Monday, August 22, 2011

A Fond Farewell

Hi listeners and friends,

It's unfortunate to have to say this, but it seems this rendition of The Brooklyn Film Theorists podcast has reached a conclusion. As can be expected from your hosts, we parted amicably - our schedules have become too divergent and despite our fondness for each other's company, it was becoming unfathomable to record shows on a week by week basis. Rick and I will surely work together again in some capacity and for the time being, enjoy the twenty five episodes we've put together during the 8 months we were on the air.

Much thanks and love goes out to Rob Christman and Mic Blaque, two talented producers who've put in time, energy and spirit into making these episodes happen.

I'll be taking the blog down shortly in order to rework it visually and make sure all the episodes are up on ITunes in the right order. They should be up permanently in a few weeks. Feel free to drop me a line with any questions at

Take care,


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Episode 25: "Bellflower"/"13 Assassins"

This week, Mark and special guest Cody Robison talk Sundance hit "Bellflower", a "mumblecore grindhouse" film and Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins", notable for the hour-long battle sequence that closes out the film. "13 Assassins" is now on Netflix Instant Play.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Episode 24: "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest" feat. Chaz Kangas

This week, Rick gives his blessing to Mark and guest Chaz Kangas' discussion of the documentary "Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest".

Check out Chaz's album "A Personal Reference" right here .

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Episode 23: "Transformers 3"/"The Destructors"

This week on BKFT, Rick and Mark tackle Michael Bay's newest fightin' robot extravaganza and talk about a little-known 70s thriller "The Destructors".

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Nostalgia for our Youth

Whenever I go out recently, people that find out that I'm a "movie guy" always recommend JJ Abrams Super 8. Inevitably, I have to tell them that I am not a fan of the film and I already  reviewed it on the podcast that I cohost (Episode 21, Super 8/ If I want to Whistle, I Whistle.) As always, the other people become defensive and tell me that they enjoy the film on the level of it being a good summer blockbuster. This line of reasoning is classic Roger Ebert; basing a film's merits around what genre it belongs to. In the case of Super 8, many people, particularly in the Generation X and Y ("millenials") age brackets, yearn for a throwback family adventure film such as Goonies or Back to the Future (which I hope to host an entire podcast about later this summer) that they grew up with in the 1980's. Simply put, Super 8 is not that film. It is entertaining on a summer time mattinee level, but the characters are instantly forgettable, with only Elle Fanning's leaving any lasting impression, which is more a statement on the talented young actress. What sets Richard Donner's Goonies apart is it's hilarious and touching characters and it's tightly wrapped story. There might be an actor in the movie known as Chunk, but the story has no fat to it. It moves along at a brisk pace, walking a tight balance between scenes of emotional discovery for the children and family friendly action sequences.
So the next time you see me out, I'm glad to discuss one of the major passions in my life- films- but please, no more Super 8 arguments. I yearn for the type of coming of age adventure films I loved growing up. And when I see one, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Episode 22: "Black Death"/"Green Lantern"

This week on BKFT, Rick and Mark theorize on "Black Death"'s take on religion and contemplate reasons for the failure of "Green Lantern".

That Just Happened

Jenn (disgustedly), "Oh my God, they're coming out with a Step-up 4?"
Me, "Unless John Chu is on board, I'm not seeing it."

Monday, June 20, 2011

Episode 21: "Super 8"/"When I Want To Whistle, I Whistle"

This week, Mark and Rick talk whether the big budget Spielbergian magic of "Super 8" works, and discuss the merits of the little-seen Romanian film "When I Want To Whistle, I Whistle".

Monday, June 13, 2011


Whenever you speak in a live recording format, there is always the chance you may say something out of context or forget a vital piece of information. For me, I have at least one major fuck up per episode that I wish I could take back. Recently there were two glaring statements I made that I need to correct.

The first is on Episode 19, Hangover part 2 and Tree of Life, when I stated that the cinematographer of Tree of Life, the extremely talented Emmanuel Lubezki, performed as a steadicam operator on his films. As my friend and working AC/DP Alberto Mojica pointed out to me, this simply is not true. Lubezki performs much of the handheld camera work himself and uses other people to operate the steadicams. However, he does pull focus from a wireless remote for many of the steadicam sequences.

A second glaring mistake I made is when I claimed on Episode 20, The Brooklyn College FIlm Festival and X Men: First Class, that Brooklyn College needed to create a separate Best Documentary Award for the festival to celebrate the numerous non-fiction films students produce. The problem with this suggestion is that there already is a Best Documentary category and it was won this year by the heartfelt film Deconstructing Your Mother, directed by Ja'Tovia Gary. When I made the suggestion on air, I was making a statement about the nature of documentary filmmaking in general and how it differs greatly from narrative filmmaking, unless of course your are Werner Herzog, but that's a different blog post. When people critique documentaries, they are often quick to allow for obscene camera zooms or poor image quality as long as the overarching storyline tugs on the old heart strings. That's fine, as I am a huge fan of direct cinema, cinema veritae and other forms of non-fiction films. Yet, at the same time I feel if narrative films are to be judged on harsher terms for their formalistic elements, such as sound quality, editing pace and image quality, then narrative and documentary films should be screened and judged with only the other types of films in those categories.

Thanks again and I'll talk to your soon.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Episode 20: Brooklyn College Film Festival/"X-Men: First Class"

Episode 20 of BKFT is in the books, as Mark and Rick wrap up the 29th annual Brooklyn College Film Festival and discuss who is the true lifeblood of a film set with guests Alex Susse and Cal Robertson. And "X-Men: First Class".

Friday, June 3, 2011

Episode 19: "The Hangover Part II"/"Tree of Life"

This week on BKFT, Rick and Mark smirk occasionally throughout "The Hangover Part II", and Mark has a surprise for Rick on their discussion of "Tree of Life".

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Episode 18: "Vanishing on 7th Street"/"Blue Valentine"

This week, Mark and Rick present a list of favorite car chases and take on the supernatural thriller "Vanishing on 7th Street" and the somber relationship drama "Blue Valentine".

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Se7en Vibe for Fincher's Remake?

When it comes to early trailers of films, I'm usually against watching them, but this I have to share. I found out about it through the The Daily Notebook twitter page and even though I have not read any of the books, I am intrigued by David Fincher's vision for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. In particular, this footage makes me recall Fincher's early pyschologically gripping masterpiece, Se7en.

However, I'm not sure if the trailer has enough cuts in it? If the goal was to give the viewer a seizure, then the editor of the trailer sadly failed.

As for the atrocious Led Zeppelin cover, I am doing my best to ignore it and simply revel in Fincher's return to the thriller genre.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Episode 17: "Bridesmaids"/"Fast Five"

On a special episode of The Brooklyn Film Theorists, Rick invites his fiancee Jen to talk bridal films and "Bridesmaids" with him. Then, Rick and Mark run circles around "Fast Five".

Episode 16: "Meek's Cutoff"/"I Love You Phillip Morris"

This week on The Brooklyn Film Theorists, Mark and Rick discuss the highs and lows of Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff" as well as the controversial romance "I Love You Phillip Morris".

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Fast Five" Capsule Review

If a viewer can overcome an implausible story & throwaway one-liners, then that viewer will relish the adrenaline rush that director Justin Lin serves up in Fast Five. Be warned: stereotypes are manipulated and reinforced with the subtlety of a jackhammer at dawn, but the action scenes are intense and the shot selection admirable. ***
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.8

Friday, May 13, 2011

Episode 15: Werner Herzog/"Cave of Forgotten Dreams"

This week, The Brooklyn Film Theorists return with an in-depth discussion of Werner Herzog and his newest film, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams". Featuring the smooth soul vocals of Frank Joseph Baran.

Music: "SideKicks-N-FlyKicks"
Artist: O.I.S.D.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An Excellent Character Actor

Even though I'm in the middle of watching Werner Herzog's epic tale of a stoic strongman in Germany at the onset of World War II, Invincible (2001), I wanted to take a moment and point out how great Udo Kier is at playing the creepy, mysterious man in films. Despite only uttering a handful of lines in many of the films he appears in, Kier steals every scene he's in with his piercing and disturbing gaze. The speech he delivers in Invincible, where he critiques the Nazi's lack of style to Joseph Goebbels, perfectly captures how many Germans must have felt about the Fascist party. Another of his surprisingly memorable acting turns for me is as the wealthy businessman in one of my favorite films from my youth, Tom Shadyac's ridiculous Jim Carrey vehicle Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994). Kier's brief appearance onscreen left a distinct impression with me even though his character served no real purpose to the overarching story line of the film.

This line from, Paul Morrisey's cult 1974 vampire film, Blood for Dracula, exemplifies how Kier delivers the cheesiest lines with the utmost sincerity.

Here is another ridiculous scene from an excellent Gus Van Sant film, 1993's My Own Private Idaho, where Kier forgoes all subtly to create a bizarre moment that has typified his acting career.

Simply put, Kier may never be considered an excellent actor in the vein of young Al Pacino or Marlon Brando, but he is a great character actor who will pop up in the oddest film at the oddest moment.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Television Films

Watching a film on television is so disruptive. The only truly effective movies I watch on television are films that are played on movie specific channels, such as TCM. That is not to say that I cannot appreciate a film on IFC or AMC, but I always feel like I want to buy or netflix the film, if it was good to begin with.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7

Monday, April 25, 2011

Episode 14: "Scream 4"/"The Exorcist"

This week on The Brooklyn Film Theorists, Mark sits it out as Rick and special guest Top $ Raz take on "Scre4m" and "The Exorcist".

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fitzcarraldo Capsule Review

Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo is EPIC in the grandiose, 1950's cinemascope definition & in the modern, annoyingly overused manner. An unparalleled vision ****
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.7

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Episode 13: "Sucker Punch"/"Hanna"/"The Tourist"

This week on BKFT, Mark and Rick compare and contrast "Sucker Punch" and "Hanna", two films that can be boiled down to girls kicking ass. We then take on "The Tourist".

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Episode 12: "Win Win/Hereafter"

This week on BKFT, Mark and Rick interview Nick Feitel, writer/food critic/filmmaker, and discuss the virtues of "Win Win" and "Hereafter".

Here is Nick's blog, for those interested.

Music: "Gary"
Artist: Chaz Kangas

You can find Chaz's newest album, "A Personal Reference", right here! Don't be surprised if you find yourself giving it more than a few listen-throughs.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hotly Contested Debate

It is only 4 months into the year 2011 and there are already two glaringly obvious candidates for worst film of the year, Jonathan Liebsman's atrocious propaganda film Battle: LA and Zack Syder's unintentional comedy Sucker Punch. If you pay money to see these films, just know that you have been forewarned and I will consider you a masochist in the truest and most sickening sense of the word.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Episode 11 Soundtrack Segment Selections

To celebrate the lively discussion Mark and I had over our Episode 11 soundtrack segment selections, I figured I would post them for maximum intensity and for general understanding of what we were discussing. Enjoy!



Sunday, April 3, 2011

Episode 11: "Battle: LA"/"Four Lions"

The Brooklyn Film Theorists are back as Mark and Rick tackle "Battle: Santa Monica" and "Four Lions", the funniest suicide bomber comedy...ever.

Music: "The Ones We Leave Behind"
Arist: Matt Panay

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Moment of Truth

You want to know why I never write full reviews on the blog? Because I never learned how to read! Are you happy now?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mark's Picks: 7 Movies I'd Appreciate It If You Saw

If you have not see these films, I'll still appreciate discourse with you and respect you as a human being, but I'll really wish you'd taken me up on the advice. Rick has me beat when it comes to influential and otherwise "important" films but I have my preferences and passions. Below is a sampling of what makes Mark tick - that's me, I'm Mark. Hi!

1) F.W. Murnau's perfect Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
2) Coen Brothers' engrossing Miller's Crossing (1990)
3) Hughes Brothers' raw Menace II Society (1993)
4) Martin Scorsese's virile Mean Streets (1973)
5) ShinichirĊ Watanabe's cool Cowboy Bebop (1998-1999)
6) Andrew Dominik's indelible The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
7) Spike Lee's heartbreaking 25th Hour (2002)

Rick's Picks: 7 Movies You Need to See

If you have not see this films, I will not take you seriously in an argument about films. I am the first to admit that I have yet to watch several cultural touchstone films, such as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Jaws, but these are the films that you must see or I will not respect your opinion when you tell me I didn't "understand" Social Network.

1) Terence Malick's Days of Heaven (1978)
2) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Amores Perros (2000)
3) John Ford's The Searchers (1956)
4) David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986)
5) Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927)
6) Jean-Luc Godards' Contempt (1963)
7) David Fincher's Zodiac (2007)

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Sucker Punch" Review

Check out my review of Zack Snyder's latest over here, at Obsessed With Film.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top $ Raz's "The Man" Music Video Premiere

Top $ Raz (who appeared as a guest on Episode 6 of the show) has released the music video for his song "The Man", which you may know as our intro song. Check it out here!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Still a Box Office Groupie

No matter how jaded I become by the state of the film industry, with an unprecedented number of sequels and remakes set for release this year, I still check the weekend box office numbers every Sunday night. This week the Bradly Cooper vehicle, Limitless, lead the way; however, Tom McCarthy's Win Win, which Mark and I will be discussing in an upcoming episode, performed well considering it was only released on four screens in New York and Los Angeles. One reason I care about the box office numbers is it determines what types of films will be released in the future. Even though I, and numerous other critics, despised Battle: LA, the film has performed well domestically, as well as overseas, which all but insures Sony, the studio behind the over-hyped under-plotted action flick, will begin work on a sequel in short time. Another reason I love reading the weekend box office roundup is I hope to one day have a film appear on that list. Let's face it, as much as filmmakers claim to create work to please only themselves, they still hope it is accepted by an audience, even if it is not a mass audience. Which is why the specialty box office numbers, grading the money a film makes per every screen it's exhibited on, is so crucial to independent filmmakers.
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Episode 10: "I Saw The Devil"/"Love And Other Drugs"

As we proceed to give you what you need...last week on The Brooklyn Film Theorists, Rick and Mark braved minor technical problems to bring you this podcast. Check it out!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Note on Documentary Filmmaking

The worst part of watching documentary films that were filmed using only one camera is the obnoxious swish panning. A swish pan is when the camera moves quickly, often abruptly, laterally (pans) to the left or right. Onscreen, objects blur and a feeling of uneasiness is created in the viewer. This effect is desired by many modern directors of narrative films, such as Paul Greengrass, who uses the swish pan to great effect in United 93, Bourne Supremacy and Boune Ultimatum. Greengrass has admitted that he was heavily influenced by the documentary filmmakers of the 1960's who preached a truth in cinema, more commonly known as "Cinema Verite". This movement became famous for recording events with naturalistic lighting and multiple handheld cameras. The difference between filming with one camera and multiple cameras is once you have the footage recorded from several cameras, a director and editor can simply cut from one vantage point to another of the same event and the cutting is seamless and the viewer remains (hopefully) riveted by the event occurring in the diegetic world. Conversely, if the director and editor have footage from only one camera, they are faced with using the swish pan the camera person originally captured in the moment of the event or finding other footage altogether. Swish panning can be effective employed if the objective of the filmmaker is for the viewer to be agitated. However, the swish pan becomes counter-productive if audience agitation is not the goal of the filmmaker because the viewer becomes distracted by a formal element of the filmmaking process and is thus removed from the viewing experience. By stating the swish pan is obnoxious when exploited in this manner, I am not attacking documentary camera workers. The camera person is merely attempting to capture all elements of the events occurring around them in a manner that will benefit the director once it is time to edit. It is the director and editor's choice to include footage that will remove the viewer from the all important watching experience.

There is an example of a swish pan used at the 1:38 mark of this otherwise interesting clip (the swish pan is exploited as an editing device from the Cartier advertisement to the "talking head", yet it becomes ineffective in the fact that you notice the camera move and not what the philosopher is stating):

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Love the 80's, or at Least the Music Videos.

Anyone who made it through Episode 5, "Never Let Me Go/ Music Video Favorites", knows I love music videos and consider them an art form. Here are two videos that did not make my list, but I want people to view and comment on.

This is the classic "film within a film", only it's a video within a video. This clip was shot and released in 1981, at the dawn of MTV and is directed by Steve Barron. The director was heavily influnced by Truffaut's Day for Night (1974), an extraordinary examination of the filmmaking process.

Human League - Don't You Want Me by jpdc11

If you can explain this video to me, you are an extraordinary thinker. Although, one reason I love the clip is its ambiguity, as well as its exceptional black and white cinematography. The video was shot, cut and directed by Ian Eames and was inspired by Helmut Newton's photgraphy and Liliana Cavani's The Night Porter (1974).

Duran Duran - The Chauffeur [uncensored] from mm1 on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Soundtrack Selections for Episode 10

Below are our soundtrack selections for upcoming episode 10 - "I Saw The Devil"/"Love And Other Drugs". Enjoy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Links and a Recommendation

Tonight, Mark and I will attempt to record our second video promo after the disastrous first attempt (both will be posted online when once they are edited). But first, I wanted to post a few more links and recommend a classic film.

During Episode 7, "The Oscar Podcast", Mark read off BKFT's producer-mixer Robert G. Chrisman's Oscar picks and here is the link for what Rob chose as the Best Original Song in a Motion Picture in 2010.

On the second half of Episode 6, "Interview with Top $ Raz/review of Waiting for "Superman", I had major issues with David Guggenheim's glorification of charter schools and his defilement of public schools in his critically acclaimed film Waiting for "Superman". Here are some links to articles I read as research and an op-ed piece that spells out why Waiting for "Superman" was not nominated for a Best Feature Documentary Oscar (Mark questioned the Academy's decision making during Episode 7).

The link to the glowing review of the film that set off a level of anger in me that I usually reserve for overrated British dramas:

Link to an article from The Nation critiquing the ideology of the movie:

The op-ed piece from the Washington Post detailing why Waiting for "Superman" was snubbed for a Best Documentary Feature:

Since Mark and I predominately review recently released films, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate Roman Polanski's classic psychological thriller Repulsion (1965). I had heard of the film for years, but it was not until I saw Polanski's incredible debut film Knife in the Water (1962), and heard Darren Aronofsky and Matthew Libatique admit that the film was a major influence over the look of The Wrestler (2008) and the story and look of Black Swan (2010), that I became fully obsessed with watching Polanski's film about obsession and sexual repression. Repulsion features a mesmerizing performance from Catherine Deneuve as the lead character, Carol, who is shy by nature and faces incessant come-ons and harassment from all the men in her life, even her sister's married lover. When Carol's sister and her lover go away on vacation, Carol is left in her sister's haunting and hollow apartment and Carol's mind slowly unravels. Stalked by one man and hounded by unremitting phone calls and knocks on the front door, Carol trembles and hides as the apartment walls around her crack and crumble onscreen. One of the major questions the film poses is what, if any of these surreal images occur in the external world? At a certain point, viewers of the film will have a tough time telling what is fantasy, Carol's midnight nightmares of rape, and reality, did she actually kill a person in the apartment?

It is also of importance to note that this film features one of the all time great closing sequences that spells out Carol's family back story in one family picture. What would take many writers and directors several scenes, or gasp, flashback sequences to illustrate, Polanski accomplishes with a slow track into one family photo.

The film features imaginative shot compositions and very languid handheld camera movements. With this film, Polanski established himself as the master of the modern psychological thriller and propelled his career into Hollywood. In the hands of a lesser director and lead actress, Repulsion would be the type of psycho-sexual schlock that this film no doubt influenced. However, in the hands of a gifted director with a twisted mind and an actress of unnerving dedication, Repulsion is the classic film I highly recommend it to be.
***1/2 Stars.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Episode 9: "Drive Angry" in 3D/"The Room"

This week on The Brooklyn Film Theorists, Mark and Rick tackle two films that...are worth tackling. The Nicholas Cage vehicular vehicle "Drive Angry" (in 3D) and the astounding, the befuddling and entirely singular "The Room".

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Links, Links and More Links!

Mark and I keep having great guests record podcasts with us, but I have yet to post links to any of their websites where you can experience their work firsthand. Without further ado...

Igor Yankilevich, star of Episode 8.

Top $ Raz, star of Episode 6 and writer/performer of the BKFT theme song, "The Man".

As of now, Ethan Donnelly, star of Episode 1 (writer-director of the upcoming short film "Saltwater"), and Eric Gentry-Weeks, star of episode 7 (working AC/Cinematographer), do not have websites, but they will both in short time.

On a final note. Here's a link to a student film I starred in in 2008. It was my first acting experience on film (Super-8 negative!) and I loved working with the director Jae Hong Choi. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Episode 8: Igor Yankilevich

Hi all, here it is, our interview with filmmaker Igor Yankilevich, director of feature film "Untitled Chapters" and short "The Rainbow Room", now playing at a variety of festivals. You can check us his production company site here - Enjoy!

Word to the wise, this is a solid short, so definitely check it out - "The Rainbow Room" will be screened at the Queens World Film Festival on Friday, March 4th as part of a screening block beginning at 9:15 pm. Details can be found on the festival website:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Episode 7: The Oscar Podcast feat. Eric Gentry-Weeks

This week, the Brooklyn Film Theorists take on that most hallowed of awards shows, with special guest Eric Gentry-Weeks.

Disclaimer: We told you we love to talk, right? So...our Oscar podcast was originally going to include an interview with filmmaker Igor Yankilevich, but we got into the discussion and spent the bulk of our time arguing with each other and reading Robert G. Christman's phenomenal Oscar picks. That said, here at BKFT, we are nothing if not gracious, so look for a separate podcast featuring just our interview with Igor, dropping tomorrow night at the latest.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Final Note on The Oscar Process

With only a few days left before the 2011 Academy Awards, as well as the release of the BKFT Oscar Podcast, I wanted to state for the last time that I still believe Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is the best film that is nominated for Best Picture. The fact that the film has been swept up in the marketing machine that is the pre-Oscar push made by each film's distribution company is a genuine shame. I would also like to reiterate that even though I appreciated both Tom Hopper's The Kings' Speech and David Fincher's Social Network, they are not as daring or complex as what I believe will one day be a horror-macabre classic, The Black Swan. That said, the only films I seem to hear about- because, I have to admit I avoid most Oscar blogs- are The King's Speech and Social Network. This forces me to conclude that it was great that the Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Science decided to nominate 10 films, but the Best Picture race is still only two front-runners both representing different ideals (last year it was James Cameron's Avatar versus Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker) battling it out for the award that is determined by how many millions of dollars is spent on marketing and how much person-to-person buzz a film builds. That's right, I'm talking about Slumdog Millionaire, which everyone has forgotten a mere two years later, whereas Aronofsky's The Wrestler, nominated against Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, is now regarded as a modern feat of filmmaking. Here's to you, Mr. Aronofsky, I only hope and shudder at the thought that you might win Best Director and a Best Picture Oscar for your installment of the next Wolverine film.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Episode 6: Top $ Raz!/"Waiting For Superman"

This week on BKFT, Mark and Rick interview up-and-coming MC/screenwriter Top $ Raz, author of our intro/outro song "The Man"! Plus, a discussion on the merits of "Waiting For Superman".

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Human than Human: Are Individual Film Critics still Relevant to Modern Moviegoers?

In Roger Ebert’s seething 2008 Chicago Sun-Times diatribe, “Death to film critics! Hail to the Celebcult!” Ebert decries the recent layoffs of many of his former colleagues and competitors at newspapers around the United States. He is right, as several well-known film critics have been ousted from positions that once seemed tenured, such as Nathan Lee from the Village Voice, David Ansen from Newsweek (who now works as a part time “contributing editor”) and Todd McCarthy from Variety. Ebert’s spews venom throughout his article; placing the blame for the critics’ expulsions on the dwindling readership of newspapers, particularly amongst younger generations who he believes only crave celebrity gossip. There may be some merit to his theory; however, many film critics, such as Todd McCarthy and Leonard Maltin at indieWIRE, have found employment in the once threatening world of online reviewing and blogging. The fact that established reviewers are surviving in a modern forum, as Ebert himself won a Webby Award in 2010 for person of the year for his thriving website that includes an online journal, exemplifies a point that there is still a place for critical discussion about film. Yet, there is a another question to be asked, one that is surely depressing for aspiring film critics everywhere: with the success of aggregate movie review websites like Rotten Tomatoes, are the critical rankings of individual film reviewers still vital to today’s filmgoers?

Before any further discussion on the validity of individual film critics, it is important to note the reach of Rotten Tomatoes, which- in a Los Angeles Times article- reported over 10 million unique visitors in the month of December 2009, and the site’s wildly popular Tomatometer. The Tomatometer calculates a film’s critical ranking by taking the number of positive reviews and dividing by the total number of reviews. If a movie has a ranking over 60%, it is considered fresh and recommended by the site. Anything below is regarded as rotten and the site has clear visual aides next to films specifying its freshness and overall percentage grade. For a reviewer to be included in the ranking process, known on the site as an Approved Tomatometer Critic, he or she must be employed at a Tomatometer-approved publication or media outlet for at least two calendar years. In the case of an online critic, he or she must have reviewed at least 100 films in a two calendar year span and the reviews must have a minimum length of 300 words. One telling option of the Tomatometer that proves that at least the creators of Rotten Tomatoes respect established film critics is the Top Critics option.

The process to become a Top Critic is much more difficult than simply being an Approved Critic and involves working for a highly celebrated media outlet or website and for a longer period of time, but there is also a subjective aspect to the selection process. As stated on the Rotten Tomatoes website, “a Top Critic may also be recognized as such based on their influence, reach, reputation, and/or quality of writing as determined by Rotten Tomatoes staff.” Clearly, celebrated reviewers are celebrated at Rotten Tomatoes. In an interview with Tim Ryan in 2008, one of the creators of the site, Senh Duong, stated one of the largest influences on the site was, “watching Siskel & Ebert. When I was picking a domain name for Rotten Tomatoes, I was gonna call it “Thumbs Up” as a tribute to them.”

So if an aggregated movie reviews site worships established film critics, then why are so many critics considered expendable by their employers? The answer of course is in the beautiful simplicity of the Tomatometer. As stated by every critic of modern cultural times, from Charlie Chaplin to Roger Ebert, moviegoers and the general public simply do not have time to accomplish all the tasks they want to achieve in a day. Do to this modern time crunch (that seems to have been afflicting people since the industrial revolution, yet every generation swears is growing worse with every oncoming generation), people are told they do not have time, or money do to this ongoing three year recession, to read newspapers. To combat this lack of time and wealth, people skim through news and movie reviews online because it is much faster and because it is free. Why should someone spend $2.00 on a New York Times and the 25 minutes reading A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis reviews, when he or she can go on Rotten Tomatoes and view a films’ aggregated ranking in 10 seconds for no charge whatsoever? A response to that question is that it is more intellectually stimulating to read an entire review from a trusted source on a film before or after viewing it. The comeback to that is that a person can easily click on a Scott or Dargis review link on Rotten Tomatoes that takes the reader to the original review for zero charge.
Roger Ebert is right in his original assessment in “Death to film critics! Hail to the Celebcult!” that potential readers are the reason so many film critics are losing their jobs at major publications and media outlets, but his explanation is wrong. People still want critical analysis on films and from authoritative voices, they just want it in a streamlined form that Rotten Tomatoes provides and at an excellent price: free.

My First Post

Hey Mark,

I DID IT!...


Thanks everyone for your interest in the blog and the BKFT podcast. Write me at to let me know how you feel about the podcast.

PS- Click on the link to understand why I told Mark "I DID IT!"...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Episode 5: "Never Let Me Go"/Music Video Favorites

This week on a very special episode of The Brooklyn Film Theorists, Mark and Rick explore their emotional sides and realize that we're not so different after all. Briefly featured is a segment on Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go" and something about music video favorites. Check us out at

Opening music: At Rest - Kevin MacLeod.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Episode 4: "The Mechanic"/"Let Me In"

This week on The Brooklyn Film Theorists, Rick and Mark tackle Jason Statham vehicle "The Mechanic" and Matt Reeve's much-debated remake "Let Me In". Also, why Mark can't go to the Super Bowl. Check us out at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New York No Limits

For even more info, check out Episode 3 of our podcast.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to check out the NY No Limits 2011 Winter Series film festival. It was held over at The Wild Project (195 East 3rd Street), a small but comfortable venue.

I turned up to support my friend Igor Yankilevich's film, which you can see listed below - he will, hopefully be guesting on a future podcast to talk about his experiences making "The Rainbow Room" as well as the feature film "Untitled Chapters", which I worked on.

I also spoke briefly with Rafael De Leon Jr., director of the horror comedy "Waffle". Rafael is a big fan of the French horror New Wave and strongly recommends the films "High Tension" (from director Alexandre Aja, whose "The Hills Have Eyes Remake" I am very fond of), "Inside", and the notoriously controversial "Martyrs" (the mighty Scott Tobias did a great piece on it over at the A.V. Club). Rafael will hopefully be making an appearance in a future podcast - he's a great guy and a director going places, as evidenced by his short.

You can check out the line-up and more over at the NY No Limits site.

Episode 3: "Biutiful"/"Takers"

It's in the books! Episode 3 of The Brooklyn Film Theorists, with Rick Rosset and Mark Zhuravsky. Do you know about Orange & Teal? What about Javier Bardem's mullet? You will! Then, Mark wages war on Orange & Teal and takes Takers to task as Rick tries to keep the peace. Check us out at

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Orange and teal

A visual companion to Todd Miro's excellent breakdown of the orange and teal craze currently sweeping Hollywood.
In preparation for our "Takers" podcast which we recorded Monday night, Rick and I poured over these materials. Any up-and-coming listener would be wise to check them out ;)

In defense of color correction:

Movie posters seem to be catching it too:

"Saltwater" Teaser Trailer

Renaldy Smith in Ethan Donnelly's "Saltwater"
In our premiere episode, we sat down with writer/director Ethan Donnelly, who had just finished production on his short film "Saltwater". The film is now in post and has a teaser trailer out on Youtube. The link is in the title, check it out and let us know what you think!

Episode 2: "The Green Hornet"/"Enter The Void"

Listen as we tackle Michel Gondry's "The Green Hornet" 3D!, plus our smattering of special features, a lively discussion of Mr. Noe's "Enter The Void" and more! Check us out at

"Nowhere Boy" Review @

Afternoon listeners (and readers),

Besides podcasting relentlessly in the pursuit of truth, justice and the silver screen way, Rick and I make an effort to put in the time to develop our passion for writing. That said, here is my newest DVD review for, an excellent website for entertainment news and reviews. The film is "Nowhere Boy", chronicling John Lennon's younger, pre-Beatle years. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Our Producer Extraordinaire

Just wanted to take a moment to give a heartfelt thanks to Robert G. Christman, our producer. Without his hard work, equipment and space, we wouldn't sound half as good as we do. So...thanks Rob, keep up the good work!

"The Fighter"/"Exit Through The Gift Shop" Part 2

Click on the title for the podcast! A detailed interview with Ethan Donnelly, director of "Saltwater", followed by a discussion of Banksy's documentary "Exit Through The Gift Shop". Check us out at

Pilot Episode: "The Fighter"/"Exit Through The Gift Shop" Part 1

In our premiere episode, we tackle David O. Russell's "The Fighter" and Banksy's "Exit Through The Gift Shop". Plus our special weekly segments! Check out the podcast by clicking the link in the title!
Guest: Ethan Donnelly, director of "Saltwater"

Intro music: "The Man" by Top $ Raz

Check us out at

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Good afternoon, potential listeners! We are Rick and Mark and we welcome you to The Brooklyn Film Theorists' blog.