Issue #2: The Second One

Dreams, virtual goings on, and Courtney Young!

Of Those Who is a weekly-ish newsletter that’s typed-up and sent-out straight from muggy and magical Hollywood South. Please visit the About page for a primer on what this is, share/forward around if you like what you read, and if this has arrived in your inbox by mistake, do click unsubscribe at the bottom of this letter.

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Welcome once again to Of Those Who, written & edited by yours as bylined, Bill Arceneaux.

It’s pretty understood that when a new television series premieres, it’s best to give the show a few episodes to find some footing before outright dismissing or accepting it. The same is true for this newsletter.

I’ve updated the purpose of each of the three columns featured from here on out:

  • THE REVUE will part spotlight and part review a truly independent Hollywood South film. It can be new, recent, or older/obscure.

  • THE MOVIEGOER covers my thoughts on the experience of moviegoing, observed as regionally as possible. This will include theater memories, innovation, news briefs, and more.

  • THE Q&A is where I ask local industry people a series of five questions, focused mostly on their area of expertise.

I’m still working out a better - or actual - publishing day, and will update everyone on that asap.

Ready for the next episode in this first season?

THE REVUE | A Dream for Sale

The following video description for Jonathan Jackson’s latest film A Dream for Sale does more than meets the eye:

A scientist invents a machine that can record her dreams. Isn't every movie a dream for sale tho?

Certainly, this is a short that isn’t simply an adaptation of a poem by Nik Richard. There is a flowing sense of poetry to this photographically strong piece of work - assisted by the voice-over reading of the poem of the same name - but Dream is also about the evolution of a filmmaker and his craft of filmmaking.

That last sentence in the above description works in the mind as a director’s statement, which might likely be part of the foundation of the film itself. Dream uses light and nature to the point of profound truth. What’s an illusion and what’s tangible blur together, eventually giving way to the understanding of both being part of a whole, not a clash of foreign objects. Here, our director articulates not just the discovery in the story, but what he himself feels every time he hits record.

If any two things can be said about Jonathan Jackson’s films, it’s 1) They’re aggressively confident, and 2) They’re excellently paced and shot. With Dream, Jackson and krewe took inspiration from a poem seemingly about understanding and crafting one’s own reality, and gave it visual life through the juxtaposition of the cosmos and a black female scientist who seeks to enter her REM (rapid eye movement) life.

It’s all so creatively and cleverly drawn up, never once giving way to perceived literal interpretation. Not wanting to merely “adapt,” Jackson takes Richards’ writing and evolves it from one thing into another. Early on, there is a metaphor about a butterfly just knowing what it is and what it can do. Of course, butterflies start as caterpillars, who then break their way through growth and into nature with such beauty. Not to suggest that Jackson previously was a caterpillar - far from it - but that there is a clear growth in his strengths as a filmmaker. A clear tightening of his confidence. An even clearer vision of expectations for him in the future.

Isn’t every movie a dream for sale tho?

Capturing dreams on paper and through her VR goggles, the scientist in the film could be seen as a stand-in for Jackson himself, but it may be best to roll with the idea of similarities over straight-up avatars. Maybe the film and the filmmaker are one and the same, or maybe one is a creation of the other. A dream of the other. I don’t know, and maybe it doesn’t altogether matter which comes first. Maybe just being is what’s important.

THE MOVIEGOER | From Tenet to Now

Tenet lives right at the top of my favorite flicks from Christopher Nolan. Yes I dig action, even when non-sensical. Especially when non-sensical. Of course, with a story involving time itself as a weapon, is any action “sensible?”

The act(ion) of seeing this film - which was not made available to those of us wishing to not risk being near others during the current pandemic - in theaters, criss-crosses between non-sense and sense like mad and likely says something about a person too.

I did watch Tenet at a cinema around the block from my home, on a day where and at an hour when there’d be less of a chance for other people to be seated nearby. Of course, while my room was empty for a while, someone did come in. And they sat behind me. And didn’t wear their mask for most of the runtime.

I gave in to boredom to see the movie in the oddest and somewhat most stressful of circumstances. here and there, I was checking my surroundings and breathing heavily under both of my face coverings. It reminded me of the panic attack I had when watching the South Park movie with my older brother, afraid that our parents would appear behind us. This is not the ideal moviegoing experience.

When the Tenet trailer was released, it made a debut over the online game Fortnite. Some of us joked on Twitter to #MakeTenetOnFortnite or some such hashtagging, but really, why not? Why not make the movie accessible for all, in various formats, across various platforms, for lovers all over? If Wonder Woman 1984 can do it after the fact, why couldn’t Nolan step-up and take the initiative?

The New Orleans Film Festival is wrapping up its 31st annual event this weekend, and it’s been a ball of sorts. Virtual screenings, virtual panels, virtual introductions, etc, and all watchable on my Roku! The recent Nightstream Festival - which combined multiple horror fests in a wonderful act of unity - featured virtual lounges for critics to meet one another, on top of Discord chatrooms and the like. And as of late, I’ve been doing virtual double-features with good friends over apps like Kosmi.

I can remember there being a virtual marketplace for independent films, where one could curate their own screenings and festivals, contact the filmmakers and work out fees. It was called Simple Machine. For a now defunct local publication, I helped set up a showing of See You Next Tuesday through this service at the also now defunct theater Indywood. It was a night of hiccups and fun, all thanks to innovation in the moviegoing community.

Will virtual gatherings become more social than in-person? I miss going to the video store and talking with friends and family in front of shelves and vhs boxes. I miss hanging out before and after a screening. I miss the reviews on the ride home. I miss a lot of what was once tangible.

Can there be texture to what’s over the web? If stock markets can change on the whim of a President’s tweet, then… yes. And it can be in the positive.

Still, I support an economic stimulus for struggling indie theaters & venues, of course. I continue to help promote showtimes at local cinemas, some now with outdoor components. But will I return to an actual seat in an actual theater anytime soon?

I want to. I really want to.

Will The Prytania play Fortnite with me?

THE Q&A | Courtney Young, film critic

1) For you, what makes Hollywood South special?

For me, I love everything about Hollywood South because it's home. I love seeing film crews around my neighborhood, because I know it's good for the city.

2) As a critic, what aspect of a movie would you, more often than not, latch onto in a positive way?

If a movie makes me feel a certain way, something I can almost relate to, I latch onto it immediately. When I first saw Silver Linings Playbook, it was the first movie to make me feel okay about having a mental illness. It made me feel okay about myself, and it just happened to be an excellent movie all around.

3) At your site, you tend to use plenty of GIFs within your already colorful reviews. Same with your Snapchat and Instagram posts. How do you feel about these multi-media tools enhancing your articles, and what differences if any are there between your style of criticism and those of old-school print journalists?

I feel like my style IS very colorful both visually and verbally. I like to say my attention span is too short, so I try to make my reviews as engaging as possible for other people like me. I never could get into old school print reviews, because it was literally so black and white. I think we have so many useful tools (like images, gifs, videos) now that a review never has to be boring.

4) The Louisiana movie review scene is heavily dominated by white men (the same can, unfortunately, be said beyond the state). In the current landscape of entertainment journalism, how would you suggest publishers work on this, and what advice would you give to local writers who may face relevant obstacles?

I think Hollywood is making progress with this...slowly but surely. I think they just need to spotlight women and minorities more, because there's a lot of great content out there by diverse writers/actors/etc. My advice would be to keep going forward despite the setbacks, because opportunity is always there.

5) What is your favorite movie that has a Louisiana connection, and why?

My favorite Louisiana-shot film is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ... I think it was just such a terrific story with a beautiful homage to the city of Nola. It gave me all the feels of the city while telling such an intriguing story.

Many thanks for reading!