The Year in Film 2014: From Boyhood to The Babadook

From "The Babadook"

Small moments of personal revelation, big emotional cues, and a laundry list of indie quirks ● by Jonathan Knipp

Before I explain my collection of highlights from the 2014 year in movies, I have to unpack my standard disclaimer: my year’s screening adventures are still unfinished. I haven’t even decided in what format I’ll see Interstellar. And that leaves a prestige pile-up on the horizon: The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, Whiplash and many, many other titles filling up critics’ top 10s have yet to make it to my local art house, multiplex or On-Demand channels. But the titles I’ve selected for discussion, while perhaps not conventional best-of-the-year material, represent a cinema that continues to confound and fascinate as Hollywood unloads its award bait at year’s end.

Read more

Margaret Atwood


Woman of many marvels ● by Brandon Cook

“A scintillating wordsmith” and “unflappable” are just two of the descriptions critics have used to describe the prodigiously talented novelist, poet, and critic, Margaret Atwood. The prolific author has published more than forty works of fiction, poetry, and criticism—not to mention several opera libretti and TV scripts—and received numerous awards, among them five Booker prize nominations and one win for her novel The Blind Assassin.

Atwood has earned a rightful place as one of the world’s most celebrated modern writers.

She will make an appearance at Indiana University as a Ruth N. Halls Distinguished Lecturer on February 3rd. Read more

No. 12

Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who Is A Return To The Old School ● by Ben Atkinson

How many shows survive the replacement of any main actor, much less the one playing the title character? The British television classic Dr. Who thrives on it. Last year the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the show and there’s no sign that it’s going anywhere soon. Peter Capaldi entered this season as the latest actor to play the iconic role and his quite different interpretation has been remarkable.

The title character is a mysterious traveler who goes by “The Doctor.” Dr. Who? Just “The Doctor.” He is a Time Lord, manipulator of time and space. He can go anywhere, anytime he wants. He mostly uses this incredible power to flit about, searching for interesting adventures and curiosities, but in the process he is frequently required to save some world (often Earth) from destruction. And he travels with one or more companions, usually human. They serve to connect the audience with a protagonist who, while presenting in human form, can frequently seem alien.

Every few seasons, the foes of the Doctor get the best of him and he dies. But death for a Time Lord is merely a temporary setback. The Doctor “regenerates,” getting a new body complete with a new personality, new likes and dislikes, and new personal goals and objectives, while the show gets a new lead actor. If regeneration presents the challenge of maintaining series continuity, it is also a recurring opportunity—perhaps unique in television—for the show’s producers to keep things dynamic and current. Fortunately, the show’s fan base has been notoriously sympathetic to this cycle, accepting changes that would likely spell decline for other series whose foundations rest on a single lead.

The last Doctor, played by Matt Smith, was the one who most successfully brought the show across the Atlantic and is definitive for many Americans. (For many, your first Doctor will always be your favorite). Smith’s gangly limbs flapping around like a raggedy-man enchanted viewers and his happy go lucky attitude made the show a light-hearted adventure alternative to the dark, gritty shows (think Breaking Bad) that have been the rave of recent TV critics and viewers. Nothing too serious, just a madman in a box careening across space and time with cute, young, attractive companions looking for trouble. Just enough trouble though, there’s never the least chance that things won’t work out happily ever after for all involved. The Doctor prior to Smith’s version (David Tennant) was quite similar, a light fluffy hero who always saved the world and got the girl. There was more than a bit of kissing.

No more. No more flirting, no more flitting about with the hands, and definitely no more bow ties or goofy hats. Capaldi’s Doctor is a return to the old school, hearkening back to the severity of the very first doctor (William Hartnell) or the gruff acidity of his successor (Patrick Troughton). This new Doctor has little time for frivolity and gives no allowance for the (relative) stupidity of those around him. He doesn’t hug, as that might infringe extreme self-dependence. The relationship between the Doctor and his companions has always been one of the interesting aspects of the series. The Doctor is immensely more knowledgeable and capable in any circumstance than the humans (sometimes non-humans) who travel with him. Why does he bring them along? What can they offer him?

Companionship, but that term can mean many different things. A close friend, maybe, whom you confide everything in, or maybe a romantic lover. Perhaps someone whose mere presence allows one to silently endure without loneliness. It is the latter that Capaldi’s Doctor requires, except for the silent part. The banter is as clever and quick as ever, although now almost unintelligible beneath the thick Scottish accent. When Russel T. Davies rebooted the series eight years ago he added an extra twist. The Doctor is the last of his species, last Time Lord, sole survivor of a horrific war that annihilated his race. As the last of his kind he would be lonely and value companionship. The Doctor doesn’t seem as tied to his companion Clara now in the way his predecessor was. He enjoys her company and she assists him ably, but we once again have the feeling that at any moment the Doctor might leave her behind forever. This Doctor seems dangerous, to his friends as well as to his enemies.

His enemies are darker now as well. The last several seasons have showcased one or two episodes that might be considered leaning towards the Horror genre, but none of them come close to the scariness that pervades just about every episode now. The lighting is grim, the tension unrelenting. My three year old daughter has watched many episodes with me and it wasn’t until this season that she began hiding beneath the blanket during the show. The prevalence of frightening subject matter, along with the new late evening broadcast time, have many wondering if the show is being intentionally directed towards an audience exclusive of young children. This is definitely not the same Doctor.

Or is it? That’s the question that arises with every new incarnation. A new actor, and an obviously new take on the character. It’s something quintessential to the show, the continuity of the old with the freshness of the new. Perhaps that’s something more poignant in a culture as old as the British that we Americans don’t quite grasp. Here novelty is exalted, and this is the first time that a large American audience will have to grapple with a new Doctor. The premiere episode of this season confronts it head on and doesn’t shy away of the worry many fans will have. The Smith Doctor is gone, but is Capaldi’s character really the Doctor? With all the twists and turns of style and set, and withstanding the criticisms of the overly complicated plotlines and overused themes that Executive Producer Steven Moffat (also of Sherlock) insistently relies upon, the answer has been a resounding yes. The Doctor changes a lot with each regeneration, each new actor brings something new to the role. Each new actor must find the quintessential bits of the Doctor and then allow that to explode forth from every scene. Peter Capaldi does that and the successes of this season rest primarily on his superb performance. He will be a Doctor remembered for years to come.

The Ryder ● December 2014

Small Town Punk Band Aims To Revive The Scene


by ● Sophie Harris 

Is punk dead? Some might say yes, but Jello Biafra, former member of the Dead Kennedys, thinks there’s hope for the future of Punk in America. With bands like Stabscotch forming in college towns across the US, he may be right.

James Vavrek, Tyler Blensdorf, and Zack Hubbard met as students at Crown Point High School and formed Stabscotch when they migrated to Indiana University.

[Image at the top: The Faces Of Zack Hubbard, James Vavrek, and Tyler Blendsdorf Are Hidden In The Rungs]

Their name refers to the knife in the fingers game — where one person places their hand face down on a flat surface, fingers spread apart, and a second player with a sharp knife stabs the space in between the fingers. (I like to be the person with the knife.) In the past semester, the Stabscotch released a 10-song album that was released in May on Bandcamp. The album was named Eldritch, and the members pride themselves on the variety displayed throughout the tracks.

“We work on music between classes, during the evening, whenever our schedules will allow it,” says Vavrek. “It’s important to us.”

The band members know that the scene in Bloomington doesn’t promote a lot of punk, and they face challenges finding a fan base and forming a solid following.  However, due to the music scene in Bloomington, the band members have searched for other forms of music support. Instead of focusing all their efforts on local endeavors, the band members say they use the Internet to find other punk lovers out there.

“We’ve connected with people all over the world through our music,” says Vavrek, who uses social media and the Bandcamp site to promote their original material.

House shows are a popular form of demonstration for local bands to showcase material and meet people, and Stabscotch takes advantage of these opportunities whenever they can.

“House shows are great because there are tons of random people there, and sometimes you’ll make new fans if they like what you’ve been playing,” says Vavrek. He mentions that the shows have a tendency to get rowdy, but that that works well with their sometimes-aggressive style of music. The band members mention that sometimes they have to adjust to the vibe of the crowd, depending on the show or audience.

“One of the best things about punk music in general is that it’s a great way to channel your energy, aggressive or otherwise,” says Vavrek.

For Blensdorf, his main interest resides in the creative elements of the band.

“Tyler has the biggest motivation to write and create,” says Vavrek, “And we all really pull weight in different arenas of the band.”

Although the band members agree that they love punk music, they’re open to adapting to what they’ve got to work with.

“We know there’s not much of a punk scene here, and we want to make our fans happy,” says Vavrek. “We don’t want to box ourselves in to something concrete if it will limit us performance-wise. Music is adaptable and always changing, and so should we.”

The Ryder ● December 2014

The Cult Of Faux Reality

Writer-director Ti West and his film, The Sacrament, are coming to the IU Cinema as part of the Diabolique International Film Festival ● by Max Weinstein


[The Diabolique International Film Festival is a celebration of independent horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy film. In its eighth year, DIFF will take place from September 18-20 at the IU Cinema.

As a film festival, DIFF acts as a platform for independent genre films and filmmakers that work to explore possibilities outside of studio constraints. The DIFF Academic Symposium also aims to generate discussion about independent and alternative horror. The horror genre has circulated for years through alternative means including foreign film, art film, independent film, and tonal intersections with a variety of other genres; these are the alternatives DIFF celebrates. The scope of the DIFF symposium is broad yet specific: to discuss the possibilities and future of horror film, or films that intersect with horror, outside of those produced by major studios, exploring the complexities and potential of the genre when unrestricted by Hollywood limitations. For more on DIFF visit

A version of this article was originally published in Diabolique magazine.]

“In a perfect world, I would have done an eight-part documentary mini-series about Jonestown,” Ti West explains when considering what could have been made in lieu of The Sacrament, his latest film that, with some struggle, he resolves to describe as a “sort of new media type thing.”

The Sacrament is a great horror film ⎯ a film whose media meshing invokes a necessary discourse on the representation of reality in a genre designed to shock and affect. West’s most complete and ambitious work to date deftly interweaves a multiplicity of techniques, aesthetics and subgenres to tell the story of the mysterious Eden Parish, a People’s Temple-esque cult that becomes the focal point of The Sacrament’s  film-within-a-film fictional investigative documentary.

Kentucker Audley co-stars as Patrick, a photo journalist who gains access to Eden Parish, intending to meet his sister Caroline (Amy Seimetz), who has been a member of the commune since being taken in for drug therapy by its leader, Charles Anderson Reed (Gene Jones). In tow are two of Patrick’s colleagues from Vice Media, Sam  (AJ Bowen) and Jake (Joe Swanberg). As Reed, the enigmatic leader of Eden Parish known to his followers simply as “Father,” Gene Jones delivers a performance whose potency is the catalyst for The Sacrament’s blurring of ethical journalism and individual moralism; Sam unnerves viewers when he tells Jake, on-screen, that while he wouldn’t choose to live a life at Eden Parish, his immersion in its daily goings-on are allowing him to actually “dig it.”

“That line is a big thesis line of the movie,” West asserts. “What I wanted to show when they got there and saw this place was that it’s weird — it’s definitely weird — but, ‘Hey, if they wanna live like this, if nothing’s wrong, who am I to say otherwise?’ People think that if you’re in a cult, 24/7, you’re just a lunatic every minute of every day. Hopefully the first half of the movie can help educate people to a certain extent, to where they see these people and go, ‘Oh. I understand why they’re here. I don’t wanna do that. But it makes sense, what they’re saying.’ [In] the big interview with Father, it’s all there. Everything he’s saying doesn’t sound so bad.”

Parallels between Father’s diatribes against America’s social, political and economic status quo and Jim Jones’ rationale for coaxing Jonestown members to commit mass “revolutionary suicide” are of primary concern to West in his efforts to school modern audiences on doomsday cults’ hive mentality. “Ideologically, everything he says should make perfect sense to everybody,” West says of Father’s delusional hijacking of serious systemic ills like imperialism, racism, or homelessness. “Like, ‘We shouldn’t have poor people!’ ‘I agree.’ ‘We shouldn’t have sick people!’ ‘I agree.’ He’s saying such basic things. Now, if you’re in a very desperate situation that you can’t improve, and a guy comes along and says, ‘Come with me and I can make your life better,’ you’d try it. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work. But to get it to work, you stick with it. For a while it is better than the life you had before. But the bigger that group gets, as always, the megalomaniac who’s in charge starts to pervert it. The guy promises everything — great — gives you some of it, and once you’re so deep in, you realize it’s not all there and there’s nothing you can do about it, because your life has become so insular. You’re too in it now.”

The name Eden Parish in and of itself appropriates biblical connotations to slyly suggest not only the “new beginning” Father promises its members, but also the eradication of one’s sense of self that his benevolent-seeming brainwashing gradually creates, in the name of a “fresh start.” West’s voice grows agitated when explaining Father’s theft of the cult’s members’ identity, as if arguing with an imaginary person whose perspective is noxiously contrarian to that of his own: “Even when you go back to Jonestown, it’s like: ‘I wouldn’t have taken the poison!’ How? How would you have been the one person, when everyone you know — your friends, family, babies — are dying around you? You’re living in a work camp in the jungle in 1978. How do you get out of it? That takes a strong person to go ‘No thanks,’ and walk out of there and risk being killed. It wasn’t really a choice. If you’re sitting there and your whole family’s dying around you, you’re gonna walk through the jungle and hopefully find a plane with no money and no passport, get back to America and then just be homeless with no family or friends? That’s not a good option. What they don’t realize is that all that stuff was taken away from them by someone in charge, and they thought they were offering it up to him to have a better life. At first, it was that for a lot of people. But once you get so deep in, it’s not easy to get out.”

In a perverse way, the insularity to which West refers actually facilitates an unconventional home space, and he is intrigued by reading The Sacrament, if not explicitly as a Home Invasion film, at least as demonstrative of its definitive tropes. As the crew’s documentary unfolds, Father’s paranoid warnings about their posing an “outsider” threat culminate in suspicion, derangement, and later, violence, among his constructed family subjected to such propagation. “If you look at it from the Eden Parish side of things,” he says, “they’re trying to get Patrick down there because they’ve got rich parents. If his sister can convince him to stay and get more money, they can keep doing what they’re doing. They didn’t know these [film crew] guys were coming, and they’re like, ‘Oh, shit…’ They’re rolling with it. They can’t just send him away, because people will tell stories about it. So they’re trying their best to deal with, essentially, a home invasion event. It’s not like someone knocking down someone’s door with an axe, but it is these people that they don’t want in their community. They’re trying to spin it, and Father is trying to stay one step ahead of them and ‘work’ this. And they just can’t. The Sacrament isn’t really a home invasion movie, but if you think about it from the characters’ perspective, yes — these journalists came in and started this snowball rolling that unraveled everything.”

The distinctly southern drawl of Father reeks of the television evangelical huckster type who might try to convince you that masturbation distracts from “holding hands with God,” or that heavy metal music is the cause of all suicides (without a hint of self-awareness). The Sacrament’s characterization of this religious fanaticism as geographically bound to red states like Mississippi, where Father says he was born, is a lightning rod for reactionaries, and was consequential during the making of The Sacrament, when the time came for West to receive permission to shoot from local authorities. “We were gonna shoot the movie in Charleston, South Carolina and we did not. They would not give us the tax credit because of the content of the movie,” West reveals of his location scouting process. “To get the tax incentive, you had to get the content approved, and they didn’t want anything to do with it — which is a shame, because that’s a lot of money for South Carolina. It’s a lot of money for people whose army lives just ended. All those crew would have come on to our movie and they would have kept a lot of people in business. They were like, ‘We don’t like the content of your movie. You can’t shoot here.’ So we left. At one point they called us and were like, ‘We’re actually gonna overturn that,’ but it was too late. Then we moved to Georgia where it was not an issue. What’s great about Georgia is they went, ‘Come on down.’”

In terms of its unique status as a movie of technological identity crisis, West himself is contradictory when breaking down how The Sacrament can, and ought, to be received. “I don’t consider it a found-footage movie,” he states. “But found-footage is sort of helpful, because it’s like ‘Oh, I’m gonna watch a movie with a camera in it.’ It’s not like we dug up this tape and this is what was ‘found’ and previously shot. The characters made a documentary. Some point of view is still in it, because the documentary being made is so shocking and so unbelievable, but it was never meant to be like, ‘Thank God we had these baby monitors and surveillance cameras in the corner of the room so we could catch this footage!’ What the main characters do for a living is make documentaries. You don’t call a Christopher Guest movie a found-footage movie, but they’ve been doing that forever; it’s basically a fake documentary. But if you call The Sacrament a mockumentary, it’s wildly insensitive. You can’t call it that. It’s in this kind of no-man’s land, which is a nightmare when you’re marketing the movie. But it also made it easier for me as a filmmaker, because found-footage movies are sloppy on purpose; they have to be for it to feel authentic. So since there’s an on-camera guy and a director of photography, they could actually shoot the movie to make it look good. For me, it was great to be able to do interesting compositions, shoot people and not have the movie be like someone’s video camera that they’re dropping on the ground every two seconds.”

No consolation prize of one spared innocent human life is delivered in an historically grounded, inevitable train-wreck such as this. Forced to bear witness the fabricated deaths of a cult of faux-reality, there is an ever-present sense that the destruction of family, identity, belief systems or basic humanity defies comprehension, even amidst the modernity of our information age.

A lacuna in a philosophy too committed to authorship when writing and directing a film that reflects Jim Jones’ murder of actual human beings, however, is that overt stylization can sensationalize its narrative’s tragic nature. “This shouldn’t be a ‘fun’ horror movie,” West asserts, expounding upon his conscious decision to nix the supernatural elements of his previous genre outings. “There shouldn’t be a ‘clapping scene’ where someone dies in this movie. It should be confrontational. It’s not just reduced to ‘Eh, drink the Kool-Aid.’”


The Ryder ● September 2014

DIFF 2014: When, What, Where


The Diabolique International Film Festival, September 18-20 at the IU Cinema


Thursday, September 18:

9:30 pm ⎯ DIFF kicks off with a special screening of the award winning film Proxy, directed by Indiana native Zack Parker.

Friday, September 19:

● 3pm ⎯ A Conversation with Ti West with Q&A

● 6:30pm ⎯ The Sacrament  (Ti West hosts)

● 9:30 pm ⎯  Ti West’s The Innkeepers

● 11:59 pm ⎯ Ti West’s The House of the Devil

Saturday, September 20:

● 8am ⎯ Roundtable: Diabolique International Film Festival Academic Symposium 2014

The DIFF Academic Symposium will consist of three horror-centered roundtables on Saturday morning: two led by local horror scholars, and a third led by independent horror directors Ti West and Zack Parker.

Noon-1:30pm ⎯ Screening Block #1

A program of shorts including Zombies 4Kids 

● 2-4:30pm ⎯ Screening Block #2

A program of shorts including Possessed Forklift of Death  

● 4-5:30pm ⎯ Screening Block #3

A program of shorts including The Pride of Strathmoor

● 6-7:40pm ⎯ Screening Block #4

A program of shorts including The Carriage or: Dracula & My Mother 

8-9:40pm ⎯ Screening Block #5

A program of shorts including Extreme Pinocchio 

● 10-11:40pm ⎯ Screening  Block #6

A program of shorts including Franky and the Ant (Dir. Billy Hayes, USA)

● 11:30pm ⎯ After Hours VIP Party and Awards Presentation at Scholars Inn

Visiting filmmakers are invited to join us at our After Hours VIP Party and Awards Presentation at Scholars Inn, a 150-year-old historic mansion. Since our first year in 2007, its dual fireplaces and huge outdoor decks have provided the perfect backdrop for our guests and visiting filmmakers to network, have fun, and share their experiences.


The Ryder ● September 2014

Films: Boyhood

Cinema In the Present Tense ● by Brandon Walsh


The uncredited main character of Richard Linklater’s latest film Boyhood is time, and time will tell. Shot over 12 years with the same actors, the audience is invited to watch both the characters and story evolve over time. In the spirit of the longitudinal films of Antoine Doinel, the Up documentary series, and Linklater’s own Before… trilogy, Boyhood compresses time and human experience in a way previously unseen to the art form.

The film is chaptered by various markers of growing up, often without the broader narrative explanation to be expected from mainstream cinema. When we see a young Mason pour mustard on the hot dog his dad bought for him at a baseball game, we aren’t explicitly told what it means to him, but the seemingly mundane focus helps to explain the bond with his father as the film progresses. The joy of Boyhood comes with watching seeds like this grow, in a way that the story allows itself to be told by unfolding in new and interesting ways somehow avoiding most audience-pandering cause/effect conventions. In doing so Linklater places trust in the audience’s own humanity to decide which moments to attribute importance, the very same logic that goes for one’s own life. As a result, there are numerous ways to identify with the film (nostalgic/prospective as a parent/child), and all are valid.

Archibald MacLeish writes at the end of “Ars Poetica” that a poem, “should not mean/But be,” a notion meant to match the fluid subjectivity of life. The argument could be made that more films have been employing a mode of “visual poetry,” leaving more elliptical moments meant to question our relationship with time rather than a straightforward narrative payoff across scenes. Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color and Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder come to mind as two modern examples of narrative films with such moments, albeit with a stronger regard for imagery over character. A thesis of Boyhood could be that as a kid, things just sort of happen to you, and that we’re all thrown into life without much guidance of how to do it right, left to stare at the clouds. Mason’s boyhood vulnerability drifts away with his increasing willingness to flow with the inexplicable. He begins to trust others, depend on himself, love and reciprocate, consider the consequence of his actions, gaining the qualities of a well-rounded adult.

As Mason matures, so does the film itself, leaving plot-centric scenes for more focused philosophical conversations, without the traditional motive of sequential action. The film’s aspirations are lofty, but reaches them by avoiding metaphor-laden humanitarian commentary well recognized in the Oscar-winning canon of great film. Late in the film, Mason talks with a young woman who works with kids approaching their “awkward years,” and the reality hits that we’ve watched Mason live through his. Life is presented as no more or less than a series of events, but more than the sum of its seconds.

For those who have been following Linklater’s filmography, the film’s reclining structure will come as little surprise. However, the later scenes serve a deeper purpose. Whereas a film like Spike Jonze’s Where The Wild Things Are encourages the audience to interpret the events with a child character’s limited perspective, Linklater invites a broad understanding of childhood and adolescence, one that recognizes the nuanced effects of parents and environment on a growing mind, but also understands the individual can’t entirely be defined by his/her surroundings. Therein lies the onward-explorative spirit of Boyhood, a film with as much ineffable heart and consciousness as its characters.

At its very best, film packages the experience of consciousness into digestible entertainment. It’s phenomenology made tangible, a personal study that invites a deeper appreciation of the impermanence of life. Time survives in retrospect, but it only moves forward. In expressing this through Linklater’s production, we’re reminded the death of time is life in the ongoing present. Much like the end of Linklater’s Before Midnight, the film doesn’t end as much as it stops presenting itself to us on a screen. The rest is on us.

[Brandon Walsh works for Facets, whose Cinémathèque is an independent art house theater in Chicago that screens international film targeted to younger audiences.]


The Ryder ● September 2014


IU Cinema Fall Preview

● by Craig J. Clark


The Indiana University Cinema’s Fall 2014 program book will be out within the next few weeks, but in the meantime, The Ryder has been given a sneak peek at what’s on the docket for the next four months, courtesy of director Jon Vickers.

“We are very excited about the IU Cinema’s fall program this year,” Vickers says. “There is definitely plenty from everyone, from the casual movie-lover to the most discerning cinephile. We will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary some of the most iconic films of 1984, like Ghostbusters, Sixteen Candles, and This Is Spinal Tap, the 40th anniversary of one of the scariest movies of all time, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and the 10th anniversary of the film Kinsey.”

Vickers promises that the entire season will be online before the first of September, but visitors to the Cinema the weekend before Labor Day will witness the kickoff of three of its regular film series – Underground, City Lights, and Midnight Movies.

The Underground series gets off to a chilling start on Friday, August 29, with 1973’s Ganja & Hess, which doubles as the first of three films in a series entitled “Blaxploitation Horror of the 1970s.” A most unusual vampire film, in the sense that the v-word is never once spoken in it, Ganja & Hess was written and directed by Bill Gunn, who had previously scripted Hal Ashby’s The Landlord, and gave Duane Jones his only starring role outside of Night of the Living Dead. He plays a renowned anthropologist who takes on a neurotic assistant (played by Gunn) who stabs him with a ceremonial dagger and kills himself. Jones is far from dead, though, and he now has a taste for blood which he satiates by raiding blood banks (prefiguring Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive by four decades) and killing prostitutes. Then Gunn’s wife (Marlene Clark) comes looking for him and eventually marries Jones, who turns her and initiates her in the fine art of body disposal. Only then does he seriously contemplate what “till death do you part” means.

As envisioned by Gunn, Ganja & Hess has a very strong religious component, represented by bookend scenes at the church of a firebrand reverend (Sam Waymon) who’s also Jones’s part-time chauffeur. Faced with such an idiosyncratic film, distributors responded by cutting it to ribbons and releasing it under more exploitable titles like Black Vampire, Blood Couple and Double Possession, but the print being screened by the Cinema is a 35mm restoration of Gunn’s director’s cut, which makes it a veritable must-see. Incidentally, the two other films in the Blaxploitation Horror series, which picks back up in October, are 1976’s J.D.’s Revenge, and 1972’s Blacula, the film that set the cycle in motion and which will, appropriately enough, be shown on Halloween.

Other screenings in the Underground Film Series include the experimental documentaries The Great Flood and All Vows, which filmmaker Bill Morrison will be present for, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s controversial final film, Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, Belgian filmmaker Harry Kümel’s Malpertius, made the same year as his cult vampire film Daughters of Darkness, and an evening of shorts by experimental filmmaker Warren Sonbert. Those looking for something a little more accessible, though, will want to keep an eye on its companion series, City Lights.

First up is the Jacques Demy musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which is being screened on Saturday, August 30. Made in 1964, it’s a frothy concoction in which every line of dialogue is sung, and the performances by Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo as two young lovers kept apart by circumstances beyond their control are totally endearing. (To go with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the Cinema is screening another Demy musical, 1967’s The Young Girls of Roquefort, along with 1961’s West Side Story as part of a two-film tribute to triple-threat George Chakiris.)

The remainder of the City Lights series includes the work of such notable director/star pairings as Josef von Sternberg and Marlene Dietrich (1930’s Morocco), Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas (1957’s Paths of Glory), Alfred Hitchock and Joseph Cotten (1943’s Shadow of a Doubt), and Arthur Penn and Dustin Hoffman (1970’s Little Big Man). Then there’s the post-Halloween double feature of Mad Love and The Raven, both from 1935, featuring horror icons Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi. One of the highlights of the semester, though, is likely going to be November’s twin screenings of Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent The General, presented in collaboration with the Jacobs School of Music, with a newly commissioned score by IU alumnus Andrew Simpson and live orchestral accompaniment.

The Midnight Movies series only pops up in the fall, but it tends to feature some of the most adventurous films that the Cinema screens all year. First out of the gate, on Friday, August 29, is Prince’s film debut Purple Rain. Co-written, directed and edited by Albert Magnoli, the 1984 film stars His Purpleness as Prince-like musician The Kid, who fronts a band called The Revolution and is in direct competition with Morris Day, lead singer for The Time, for supremacy in the Minneapolis music scene. They also come into conflict over aspiring singer/dancer Apollonia Kotero, who hooks up with The Kid first but is actively wooed by Day to be in his new girl group. Meanwhile, The Kid has what could charitably be called a difficult home life and a strained relationship with his abusive father, who is nevertheless a brilliant pianist/composer. How much of this correlates to Prince’s actual biography I couldn’t say, but the film’s main saving grace is, of course, the soundtrack, which opens strong with the one-two punch of “Let’s Go Crazy” and The Time’s “Jungle Love,” and closes with blistering live performances of the title song and “I Would Die 4 U.”

Also getting the midnight-screening treatment is 1976’s The Opening of Misty Beethoven, which continues the Cinema’s tradition of showing at least one X-rated film a semester. This one, a “porno chic” updating of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, is the work of director Radley Metzger, who also made 1974’s Score, which was screened in the spring as part of the “Queer Disorientations” series. Other films in the series include Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (their second giallo homage following 2009’s Amer), and Alex Cox’s Repo Man, which – like Purple Rain – is pulling double duty as part of a film series entitled “1984 Revisited.” (Look for a more in-depth article about that next month.)

“Many more filmmakers will be presenting their work in the Cinema,” Vickers says, “including Josephine Decker, Natalia Almada, and Polish master Krzysztof Zanussi, to name a few. There are also additional, very exciting guests that will be announced before September 1.” Sounds like the makings of a cinephile’s dream to me.


The Ryder ● September 2014

Deer Park’s Americana Music

Howlin' Bros.

Howlin’ Brothers to Kick Off Series ● by Chris Lynch


Deer Park Manor, the site of many Bloomington weddings, will inaugurate an Americana Music Series on August 31 with the Howlin’ Brothers, a trio from Nashville, Tennessee (pictured above). Bloomington inventor and broadcast mogul Sarkes Tarzian, who contributed to the development of FM radio and color television, built the manor in the 1950s, and it has operated as a banquet facility since 1999.

Those who have walked the beautiful grounds and gardens understand why it was a fitting place for Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon to stay on their visits to Bloomington—and now its beauty can be enjoyed while taking in great music. According to Angela Backstrom, who is promoting the series, “The venue is in the outdoor courtyard, under a tent, at the lovely manor. There will be some tables and lots of chairs available, and there is a nice slate dance floor for those so inclined.”

Backstrom says that the series defines “Americana” very broadly. “Americana is a large range of music—folk, blues, country, alt-country, singer/songwriter, old-time, bluegrass, newgrass, string band, folk rock, indie, and more.” Backstrom feels that this kind of music in this unique setting will allow the manor to carve out a niche, offering something “that is currently somewhat underrepresented in Bloomington.” Wishing to differentiate itself from the classical music and club scenes, Deer Park Manor is offering “a family oriented, high quality scenic and sonic experience unlike anything else in town,” she says.

The Howlin’ Brothers, whose music combines influences from most of the range of Americana that Backstrom describes, will start the series with a bang. Ian Craft, one of the “brothers,” describes the trio as a string band. “We love blues and great songs,” he says. “We adapt them and perform them with banjo, fiddle, guitar, and upright bass, so to some it may seem like bluegrass—which isn’t wrong—but we also incorporate several styles from Cajun to country and anything else we run into that we dig.”

The trio has come a long way from when they first started working together. The three met in central New York while studying classical music at Ithaca College. “We were all at the school of music learning about different things,” recalls Craft. “Jared and Ben were studying guitar and recording engineering, and I was a percussionist. We met in a recording session—Jared was recording my steel drum band. We became great friends and started learning a lot of folk and bluegrass tunes.”

They learned to play a lot of instruments too. Craft plays banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and kick-drum; Jared Green plays guitar, harmonica, and piano; and Ben Plasse holds it all down on the upright bass. All three contribute vocals, trading off the melody to whomever wrote the song.

For the concert at the manor, the group will perform many original tunes from their commercial albums. Howl, released in 2013, peaked at number six on the Americana Music radio chart. That year they also recorded The Sun Studio Session, the recording of which is documented in a PBS series called The Sun Studio Sessions. Their stop in Bloomington is part of a national tour promoting their third album, called Trouble, which appeared in April.

Their set list will feature lots of other songs too. “We’ll play a full range of music from the new album as well as traditional tunes and other timely classics,” says Craft.

The Howlin’ Brothers’ stop at the manor will also feature some local talent. Bloomington singer-songwriter Jacob Latham will open the evening with an hour-long set at 7pm. At just 19, Latham is already an accomplished performer who has played clubs across the country. His rich and grainy baritone voice perfectly suits his folksy guitar style, mandolin picking, and Dylan-esque harmonica riffs, and will be a wonderful introduction to an evening of Americana.

[If you’re interested in learning about upcoming acts in the Deer Park Americana Music Series, you can follow the series’ page on Facebook.]


The Ryder ● September 2014

BSO Hires New Artistic Director


◆ by Will Healey

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra has hired a new Artistic Director. On July 1st, Adam Bodony will be assuming the position currently held by Nicholas Hersh. Bodony was selected from a group of eight candidates who were invited for an interview and each had an hour-long audition with the orchestra.

Donna Lafferty, executive director of the BSO as well as a trombone player in the orchestra, said Bodony stood out early on. “From the very first, it was evident that he was interested in us,” Lafferty said.  “He asked very intelligent questions about the orchestra.  You could tell that he wasn’t just looking for a job, he was looking for the right job.”

His ease with the orchestra during his audition also set him apart. “His performance was fun, very musical, he wasn’t stern or a taskmaster, he was very collaborative,” Lafferty said.  “I pretty quickly thought, ‘Yes, this is the guy.’”

Bodony, 29, also has superb qualifications. He is currently executive director and artistic director-designate of New World Youth Orchestras, a youth orchestra organization comprised of three different orchestras in Indianapolis where he works with musicians ages 7-18.  He is also the assistant conductor of the Missouri Symphony Orchestra. An accomplished musician to boot, Bodony has a master’s degree in trombone performance from IU’s Jacobs School of Music and he frequently plays trombone with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Bodony was eager to apply for the position with the BSO after fondly recalling an experience he had sitting in with the orchestra during his graduate studies at the Jacobs School.

“It only took one rehearsal for me to realize how special of a group the BSO was,” Bodony said.  The musicians are diverse and have a seemingly insatiable attitude for the highest quality of music making, the board is supportive and motivated, and the community treasures the organization.  Wrap this all up in a 45- year tradition and you have something extremely unique.

Founded in 1969 by conducting graduate student Geoffrey Simon, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra presently consists of 85 committed musicians who come from all over the state to play for passion instead of payment.  The orchestra plays eight shows per season, and recently reached an agreement with the Buskirk-Chumley Theater to host most of their performances.

As artistic director, Bodony will conduct all of the BSO’s rehearsals and concerts, as well as attend board meetings and play a key role in fundraising for the orchestra. He will also lead the committee on choosing new pieces, and, though next season is already planned, he already has a few pieces in mind.

“Mahler’s 1st Symphony, Dvorak’s 9th, and any work by Beethoven, my absolute favorite composer,” Bodony said.

There will be a ceremonial handing over of the baton from Hersh to Bodony at the BSO’s summer concert in Bryan Park on July 13 at 6:30 pm.  The BSO is hosting a reception on June 14 to formally introduce Bodony to the public and talk about their upcoming season.  The reception will take place at 6:00 pm in the City Hall atrium.

Until then, Bodony says he is eager to begin his new role as the musical leader of the BSO.  “I’m very excited to be working with this orchestra at this particular time in their history,” Bodony said.  “There is so much energy within the organization to make the BSO the very best it can be, artistically, organizationally, educationally.  I just think it’s going to be a lot of fun!”

The Ryder ◆ June 2014

1 2 3 4 8