Some Notes on Film

"A movie is not about what it is about. It is about how it is about it." - Roger Ebert

A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film

Last October I wrote on the problem of how to represent digital life in film. In this video essay, Tony Zhou takes a survey of some of the solutions that have been offered up thus far.

Representing texting is relatively easy, and Zhou has his own preferences for the approaches he likes best. Representing the internet, he agrees, is trickier, but Zhou takes a more optimistic view than I did in my essay - the fact that it’s yet to be done well means that it’s a tough problem, sure, but it also means that the field is wide open for filmmakers to experiment.


This strategy of automatic writing, it’s not controlled by thinking or conceiving, but straight intuition. Then comes a period of molding and sculpting intuitively gained material, and control starts there. In conceiving the film, and then also in shooting, we actually are controlling, are not really into this spontaneity of discovering something that hasn’t been conceived. I think the very beginning is the place where control isn’t welcome.

One thing I’d like to add: because of that control-freak aspect of us, it’s maybe important to have scenes, actions, moments where a certain kind of improvisation or something uncontrolled can happen, like the cat, or Clara [the young girl]. They cannot be controlled. Because of that nature, it’s important to put those elements, which can give more life to your controlled universe. It’s important that you can’t control everything.


Ramon Zurcher, on his film The Strange Little Cat



Hello non-US friends,

I am writing to inform you that we now ship WORLDWIDE!

Your patience and your pestering have finally paid off! Now, on every corner of God’s green earth, you can read captivating accounts of bibliophilia and cinemania!

Bathe with Japanese macaques in the snow covered hot springs of Yamanouchi while you are regaled with tales of James Franco sightings and that funny looking cat from the internet! Stroll along rue Cler while you savor a bizarrely methodical moment-by-moment analysis of a scene from Steve Martin’s The Jerk! Read of rummage sale revelations in Rio! Enjoy entertaining exegesis in Edinburgh! Get your zine on in Hong Kong! Study our samizdats in Stavropol! Furiously scribble margin notes as you debate Tim’s assessment of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints from the treacherous tippy-top of K2!!

All this and more is now possible, as the simple click of a button and a digitally-mediated exchange of currency will send a lovingly packaged bundle of independently published reading material careening straight to your door, entirely irrespective of that door’s location in geographical space!

No longer will we be bound by the oppressive and arbitrary constraints of national borders! Join us, my cosmopolitan comrades, as we embark on a new era of international zine-dom!


Some readers from Canada, Australia and elsewhere have asked me about when they’ll be able to order copies of the Some Notes on Film zine. Well as of today, the answer is NOW!

I just enabled international orders on our Etsy shop. Order your copy now before I realize that I mistakenly low-balled all my shipping cost estimates and have to bump up the prices! (Just kidding, that won’t happen because I am a professional.)

"No film which only translates into film what is known already (from the newspaper, a book, TV) is worth anything. A film has to find an expression in its own language."

— Harun Farocki (R.I.P.)

noisenotmusic asked: How can I go about getting a copy of Some Notes if I live internationally? The Etsy store doesn't offer it.

We’ll be opening up the Etsy store to international customers very soon (before the end of August?) - just a matter of doing some research so we can set shipping prices. I’ll post here when we do. Thanks for your interest!

"Suppose a character, in one of the stories you and I write, tried to conceive of his origin, and tried to foresee beyond what he knows of his destiny at any given point of the story. His enquiries, his speculations, would lead him to hypotheses (infinity, chance, indeterminacy, free will, curved space and time …) very similar to those at which thinkers arrive when speculating about the universe.
This is why the traffic between storytelling and metaphysics is continuous.
The notion that life, as lived, is a story being told is a recurring one. Rationalism rejected this notion by proposing that the laws of nature were ineluctably mechanical. Most recent scientific research tends to suggest that the natural working of the processes of the universe resemble those of a brain rather than a machine. To think of such a ‘brain’ as a narrator—although many scientists would protest that the thought was too anthropomorphic—has again become feasible. The metaphysics of storytelling has ceased to be a merely literary concern.
What separates us from the characters about whom we write is not knowledge, either objective or subjective, but their experience of time in the story we are telling. This separation allows us, the storytellers, the power of knowing the whole. Yet, equally, this separation renders us powerless: we cannot control our characters, after the narration has begun. We are obliged to follow them, and this following is through and across the time, which they are living and which we oversee.
The time, and therefore the story, belongs to them. Yet the meaning of the story, what makes it worthy of being told, is what we can see and what inspires us because we are beyond its time.
Those who read or listen to our stories see everything as through a lens. This lens is the secret of narration, and it is ground anew in every story, ground between the temporal and the timeless.
If we storytellers are Death’s Secretaries, we are so because, in our brief mortal lives, we are grinders of these lenses."

John Berger, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

(Source: hours)

"In film, there are two ways of including human beings. One is depicting human beings. Another is to create a film form which, in itself, has all the qualities of being human: tenderness, observation, fear, relaxation, the sense of stepping into the world and pulling back, expansion, contraction, changing, softening, tenderness of heart. The first is a form of theater and the latter is a form of poetry."

Nathaniel Dorsky (via nikopoll)

(Source:, via nikopoll)

tomsalinsky asked: Billy Wilder neither wrote nor directed The Odd Couple. Other than that, great piece. Cheers. Tom.

Yikes! Don’t know how I missed that. I must have just been thinking about Jack Lemon as I wrote that sentence. Fixed now. Thanks for the correction.

seamsstory asked: This is a formal request that you watch Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel and review it, specifically making commentary on the following things: Anderson crafting a queer main character although the plot line has little to do with being queer (this never happens in movies, if a character is queer, the movie is always about their sexuality, it's pretty unique!), his poignant barb about racism and immigrant and Adrien Brody brooding in a trenchcoat.

Okay! I’ve been meaning to see it. Probably will soon. If I write about it, I’ll probably just end up writing about whatever details strike me, as I usually do, but I’ll take these into consideration for sure. I haven’t really read much about the movie - had no clue a main character was queer! Annie and I have this idea to write a series of zines where we go through every single Wes Anderson film and write about how every single POC character is depicted (no matter how minor). Add that to my endless list of overambitious future projects!

review of Some Notes on Film Vol. 1 on One Minute Zine Reviews



I’ve long been a fan of quinquagenarian zinester Fred Moe (aka “DJ Frederick”) and his blog One Minute Zine Reviews, which has introduced me to a few new titles in the past. So I’m totally flattered that Fred has reviewed my own zine on the site and had some good things to say:

First issues of new zines tend to be ambitious, with the creator trying to both convey the thematic content and build the foundation for possible future issues. Some Notes on Film is succinct in both of these aims – it is a zine that is visually beautiful and brimming with exceptional writing. The introductory essay offers one of the most coherent messages regarding the world of websites and blogs vs. the world of print that I have ever read. Some Notes on Film then explores a scene from “The Jerk”, a premise on art-maing proposed by Brian Eno, and much more. This is a substantial work that film lovers and non film lovers can enjoy. If a zine’s mission is to educate, entertain, and expand the reader’s horizons, this one succeeds on every level.

You can still buy Some Notes on Film Vol. 1 on Etsy.