of lies, terror, and brotherly love.

The film is simply heartbreaking. I watched it on a whim and was utterly shocked by how tragic and profound it was. This film needs to be seen.

I said that Tower was the most important film of the 21st century, but Joint Security Area may be just as important. This film showcases the tragedy of war in a more personal way than I have seen it portrayed before.

Tower

I made a video essay about the documentary, Tower. It is one of the best films I have ever seen and I would recommend that everyone should see it at least once. It was the most visceral experience I have ever had watching a film.

The film deals with controversial subject matter in an even-handed and rational way. Most documentaries of this ilk are glorified propaganda pieces, but Tower does not fall into that category. This is a very human story, told in a very human way.

The film is mostly rotoscope, similar to Waltz with Bashir, but that doesn’t make them film feel any less real. In fact, I would say this technique adds to the overall rawness of the film.

I would recommend this to anyone who is interesting in documentary filmmaking. This film is perfectly executed.

Tower didn’t get the love it deserved upon release, so please give it a watch. You won’t regret it!

Barry Lyndon

I just arrived home after seeing Kubrick’s period masterpiece, Barry Lyndon. It was my second time viewing the film and I enjoyed it even more re-watching it on the silver screen. The presentation of the film, the audience (there were Barry Lyndon cosplayers), and the interesting discussion after the film are the reasons why the Midtown Art Cinema is my favorite theater.

Barry Lyndon is the story of the misadventures of Redmond Barry. It is a tale of adventure, fortune, fate, and tragedy based on the novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon by William Makepeace Thackeray 1)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Luck_of_Barry_Lyndon . The film was praised technically upon release, receiving an Academy Award for Cinematography, Costume Design, and Art Direction 2)http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072684/awards, but was a commercial failure and dismissed by many critics.

Time has been very kind to Barry Lyndon, with many people considering it to be Kubrick’s best film. While it is not my personal favorite, I really appreciate and enjoy the film. The visuals are awe inspiring, the story is darkly enchanting, and it has everything you would want in an historical epic.

This was the first Kubrick film I have seen in a theater and it was absolutely magnificent! If you can see this film on the big screen, do not hesitate to buy a ticket! They played a digitally remastered version of the film and it looked wonderful. An audience member who had been to the film’s original release in 1975 remarked that, “Barry Lyndon has never looked better!”

I would recommend this film to anyone that wants to learn about shot composition. Visually this film is perfect. Kubrick’s vision for the film was heavily inspired by the paintings of William Hogarth 3)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hogarth, a contemporary of Thackeray. Not only is the cinematography in Barry Lyndon beautiful, but it tells the story well. Each frame tells its own story.

Go see Barry Lyndon!

barry lyndon

References   [ + ]

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Luck_of_Barry_Lyndon 
2. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072684/awards
3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Hogarth

Ethan’s Motivational Mix

I awoke this morning feeling anxious and generally restless. This happens somewhat regularly, so I decided to put together a care package of sorts for when these moods rear their ugly head. Rather than hoarding it to myself, I have decided to share the playlist with you.

My anxiety is usually centered my work so the playlist is compiled of 5 videos, mostly centered around art. It is best to watch them in order.

I hope this reinvigorates you as much as it has reinvigorated me!

Joel Sartore: My Favorite Photographer

Joel Sartore, is an award-winning photographer, author, and contributor to National Geographic. His images have a certain charming quality to them that I feel captures the essence of his subjects. This is best represented in his on-going project the Photo Ark.

The Photo Ark project is magical. Here is how Joel describes it on the website:

he Photo Ark started back in 2005, when my wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. My career as a National Geographic photographer came to an abrupt halt as I stayed home to tend to her and our three children.

It’s been more than 10 years, and Kathy is fine now, but that year at home gave me a new perspective on the shortness and fragility of life. I was 42 at the time, and as Kathy recovered, one question continued to haunt me: How can I get people to care that we could lose half of all species by the turn of the next century?

Perhaps a series of portraits, made as simply and cleanly as possible, would give us all a chance to look animals directly in the eye and see that there’s beauty, grace, and intelligence in the other creatures we share the planet with. Black and white backgrounds level the playing field, making a mouse every bit as grand as an elephant. In these portraits, they are equals.

All species are vitally important to our very survival; we need bees and even flies to pollinate the fruits and vegetables we eat. We need intact rain forest to regulate the amount of rainfall we get in areas where we grow crops. But beyond what’s in it for us, I believe that each species has a basic right to exist.

There are about 12,000 animal species in human care around the world. So far, I’ve made portraits of more than 6,500, and we’ll keep going until we get them all. It’ll take another 15 years or so. The goal is to show the world what biodiversity actually looks like and get everyone to care about saving species while there’s still time.

I hope you agree that the future of life on Earth is something that deserves our full attention. If so, please tell your friends that you care about all creatures, great and small. Share the photos. Help us celebrate. Join others devoted to saving species and habitats. We all can make a difference.

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Every frame gives us a glimpse into the beauty of the world we live in. The only way to inspire people to care about nature is to show it to them. The world is such a wonderful mess of creatures big and small.

Everyone should check out Joel’s website and support the work he is doing. Work like this does not get enough support or praise.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/212102843″>An endnangered snow leopard (Panthera uncia) at the Miller Park Zoo.</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/joelsartore”>Joel Sartore</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>